smokeA Brooklyn cigar shop is the setting for this drama from director Wayne Wang that interweaves the stories of several characters that have fractured family relationships in common. Harvey Keitel is Auggie Wren, poetic owner of the Brooklyn Cigar Company, a store that he considers the center of the world — a place where all of humanity eventually parades through. One of his regular customers is Paul Benjamin (William Hurt), a writer and a broken shell of a man whose pregnant wife was shot and killed near the store. When Paul’s life is saved one day by a young black man named Rashid, the writer and his rescuer strike up a friendship and begin searching for Rashid’s long-lost father. At the store, Auggie is surprised by the appearance of Ruby, an ex-girlfriend who informs him that her pregnant, drug-addicted daughter Felicity may also be his — and is in dire need of help. Screenwriter Paul Auster based the script for Smoke on a 1990 short story he wrote for The New York Times.

If you are interested in the short story Auster wrote, why not watching the following video clip from youtube


While watching the film try to spot some emblematic cues (words pronounced by the actors), Auster is famous for them.

At the 1995 Berlin Film Festival, Smoke was awarded the Silver Bear, the International FIlm Critics Award, and the Audience Award for the Best Film.  The screenpaly also received an Independent Spirit Award in 1996. 

smoke film

Can you think of some of the qualities that make a film so special to win an International Award?  Bear them in mind while watching the film and see whether your  expectations were right.

Paul Auster had never written a short story when he was asked to do so by The New York Times.  He did not know whether he was capable of writing it and was about to give up when he opened a tin of his beloved Schimmelpennincks – the little cigars he liked to smoke – and started thinking about the man who sold them to him in Brooklyn.  That led to some thoughts about the kinds of encounter you have in New York with people you see every day but don’t really know.  And little by little, the story began to take shape inside him.  It really came out of that tin of cigars!

However it is not a typical Christmas story.  Everything gets turned upside down.  What’s stealing? What’s giving? What’s lying? What’s telling the truth? All these questions are reshuffled in rather odd and unorthodox ways.

I will post some more information about the film after you have watched it! Enjoy the viewing on Wednesday.  

If you want to watch the trailer of Smoke, just click on the link below.


Last but not least, I suggest you listen to Paul Auster reading "Auggie Wren Christmas Story"




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47 risposte a Smoke

  1. anonimo scrive:

    Well, I must say I’m not very keen on cinema…but after having seen the film, I think that the qualities that make it valid to obtain international awards are the original plot, the different kind of shots, the film director decides to take and the kind of characters playing.

    The plot contains, once again in a Auster’s work, a story within the story and the setting is a common Brooklyn tobacconist’s in which different stories intersect: all the characters are contributing to the general plot with their own stories. The shots are not so particular, in my opinion…but, as I’ve already said, I don’t have any knowledge about it.

    The choice of characters is once again original: they represents different social classes that contribute to crate, in my opinion, a sort of detailed analysis of our society.


  2. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Erica, do not worry, we do not need to be experts to appreciate a film. As you point out, in “Smoke” different lives come one across the other and when this happens the characters’ lives do not remain the same. There is a strong sense of emotional support and friendship. The characters care for one another and thus help one another become better people.

  3. anonimo scrive:

    Guarino Ilaria

    Once again Paul Auster has been able to play in a film what is the randomness of the events that happen in life and the way the lives of people clashes over the life of other people and create a perfect fit through that we understand that we are all connected. In this film first of all come together two people who then become three at which it adds a fourth and so on.The beauty that is in addition to individuals who are truly meets their destinies.I think that this brilliant and originality have led to victory this movie.

    If I have to be honest I found the film Lulu on the bridge more “unexpected”.

    This is not to say that Smoke is trivial but I found some aspects of some events more predictable than the one that i found in Lulu on the bridge.

  4. anonimo scrive:

    Guarino Ilaria

    i don t know how can i modified my post so i re-write the 5 line because i write it in the wrong way. The beauty is that in addiction to individuals (physicall people) who really “meets” are their destiny.

    i apologise for the mistake!!!

  5. anonimo scrive:

    Before watching the movie I supposed that a film which receives an award should have an amazing plot, a catching soundtrack, great actors and things like that: well, after watching “Smoke” my expectations were quite disappointed because I could find none of them. It does not mean that I did not like Smoke at all, but for me it does not seem worthy of an international award (but I must confess my cinematic culture is very, very poor); it is not the kind of movie we are used to, and this makes me think that actually these film festivals do always award uncommon movies, which do not have much success at the box-office.

    It was difficult to memorize the cues, I only remember “the world is my oyster” that is strange because oyster is the translation of Auster.

    About the Christmas story, I like it, it’s nice and unordinary, but I think it is deeply sad: Auggie, or what’s the name of the character, does not denounce the thief because in his wallet there are photos of his family, so he must be a desperate, but good, guy. Ok, but why doesn’t he spend the Christmas day with his old grandma? Moreover he uses her house as a stolen cameras depot! It does not seem the typical guy who loves his family… the old lady even pretends not to know that Auggie is not her grandson, because he’s more than nothing! All these three characters lie, but they lie for different reasons: Auggie because of sympathy, the grandma because she fells alone and the thief, which cheats everybody and therefore cannot be forgiven.

    federica zille

  6. anonimo scrive:

