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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Chinese Coffee (2000)

After being fired from his job as a doorman at a French restaurant, an aging failed writer (Al Pacino, who also directed) goes to the apartment of his friend, another failed writer (Jerry Orbach), to get some monies owed him. But they spend all night arguing about art, their failed lives and their friendship until it turns hostile over perceptions on Pacino's new manuscript. Set in 1982 Greenwich Village, the film is based on the play by Ira Lewis (who also did the screenplay) and is essentially a two character acting piece. The film opens it up a little with brief flashbacks and some exterior shots but the bulk of the film is the two characters simply talking and arguing with each other. Sort of a MY DINNER WITH ANDRE meets WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRIGNIA WOOLF?. While the characters seem perceptive about each other, they're delusional and lack insight into themselves especially Orbach's character. Pacino is good here, really good, giving a perceptive performance and reining in his tendency to chew the scenery. His work here is relatively subtle so that when he does suddenly explode, it's powerful. The film did the film festival circuit in 2000 but Pacino, perhaps sensing the film had no commercial potential, withheld the film until 2007 when it saw a DVD release. There's a fine delicate score by Elmer Bernstein. With Susan Floyd and Ellen McElduff. For fans of Pacino and Orbach, a must but I think everyone else can safely pass.

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