Smoke from 1995 is written by Paul Auster and directed by Wayne Wang. It focuses on a very small area of Brooklyn, but essentially this could be anywhere in the world. Wang, the director was born in Hong Kong but started his career in the 80s in the USA.
As a script consultant I’ve sometimes worked with American writers or on American stories. I’ve been to the states a couple of times, but I admit that most of my knowledge of America is informed by a lifetime spent watching movies.
This film, with its small slight story feels very much like the real America. This is partly because of the care and attention paid to the characters, and the sensitivity of the performers. Indeed, I think this is Harvey Keitel’s best, least showy, most real bit of method acting.
Essentially the film is about a writer, who is grieving from the loss of his wife. He ends up helping a young man find his father. The whole film takes place in and around a shop where people buy tobacco, cigars and cigarettes. The shop owner and his story become intertwined with the main narrative.
This is a film about stories, and about telling stories and about why you should never let a lie get in the way of a really good tale. Script writers should all see this film, as should tobacconists the world over. A lot can be learned from the script. There’s also some great Tom Waits music on the soundtrack.
So, 28 films to go.
Matthew Cooper has written for Emmerdale, Eastenders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs. He was winner of the first ever Lloyds Bank Channel Four Film Challenge and the Oscar Moore Screenplay Prize. His first short film starred a then unknown Ewan McGregor and was picked up by Channel Four when Matthew was 19 years old. He’s been a script writer for hire, filmmaker for hire and script consultant for over 20 years.