    I think that the qualities that make a film so special to win an award are:the arrangement of scenes,special effects,the plot,the real story and the interpretation.I think that “smoke” has won an International award because it’s a film different from the others,lives of almost every actor are linked to the one of the other.It’s interesting and not difficult to understand and to follow.This continuous coincidence are made on purpose,to underline the thought of Paul Auster about the the randomnes.It’s evident how Paul Auster is linked to his books and films,to the characters because he always refers to his life using his name or others.I like so much this film,i don’t now exactly why but it captured my attention.Maybe the most interesting thing is that everything in this film is linked to an other and so when something happens,i want immediately know what happens later!I was captured by the title and when i saw the film i immediately think that “smoke” refers to the story told at the very beginning.The writer Paul Benjamin begins to narrate a story about the weight of the smoke,he said that Sir Walter Rawley,in the Elizabethan age,who introduced tobacco,bet with the Queen that he would weigh the smoke.He weigh a whole cigar,then he smoked it making attention to weigh the ash(cenere) and the stump(mozzicone).The difference between the two weights were the weight of smoke.I found this story funny and i linked it to the title but then,you said that to be in a smoke(is it correct?) means to be confuse and this is the possible definition of the title.

    Santarossa Barbara

  7. anonimo scrive:

    Well, before watching the film, I expected a plot where many other story intertwine with it, as is usual in Paul Auster. I supposed that there could be strange events, twisted story. Watching it, some of my ideas were rights, but I didn’t expect a carrying on like that. The choice of characters was original because all them represent a different social class. This is not to ignore because Auster wanted to teach us, as all people, of every social state, don’t dwell on the passing of time. Every single day is different from the previous; the same place at the same hour is always different: there are different conditions, there are different people, there is the passing of time. Expression of that idea, is Auggie Wren who every day takes a photo of the same place from the same corner. So I think that this quality, this moral teaching, makes the film so special to win an International Award.

    About some words pronounced by the actors, I agree with Federica’s quotation: the only phrase I remember is “the world is my oyster” (that is the translation of Auster), that is a phrase that we quoted also in class.

    Monica Santi

  8. anonimo scrive:

    Personally I like the film. I can say that the message it gives is very good. In this film every character learns something from one another and it makes him change something in his life. It’s beautiful doing something to help someone and it is what the characters have done.

    Every story of the film, is not happy. The characters are in a very difficult period of their life with lots of problems, but they have friends that in every moment help them. In fact at the end,everybody was able to solve his problems and to restart living toghether with the people he love.

    What Auster want to highlight are the relationship we create with people,which are very important in our life to grow up indivudually.

    Canzi Giulia

    Ps: sorry for being later

  9. anonimo scrive:

    Firstly i have to point out a thing about Monica’s comment: we didn’t quote that sentence in class, but i have to say that i spent all the 15 minutes it took us to walk until the bus stop, coming back home after watching “Smoke”, repeating to Monica: ‘well, if you haven’t understand every passage of the movie it doesn’t matter…because you can summarize it just with a really catching and smart sentence: “the world is like an oyster!”… Not only because that phrase is strange itself and rather unusual to be heard in our culture. Why should we say the world is like an oyster?maybe because whatever we see in our life is limited and circumscribted to a small reality which could be included in a shell, or because we are so deeply united and attached to our reality, like an oyster is to its rock. But that sentence stroke me also because of the particular use of the world “oyster”, which is precisely the english Translation of “Auster”. So what does Paul Auster want to tell us? that his own work, truly describes the world where we’re living or is it an implied reference/thanks to himself, the author of the plot, who created the character who said that? A film character could really say that the world where he lives is really the world the author and the film dircector have created for him!

    Apart from this special quotation, also the whole movie is very far from being a kind of “normal drama”: there are so many stories that cross one another and fuse together to make a complex plot, that is really hard to understand what is the main story and what are the other ones that develop around it. Although Auggie’s cigarettes store appears to be the centre of the film, there are also Paul Benjamin’s and Rashid’s stories which are fundamental during the whole film. And while Auggie is trying to explain to Paul how the same place, in the same moment of the day, could be so deeply different one day from another, Rashid is showing them how one’s life could change just in a day, and just because of an umpredictable event.

    Then, at the end, comes Auggie’s Christmas short story, which was actually Auster’s starting point , from which all the plot had come out. In that short story everything seems to be upside down, because every action made by either Auggie or the old woman is ruled by lies. And when people pretend to be someone else they could never be, anything go on in a strange way!

  10. anonimo scrive:

    It’s wonderful to know that a film like smoke won the silver bear. International prizes are often win because of the special effects, the amazing soundtrack, the brilliant cast; all this qualities are important to a film but not indispensible in fact the plot and the message a film gives are the most important. So what is that makes Smoke able to compete against commercial films? Smoke is a metaphor of the fugacity of life, of the casualty which govern the world. People walk every day not conscious of the others, not conscious that their life can be extremely connected to the one of people they would not expect. An example is the photo Auggie shots of Paul Benjiamin’s wife. The plots are strictly interconnected but interweaved in order to give the film the semblance of the smoke, of the vagueness of life. This qualities are surely enough to prize the movie with an international prize.

    The Christmas Story exemplifies this vision of the life and so it’s poled apart from the others. The plot of a normal Christmas story is turned upside down :the good action born from lies and a theft. That means that truth is not always the only way to make a person glad. I’m not saying that it’s correct to lie ,but sometimes we can do something we did not want to do only to make a person happier. It’s also important to know the background of a man to be able of considering if an action he has done is right or wrong. The final part concerns also the fact that people are also egotists. Auggie stoles the camera wich, always for the randomness of life, will change his view of life by considering each moment as unrepeatable.

