“Romance and Cigarettes”: The oddest little movie you’ll never see

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Last weekend, I stumbled across

a strange little movie that is likely not playing at a theater near

you. (Unless you live in New York. Then it’s playing at the Quad Cinema.) The movie, Romance and Cigarettes, was written and directed by John

Turturro
and has what may be the best ensemble cast in the history

of weird little independent movies.

James Gandolfini plays

the lead, and his odd best friend is Steve Buscemi. His wife is Susan Sarandon.

His girlfriend is Kate Winslet.

His daughters are Mandy Moore and Mary-Louise

Parker
.

And Aida Turturro

is daughter number three … but she may not be his biological daughter.

(It’s a little confusing.)

His mother is Elaine Stritch.

And his crazy neighbor is Amy Sedaris.

Seriously, does it get much

better than this?

The cast is what makes the

movie amazing. What makes it weird is a bunch of things, most significantly

the format. Turturro calls the movie a “working class opera.” The story is fairly straightforward

— Gandolfini incurs the wrath of his wife and daughters when they learn

of his affair, and he must figure out what he wants as he deals with

major life changes. The odd part is that the characters express their

inner lives via elaborate song-and-dance routines. Some of it is singing,

and some is lip-synching. If you don’t know it’s coming, the first number,

“Lonely Is a Man Without Love,” comes as a bit of a shock.

As a general rule, I like movies to be

linear and grounded in a consistent reality. (It can be fantasy, but

there needs to be a logical order.) However, I find that I’m OK with

things getting surreal when Kate Winslet enters the picture. (Heavenly Creatures, anyone?) Enjoying this movie requires just

letting go and accepting it for all its strangeness — and ignoring details

such as Aida Turturro and Mary-Louise Parker playing James Gandolfini

and Susan Sarandon’s daughters. (Mary-Louise Parker’s age in the movie

is a little hard to peg. She’s got this disaffected adolescent thing

going on — and she may say “I’m gay” in the midst of a chaotic scene.)

Essentially, it seems like John Turturro

called up a bunch of his talented friends and said, “Hey, let’s make

this weird little movie I thought up while working on Barton Fink!” And they all said, “Sure!”

Check out the trailer to get a small

taste of Romance and Cigarettes:

 

 

Then make a note to look for

it on DVD in a few months.

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