From the opening scenes of this movie you know you’re gonna see something interesting. It’s a film that grabs your attention very early on with it’s antidote and keeps it throughout, with beautiful, heartbreaking, warm and funny moments. These little moments make the film more about the moments in our life that are unique, that are part of our persona. The film’s story is more than just that, it’s main storyline. I think it’s a film I don’t want to tell people about because if I were recommending it to someone I want them to go into it fresh and savior it for themselves because I’m sure anyone who watches this will take away something different. This is the film that introduced me to the Writer Paul Auster through his onscreen persona Paul Benjamin played by William Hurt.
I was thinking about this Movie today as I finished reading Paul Auster’s “The Red Notebook” and I think the best way I can sum up this movie and Auster’s work in general is that he holds onto the magic of life. In particular, coincidences. How one moment, action, incident in our life can lead us down a path and put us in a situation we would never have imagined ourselves in. Finding a link between ourselves and something else close to us through some other random occurrence and more often then not it’s through something very small. Auster focuses on that which we sometimes take for granted. He appreciates the beauty of chance and doesn’t try to explain it or brush it away. I myself have always liked the idea of six degrees of separation.
What’s more is that Auster doesn’t just tell a story. He tells it good. Thanks to my viewing of “Smoke” I was attracted to discovering more of his works, since discovering this movie a less than a year ago I have read “Oracle Night”, “The New York Trilogy”, “Travels in Scriptorium” and “The Red Notebook”. I am lucky that my own chance occurrence lead me to seeing this film and introduced me to this Author and his work. Often his books have similar themes. Oracle Night is filled with stories of peoples lives and the way the book is written is like a book within a book within a book, reading it feels like going further down a rabbit hole. “The New York Trilogy” consists of three Books linked together but also unrelated, they tell one story but each is differently told with different characters, Auster even writes himself into the book, a similar occurrence happens with “Smoke” as there is a similar character to Auster, the writer Paul Benjamin, and again with the writer in “Oracle Night”. Reading Auster is like sitting down with the man to discuss literary works of past and present. He writes about writing. With “The New York Trilogy” the story is inspired by hard boiled fiction but yet the characters are not real detectives, You could call it anti detective fiction, the main characters usually pretend to be someone else, the mystery is never solved and they are again based on coincidence. Auster notes this again in “the Red Note Book” when in reality he receives a phone call from a stranger asking to speak to one of his characters, having mistakenly called Auster. The event is beyond strange for in Auster’s story his character is called by someone looking to speak to Auster himself!
That’s also part of the joy of reading his Novels, you often find characters from his other stories popping up in the next Novel seemingly unrelated to the previous. It reminds me of Haruki Murakami’s writing which like Auster also deals with similar themes, and has familiar objects and characters that turn up in his books.
If you watch “Smoke” and enjoy it I recommend to seek out Auster’s writing. A lot of the spoken stories in the movie are mentioned in “The New York Trilogy” also. There too is a sequel to “Smoke” called “Blue in the Face”. A comedy that mostly contains scenes deleted from Smoke and many are improvised. It’s not as thought provoking as “Smoke” is so I would separate the two movies for your viewing pleasure.
Favorite Quote: “Bullshit is a real talent, Auggie” – Paul Benjamin