    Perin Marco

  11. anonimo scrive:

    first of all the first real dialogue in the film is the quotation to sir raleigh ( that appears even in mr. vertigo) that explains the title of the movie. smoke embodies the soul in every man.

    i think even the scene of the 400 photos is relevant. auggie defines them like the work of his like, his task. he says ” the earth turns around the Sun, and this hits the earth everyday in a different angulation”. everyday is a little different to all the others, in an infinite changement.

    the black boy once says: “black is black, white is white, and they cannot unite” and paul benjamin answers: but you’re here in my apartament…

    in the end, i think the christmas story is just wonderful. even if describes not so ordinary events it explains with other words the reals sense of christmas, what is called charity and “christmas spirit” with a bit of randomness, as usual in paul auster’s works 🙂 i really love the moment when auggie tells it….even if the camera stays still on him, i am able to see all the setting, the old woman, the huge and old apartament. in fact, i don’t like the rapresentation of the story in the ending title because for me it is somehow something already seen ( and because i imaginated my version of the scene far different of the house and the old black woman)

    giacomin elena

  12. anonimo scrive:

    So, the film was fantastic, I’ve never seen something similar, it’s the first time that I can keep track of the three plot at the same time! I think that what makes the so special is the smoke, that is not treat as a taboo but as a normal thing as it, unfortunately, is. I’ve seen that all the film develops around the cigars and cigarette.

    Another point is the final part of the film: all the film is based on the “legality” and it ends with a new, positive, vision of stealing: it could be something positive if it is little… but I don’t agree with this new vision of the “little good steal”


  13. anonimo scrive:

    Giulia Raineri

    The film was wonderful, I like it so much. Saying the thruth i didn’t expected it was like it is. I was expected to watch a boring film with a boring story track, but I eas wrong.

    I was surprised to see that, instead of what happened in the other films full off special effects, Smoke hasn’t got any one. The plot envolved me in, and I can’t stop watching the film because I was curious to discover, to answer all the questions are reshuffled in odd way. The scene I like most is the one when Auggie shows to Paul his albums of photo. These albums are the prove that Auggie has took the photo of time. The meaning if important and makes me reflect on this thoghth, taht my life is like the smoke, I can’t realize taht my time on Earth isn’t material and I cant’ stop it, I can’t chain it and keep it in the air, because smoke, as time, is always on the edge of dissolving.

    The short story of Auggie is beautiful. I don’t know why both he and the old woman pretend to be relatives, maybe because they feel both lonely, but the way in which they pretend is a symbol of the human being: he lies to her but he makes she happy. They don’t care about they aren’t relatives each other, the only things taht cares is that staying together they don’t feel lonely no longer. The randomness of life is the main theme of the film: how that people meet each other and how they change in better or worse the life of each other isn’t enstablished before.

  14. anonimo scrive:

    The intricately-plotted story follows the lives of five characters, each with their own singularities, their own quirks, whose lives intersect in strange ways which leave all of them changed in some way (for the better). Events uccur, and they are linked like smoke rings: they are unpredictable, they can change with a waft, they born, curl and evaporate. This is the message that the Auster and Wang wanted to give: smoke is a metaphor for the vaporous and unpredictable process that is life. The plot of the film is harsh but lifelike, realistic: there are no healthy or happy families; it is about being a father or a mother in the modern world, where single parenthood is becoming increasingly familiar, where too many teenagers are pregnant or involved in crime. But the message it gives it is not pessimist, it is a message of hope: even in this money driven, fast living, urban and individualistic society there is a lot of love, friendship and humanity. The all film is in fact a celebration of the simple pleasures of life: good conversation, sharing experiences with friends and, of course, smoking a good cigar.

    Alessandro Piccin

  15. anonimo scrive:


    So, this author doesn’t really like the fate and the movie is the example of Auster’s love for the Chance. Under the surface of the film there is the feeling that we are too much egoist; we think that other people are “other”: their life separate from ours. A person that we meet every day is no more that an individual with his life. Thinking that, Auster, with his film, wants to find fault with this society.

    Once again Paul Auster shows that the Chance is the captain of our life: the writer crosses the seller’s life by chance and the same thing happens with the young black man.

    The plot is strange, unusual but fluent; a quiet movie with a slow rate that lets time to reflect. The film starts with one character and it ends with three; that is not so strange if we think that the author means to put in evidence the fact that our life is a continuous crash with inexplicable events.

    I think that this special plot together with a hidden reflection could lead this film to win an important film critics award.

  16. anonimo scrive:

    Smoke is absolutely not a “normal” movie, because he has not a central plot but some stories that link themselfes each other. However, it gives a particular point of view of the human mind, and also it is not difficult to follow the plots, that are well-linked. It is interesting too the story within the story, that underlines how strange could be the human life.

    Damiano Verardo

  17. anonimo scrive:

    “SMOKE”…at the first impact this word can be meaningless but if you reflect on it you can find and discover a profound sense.

    At the beginning of the film there is a long digression in which is narrated the history of smoke, its origins and the various ways to weigh it. It is quite interesting and it gives a more complete idea of the title.

    Personally i consider the film a little bit different from the others, it is particular for lots of elements: the setting, the plot, the characters…..all things which make it so original to win an International Award.

    As in a novel converge all the peculiarities of the autor’s poetic, here in the film come out all Paul Auster’s favourite themes…as randomness, coincidences and also detective elements. The characters are different people who met each others casually, by chance. They have their own life and they contribute together to create a unique story. Everybody is confused and with the help of friendship that begins between the protagonists, they manage somehow to revive…

    …A strange succession of events that make the film really intriguing.

    Marson Chiara

  18. anonimo scrive:

    I think that Paul Auster won an International Award because he is great in filming different stories always linked one by the other by a special event always in a organic way, he can suspend a plot and pick up it after having narrate a different one. He can film chaos.

    The only phrase I clearly remember is when Auggie said “today tobacco, tomorrow sex” about prohibitionist law on imported cigars from Cuba. I think it impressed me because with few words he can explain a character.

    Francesca Cazorzi

  19. anonimo scrive:

    Before watching the film I thought that the movie was centrated around the cigar shop, that is quiet near to the truth. Each story has in common the tobacco shop but there are three different and important stories: Auggie Wren, owner of the Brooklyn Cigar Company, Paul Benjamin, the writer and Rashid, the young black who saved Benjamin’s life. Auggie teaches to Benjamin the importance of time, showing him all the photos he has made every day at the same hour in the same place. Rashid is a young boy that has a full life: his mother is dead, he is searching his dad that ran away years before and he is a witness of a robbery. Each story is linked to the others in a very good way.

    Also the last Christmas story is pretty: both Auggie and the grandmother know that they are playing a role as they were written in a script just to spend Christmas not alone. Thanks to the meeting with the grandmother Auggie steal the photographic machine that he used to make photos from the same place.

    I’m sorry but I don’t have a good memory so I don’t really remember any emblematic cues even if I tried to remember them.

    It was nice that such a “strange” film as “Smoke” is has won an International Award. Maybe it was awarded for the way the film was made, for the way events were narrated or because it is just an original way to make a film.

    Federica Battistin

  20. anonimo scrive:

    Before watching the movie I imagined the title was referred to a deeper meaning, but I couldn’t imagine that the plot would have been so complicated. There are three different stories, brought up in the meanwhile, and I think Paul Auster did a great job, because he could weave them clearly (despite the plot is a little bit intricated), so that the movie is easily understandable. Watching the film we discover that smoke is the leitmotif of all the stories, the element which “gives life” to so many friendships… I found this film really different from any other film, because of its deep meaning. This is the clear example that we don’t need so many special effects to make a film incredible… Investigating on human life is much more intersting and realistic. I also think the International Award that Smoke won proves my point of view.

    Giulia Marcassa

  21. anonimo scrive:

    The smoke combines three different destinies, a young black, a writer still in mourning for his wife and the owner of a tobacco shop. The smoke is the metaphor of life, volatile and ephemeral. The three characters cross their destinies and share their stories giving important lessons one another with their experiences, investigating the meaning of life.

    The writer, still in mourning is intent to write a new book that expresses his emotions that capture the meaning of death and life in a Christmas context. For the writing of this book is a fundamental aid his meeting with a black boy fleeing from its social problems and family and the owner of tobaccos that proves to be also him an artist.

    The tobacconist shows his work (a series of photographs taken every day in the same place) to make him reflect on the meaning of time: a series of instants apparently all equal, but dissimilar, each one in a different way. Then the life takes on a new meaning, the tobacconist with its work was able to shoot the passing of time.

    Last pearl of the author is the tobacconist’s story of his first and only camera with which he had done his artistic work: a final and touching metaphor of life which concludes a truly remarkable film.


  22. anonimo scrive:

    Ah, IT WAS NOT A BOOK…. it was Christmas story to be published on a newspaper

  23. anonimo scrive:

    I found in “SMOKE” many deep philosophical themes. The main of these is the passing of the time, and I saw in Auggie a new Horace, who created the theme of “carpe diem”, Auggie expends every five minutes of his life to take a simple picture but at the end of his life, he will collect a series of moment, everyone different each other. That is why the scene I like best is when Auggie takes an other picture of his shop. The message I extrapolated is that the time doesn’t stop and we must look and take the better of any moments. I guess not it my favourite film, but I think is very interesting from some point of view, as the director’s choice in some scenes. An example is the zoom on Auggie’s face when he tells his Christmas story, using the old American cinematographic technique, instead of a flashback. Moreover is interested how Paul Auster has expressed the passed of the time, using different narrations which link each other. Any character shows its limited life, creating a unique and boundless story.

    Nicola Truant

  24. anonimo scrive:

    The movie “Smoke” may be difficult to understand because it doesn’t have a single plot, but three different plots, with different characters. To be more precise, this is an interesting movie because, with three different stories, the viewer can seize the multiplicity of points of view, the complexity of reality and our actions, as a result of an intricate tangle of life experiences unique and different from person to another one. Only if we know the story that lies behind each character, we can understand their behaviors (and, for example, we can understand what has prompted Ruby, Auggie ex-girlfriend, to tell a lie, as a result of deepest despair for the conditions of her miserable life). The common thread of all these experiences is the smoke, as a parenthesis in everyday life, which is a sharing moment with others of people’s personal experiences.

    Federica Cozzarin

  25. anonimo scrive:

    well…what can I say…reading the other comments i’ve seen the same ideas as mine. i like very much the film because i love complex and problematic films, maybe because in myself i like to lose myself in my thought and ideas. “Smoke” is a complex film, more over to create because is a coherent “plait” of plots and characters. characters are not separated each other but they know each other and their lifes and stories are a only life, a only story like our world: our lifes, together, create our world, our reality our humanity. and this is the cause that i very like “Smoke”, because is the mirror of our world in a small point of view: life of Brooklyn. i think that this film is so special to win an International Award, because instead of modern film, reflects feelings of the Man, his thoughts, his fears, his problems and his essence. we are so accostumed to see perfect person, with special power and beautiful lifes in modern films that we are not able to understand the problems of our friends and lovers. Paul Auster is able to do this: bring us to the reality.

    Laura Sist

    ps i’m sorry for being later, but i have had some problems with pc.

    i’m sorry because maybe you think that i’m not interested in Paul Auster’s works. i’m doing my best and to do this post i spent a lot of time because for me it’s difficult to explain my thought and speak it in english. i very like it this activity, even if doesn’t look like,and i’m trying to improve myself.i ask you to be trusting, i hope to succeed to get your satisfaction and confidence. thank you…

  26. anonimo scrive:

    Smoke is a very beautyful drama. It shows the simplicity of life and the complicated characters that are in it’s play. I think that one thing that the film demonstrates, better than anything, is the importance of love and friendship. The ending is one of those types of endings that is really left up to the viewer to decide what the film is really all about.

    Plazzotta Federico

  27. anonimo scrive:

    Out of all films about Paul Auster’s novels we have watched, I like Smoke best. In fact I really appreciated the issues Auster copes with, especially the attention he pays on the society’s troubles. He analyses racial discrimination between Whites and Blacks putting together, in the same flat Rashid and the writer Paul Benjamin; he critics the drug’s abuse, which can lead you to destroy your body, your psyche, your whole life, but also the existence of all people who stay near you and love you. Actually Ruby and maybe also Auggie’s daughter, who was crack-addicted, has an abortion because she does not want to have a baby, but at the same time she does nothing to prevent it.

    The things which strike me more were the focus on the sense of life and on the value of family. The former was in particular investigated trough Auggie’s photos : everyday, in the same place(in front of his cigarettes shop), at the same hour, he makes the “same” photo. But really it is not the “same”: everyday something changes…the weather, the season, the people…everything changes. So Auggie, collecting them in lots of albums, wants to recorder the passing time…wants to seize his life, in a sort of “carpe diem” message. The latter is advocated by Auster trough the story of the mysterious Rashid, who is easily a boy in search of his father, who had left him alone more than 12 years before. In the end the boy, thanks also Paul and Auggie’s help, manages to reconcile with his natural father and to became part of his new family.

    Carolina Braghin

  28. anonimo scrive:

    Even though the film has not a linear plot and it doesn’t develop around a specific event or character, I liked it.

    Because of its many different little stories, that are mixed up, the film keeps you watching it. There are even some mysterious actions that create curiosity in the spectator. Foe example when I saw Rashid hidding the bag full of money on a shelf, I was wandering what it contained.

    I liked even the variety of kind of characters that appear in the film, different in social class, job, nationality…

    But probably the aspect I appreciated the most was the presence of “emblematic cues” and little stories, like the one of the weight of smoke. I like finding this cues in films, because they are usually very nice little pearls.

    I didn’t like the innocence with which the writer invites Rashid to sleep in his house: it’s quite unrealistic, I wouldn’t have trusted him in that way.

    Pietro Perin

  29. anonimo scrive:

    I have been surprised of knowing that ” smoke” has gained an international prize! it is a film apt to a small part of persons and it has been truly appreciated intenationally. Before seeing the film I did not have idea of which were the thematic ones, it seemed me only a film with thread conductor the smoke. I must say that it has been strange to me! Paul Auster has been indeed skillful to connect all those events thus connected. For him it has been a great effort, but it has been repaid with an important prize. Its ability is extraordinary and has given life to an intriguing and full film of thematic on which reflecting. There are various elements that connect the several vicissitudes, like the photos of Auggie, the need to write a Christmas story of Paul Benjamin, l’ encounter between Auggie and the grandmother of the delinquent.

    I really appreciate this film, that it has captured me in its weft and the thoroughness of the emotions that are able to transmit.

    thank you Paul

    Matteo Cervesato

  30. anonimo scrive:

    Out of the 4 films we watched by Paul Auster, “Smoke” is the one I liked the most, because of the particulary depth of some charachters (Rashid and Auggie). Unlike “Blue in the face”, where the all story is a sequence of sketches that don’t necesserily deal with the same particular subject, and the only thing they have in commun is that they were shot in Brooklyn, in “Smoke” we can spot 2 or 3 stories that develop and occur together to “weave the tapestry” of the plot, where the weaver is the Chance. The possibles qualities that make a film so special to win an International Award can be: an original plot, a film that deals with a subject never developed before or the outstanding performances/skills of the actors. In “Smoke” we don’t find any of this qualities, the film is complitely different from the commun american films,and I think this can be the reason why it won an International Award. It is an indipendent film and it wants to make a difference.

    What I liked about the Christmas story is the depth of feelings of the old blind woman and the true lovely relationship/friendship (I don’t know how to call it) between this 2 people that are actually stranger to each other and they know that. The fact that the story is at the end of the film and in black and white with a sad background music, it is really moving.

    Chiara Pinardi

  31. anonimo scrive:

    I have to be sincere. I didn’t like anyone of the movies. Perhaps because I think about a movie as something “thoughtless and simple” while Auster’s movies had difficult plots (except for “The inner life of Martin Frost”) that force you to pay attention every moment (is that why you ask us to see them?). However I already didn’t understand them very clearly. “Smoke” was the first movie we saw. I had great expectations that have been deleted. I watch Auster at “Che tempo che fa” and I expected an other kind of movie. The only scene that I liked was the one about the short story although it was quite a typical Christmas short story. The good Samaritan, the Christmas Day that begins in a bad way and concludes with a moral teaching.

    The set, the characters are simple: the shop, the people, their speeches. On the other hand, as Pietro pointed out, some passages, some actions are unrealistic. I really don’t catch the essence of this movie, I’m sorry.

    Elena Poles

  32. anonimo scrive:

    I must say I had difficulties in understanding this film straightaway but as soon as we discussed about it in class, I thought it wasn’t that bad.. The plot is really intriguing; I like the fact that different stories are interwoven and somehow connected one another and perhaps this is the reason why “Smoke” won an International Award. At the beginning of the film many of the figures were characterized by loneliness, especially Paul Benjamin and Rashid (Paul is a widower and rashid lost his father). These two characters in particular strike up a strong relationship and step by step this will make them feel better and solve their problems at the end of the film. A main theme of this film is the relationship father-son/daughter: Rashid considers himself a sort of father for Paul; Rashid looks for his long-lost father, finds him and after many difficulties become a family; Auggie tries to help the pregnant-drug-addicted-girl who perhaps is his daughter and who eventually loses her baby (who she didn’t want). I really liked the short story at the end of the film, especially the fact that this was a story published by Auster in “The New York Times”.. I like these weavings between his works! I liked the meaning of the story too: this is a sort of harmless revenge with a positive aspect (Auggie and the old blind woman spend a beautiful day together) and a negative one (Auggie gets “revenge” but acts as the woman’s nephew did).

    –Maiutto Jessica–

  33. anonimo scrive:

    Luca Gasparin

    I think that Paul Auster won an International Award because he was able to link more stories each other inside the same film and at the same time go on with the main story that involves each one of the others. Another reason could be the original way of producing the film: in fact the choice of centre the story around a tobacconist and of taking everyday the same picture of the tobacconist from the other side of the street are very different from the idea that we have of American films.

  34. anonimo scrive:

    For me the facts that make a film so intresting to win an International Award are the power to involve the people,the coincidences that frequently appears during the film,the admirable interpretation of the characters that enter in the personality of the character that they have to interpret,one life come across the lives of different characters.This crossing underline the idea of Paul Auster:”randomness stalks us every day of our lives”.All the things that happen have not a reason why they happened.

    An important element in the film “Smoke” is the friendship: all the people in the film are supported by the assistance of their friends.All the cheracters could bargain on the help of the friends.

    I like the Christmas story.I like the fact that the old woman needed a person that stay with her and that the man make believed that he was the grandchilde only to make the old woman happy.This story gives a positive massage.We can often lie if we don’t want to make someone suffer…The jung boy maybe was not so intrested in spend his time with his grandma.

  35. anonimo scrive:


    martin denise

  36. anonimo scrive:


    There are lots of aspects that can make a film win an award. There is the plot, the choice of actors, the effects, music, and setting.

    In my opinion the best quality of this film is its naturalness. It is simple, without special effects and complicated stories.

    There are different little stories inside a big one.

    There is also the fundamental role of the tobacconist. It is a meeting point for people in Brooklyn, where they can speak to each other, they can narrate and tell their own story, and they can make new friends.

    Friendship is very important in this film. Every character has a friend near him and everyone can depend on someone.

    The Christmas story is very simple, but at the same time has a very deep meaning.

    It is fascinating how the man decide to stay with the old lady, how he understand that she need someone to talk and have some good time with.

    It is sweet to think that the lady understood that the man was not is grandchild but she let him enter in her house.

    I found this story very moving.

  37. anonimo scrive:

    At the beginning I wasn’t so catched by the film, it took me a little bit to appreciate it. But on the whole I liked it: the plot made of a lot of little stories that intertwine with one another gives the film an original touch. Of course it is different from common American films: these are fast, the scenes and the actors’ actions follow one another very quickly, you even don’t have time to think about a particular event, that another scene is coming! Instead Paul Auster’s films are quite slow, while you’re watching them you have time to reflect, about the different situations that occur. It is a genre that isn’t superficial at all; you can say it is quite flosofical (see: ‘the world is like an oyster’).

    I think this film won an international award because of its inner meaning, its intrinsic sense: all the stories are sad at the beginning (think of Paul Benjamin who lost is wife, or Rashid who does’t know where his father is, or the pregnant and drug-addicted girl, that perhaps is Auggie’s doughter) but thanks to the friendship that there is between Auggie and the others characters everything turns all right…This film highlightes the fact that love is a very powerful feeling, that is able to soothe the people’s pains; it shows that if people stick together they can overcome everything.

    Concerning the Christmas story, in my opinion it is something apart from the rest of the film, I don’t know, like a story in itself, that has appearently nothing to do with the previous part…this story shows how people are fragile and their need of someone with which share particular moments, such as Christmas.

    Jana Stefani

  38. anonimo scrive:

    Smoke is an unconventional movie that contains many peculiarities.first of all the setting,all the scene take place in the tobacco shop run by Auggie Wren,that becomes a sort of centre of the world (I concord with this expression taken from the review)where all the humanity parades through;the themes such as randomness,friendship the relationship between father and son,love and altruism that are also the main points of all the creation of this auhor,the involving plot ,it is fascinating how Auster managed to interweave many story which are linked together in a particular and original way,the choice of the characters that belong to different social classes,so that the movie shows many aspects of the country,the cast made up of actors who made the scenes spontaneous and real;i think that all this features make this film worthy of a prize.

    I loved the Christmas story,it is involving and moving,it is nice to see how they both pretend to know each other in order to spend a day together.i appreciated auggie’s behaviour,he noticed the old lady was lonely a needed affection and pretended to be her niece.moreover I liked the montage of the story,it was black and white and there was a nice song which confer the movie a precious touch.

    Montrasio Valentina

  39. anonimo scrive:

    It is quite interesting that a film like “SMOKE” won an international award. I think that the plot, the set and sounds are not so amazing and the characters are not professional. This is an unusual film that we are not used to watch. It doesn’ t mean that i didn’ t like the film, but we are accostom to the american films characterized by action and fantasy.

    I think that the most fashinated quality that makes “SMOKE” so special to win the award is the mixture of several characters that rend the plot complicated.

    I liked also the christmas story related by Auggie (the owner of the tabacconist) to Paul Benjamin (the writer).

    The old lady that is alone at her christmas day make me a sort of tenderness. I think that she knows that Auggie is not her grandson, but she do not mind it; for the first time she is happy.

    Sometimes we can hide truth to make a person happier.


  40. anonimo scrive:

    Smoke: personally it is the best film of Paul Auster and I think there are lots of elements that make this film awarded with an international film award! For example actors, the plot and all the themes that we little by little recognize in the story.

    The quality of this film that I like the most is its simplicity, there aren’t special effects or complex plot; there are simple stories that cross each other and the tobacconist’s shop became the main point where all stories melt each other!. There are strong messages In this film and the most powerful is the importance of friendship and love!

    The scene that catch my attention most was the one when Auggie shows Benjamin his photos of the same corner of Brooklyn, at the same time, 365 days a year; each photo looks like another at a first glance! But when in one photo Benjamin recognizes his dead wife he understands the meaning of all those photos: first of all he meets again his wife even if only through an image and than that every single photo as a meaning and contains a moment of life and makes it immortal!

    –Martina Nadal–

  41. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Dear Ilaria (n.3) thanks for your insightful comments on the film and for drawing some kind of comparison with “Lulu on the Bridge”.

    Dear Federica (n.5) you are not certainly a film expert, but you are a viewer and you have all the rights to express your opinions on a film you watched. You thought of the qualities of a award-winning film, then you watched “smoke” with those features clear in your mind: this is a very mature and “responsible” way of watching and reviewing a film. Thanks for your comments. I would like the rest of the “bloggers” to read your record of an interesting cue: “the world is my oyster” that is strange because oyster is the translation of Auster. Oysters produce “pearls”: from the outside they do not seem so beautiful, but when you open them (and it is not easy, you need some kind of skill, don’t you?) you find a sparkling perfect gift of nature!

    Dear Barbara (n.6) you are right when you point out that “smoke” is used metaphorically speaking too. To be shrouded in smoke, in mist, this is a nice expression for you guys, to express something myserious, not black and white, not that easy to define.

    Dear Monica (n.7), thanks for the reference to the photos and their originality.

    Dear Giulia (n.8) good point about friendship as a way to overcoming difficult moments in life.

    Dear n. 9, (anonymous), great insight, interesting in-depth analysis. You did a good job!

    Dear Marco (n.10) I’d like to quote from you:”Smoke is a metaphor of the fugacity of life, of casualty which governs the world. Every day people walk about unconscious of the others, unaware that their life can be connected to the one of people they would not expect. An example is the photo Auggie shot of Paul Benjiamin’s wife”.

    Dear Elena (n.11) thanks for the reference to “Mr. Vertigo”, since I have not read it yet, I did not know there was this reference/link to “Smoke”. As you point out, the inter-racial issue developed by Auster through the character of the black boy and the writer is really touching and interesting.

    Dear Lorenzo (n.12) I don’t think that the film director or script writer wanted to promote “little thefts”. The fact that Auggie steals the camera (which had already been stolen by the old lady’s grandson) is somehow in opposition to “stealing”. The grandson steals to sell the stolen objects and make money out of them. Auggies steals, and then repents, but uses the camera to record life, to enjoy life, to reflect upon life and cherish it (that is not to take it for granted) and finally to share his insight with other people.

    Dear Giulia (n.13) happy to read you enjoyed the film. When expectations are low, there is always some surprise!

    Dear Alessandro (n.14) I’d like to quote from you “This is the message that the Auster and Wang wanted to give: smoke is a metaphor for the vaporous and unpredictable process that is life. […] even in this money-driven, fast living, urban and individualistic society there is a lot of love, friendship and humanity.” Thanks.

    Dear Pierluca (n.15) I like the expression “Chance is the captain of our life”!

    Dear Damiano and Chiara (n. 16-17) you use two adjectives that somehow embody the qualities present in “Smoke”, respectively “unsual” and “intriguing”.

  42. anonimo scrive:

    the “anonymus n.9” it’s Simone, oooooooops 😛

  43. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Dear Francesca (n.18) thanks for your quotation. Prohibitionism can shift quite easily, depending on the people who are in power. What is prohibited today, won’t be banned in the future or vice versa.

    Dear Giulia (n.20) you are right when you state that it is better to have a film which investigate the human condition rather than meaningless special effects.

    Dear Nicola (n.23) thanks for your post. You wrote some consideration I had not thought of myself, really interesting.

    Dear Laura (n.25) thanks for being so sweet and so honest. I know it is not easy for you to express your ideas and I know it is even more difficult to do it in a foreign language. I do TRUST you, and I have never had negative thoughts about you, never. I apologize if I gave you the impression I did. When I am at school I am always running from one class to the next one and my mind is always thinking about what I should do next. This implies that sometimes I may appear anxious or tense, even if I am not. I would like you then to trust yourself more. Your English is just fine, relax. There is nothing wrong with it. You can express your thoughts, so that is successful. We all make mistakes, I too, plenty when I am tired. The blog is not meant to be perfect, it can’t be perfect because it is run by human beings!!! Keep going, keep trying and you will get where you want!

    Dear Carolina (n.27) I am amazed! There is something by Auster that you like!! Now I feel better. Whenever I look at you in class I can see you do not like dealing with Auster’s works. Hopefully you will like the next novel better and you will appreciate it as it happened with the film “Smoke”.

    Dear Pietro (n.28) your criticism about the writer’s invitation of Rashid to his house is to the point if we look at it with the fears we have towards people we don’t know, especially when they are of a “visible minority”. Yet, the writer is a fatherly figure, he has lost everything in his life, he can’t write anylonger, he goes to the tobacconist’s round the corner to chat and experience a certain sense of warmth, of belonging. He is a shattered man, so he doesn’t fear anything. Then, without that invitation the main theme of friendship, trust, support and understanding would not have been in the film!

    Dear Elena (n.31) we all respond differntly to the same novel or film, so why should you apologize for not liking the films? You talked about having different expectations, but you did not mention them. You said that you like films that do not make you think, but here you are not clear. It seems you like superficial films, is that what you meant? Then you asked me why I decided to make you watch the films. Well, it’s simple. We are working on Paul Auster and these films are part of his artisitc production. The focus is not on Paul Auster the novelist only, but also on Paul Auster the poet and Paul Auster the film script writer/co-director (sometimes). Then, it is obvious that at school a teacher does not ask her students to watch “shallow” comedies. You can watch them by yourself at home, since they are so “light” that you do not need to interpret them. This blog and what I we do in class together are meant to challenge your mental faculties as well as mine!

    Dear Jana (n. 37) the theme of love you point out as paramount in the film is present in the Christmas story too.



  44. anonimo scrive:

    I really appreciated the film, it is very interesting how the stories are weaved together and how they interact, it is all led by casualty, by randomness, and this is typical of Paul Auster’s production. The film follows the story of three characters mainly: Auggie Wren, the cigar shop manager, Paul Benjamin, a writer who lost his wife, and Rashid, the boy who saved Paul Benjamin’s life. The film focuses in the first part on each one’s story, then these three stories mash up together and they give birth to other stories. It was interesting also the view this film gave of New York. It was not the image of the big crowded and luxurious New York, but a smaller view of the city, focused on the cigar shop, and on an unknown view of the more “rustic” places around New York.

    Riccardo Bagattin

  45. anonimo scrive:

    The Christmas story is very nice and moving. It was nice that both Auggie and the grandma knew that he wasn’t his nephew but they continued the comedy to make happy one another. At the beginning the sadness of the grandma is very evident but this changed through the evening together. Also the music, that covered every sound, was interesting. This made the conversation between the two incomprehensible, so the audience is obliged to fill the gaps!

    Riccardo Bagattin

  46. anonimo scrive:

    “Smoke” portrays with honesty and simplicity the everyday life of a New York’s district, Brooklyn, a place dear to the author that sees it as a microcosm representing the world. The movie is emblematic of how Brooklyn is the result of a racial and cultural mixture, an incredible melting pot perhaps unique in the world: every day in the streets people of the most different cultures and ethnicities give life to a colourful and irrepressible bustle. Brooklyn is like a small town, where every day countless stories and events develop with the most fluctuating results. There are comedies, tragedies, but also meetings and discussions, and unfortunately violence and crime. This is “Smoke”, after all. The shop of the tobacconist Auggie is the microcosm of the microcosm, the story within the story -leitmotif of many of Auster’s novels-. At Auggie’s shop you can meet every kind of people and character (the shop is the representation of Brooklyn) that come there to smoke a cigarette, and chat with friends. There is a writer that is in the middle of a crisis after the death of his wife, a black boy fled from home in search of his father, and thousand of other people who crowd the small shop. In this film there is the sign of Paul Auster; the continues references to him and his work are evident. In fact, Auster becomes part of the events in a very subtle way. The most representative example is the character of the writer Paul Benjamin: this name is the pseudonym of Auster (the novel “Squeeze Play”) when he, as a budding writer, signed his early novels. So it is clear that this kind of film is a film that, if seen without a background of its “soul” (the American writer), may seem only a nice film about life and people of Brooklyn, but for an expert reader becomes an irreplaceable compendium of the work of this writer. In fact, in this movie his fundamental topoi become a sort of mosaic’s tiles that the spectator can compose, forming the thought and the conception of life of Paul Auster; one of the most important themes is the role of randomness in everyday life, which can often lead to distortions, sometimes positive sometimes negative, in human life. We see that, by chance, the black boy finally meets his father for the first time, by chance the writer finds his inspiration as he is saved from being invested in the street, by chance Auggie will do a good deed, and doing this he will meet, by chance, for the first time the instrument intended to become the companion of his life: the camera. And always by chance all of that starts from a single location: a small, anonymous tobacconist in Brooklyn. The movie is basically a dedication, a declaration of affection for a city and a place that becomes the centre of life and of the world, a hymn to life and love (fatherhood is another leitmotif of the film) and, perhaps, a romanticized autobiography.

    There is no doubt that a movie that receives various awards and recognition must have something special, and “Smoke” is not an exception; it is special also in its definition. In fact, it cannot be listed in any kind of cinematographic genre. “Smoke” is like Brooklyn: a melting pot of genres, actors, stories, from the most ordinary, narrow-minded ones, to the most meaningful and interesting. Stories, events, words and images that want to do only one thing: to give a representation of how wonderful and extremely complex is Life. The music in the end (“Innocent When You Dream”, by Tom Waits), combined with the black and white, shows emblematically the irrationality of what happens to us, that may seem a dream. But are we really dreaming?

    Raggiotto Francesco

  47. PaulAuster2008 scrive:

    Riccardo, just like you I loved the Christmas Story. I found it moving. It is utopistic, but I think that watching a good film or reading a good book should make you feel good about life and so even utopia is acceptable or better longed for!

    Francesco, you wrote an exceptional comment and I am sure people reading our blog will appreciate what you wrote. You did a good job indeed. 😉