June 9th, 1995


more trailers Smoke

A Brooklyn smoke shop is the center of neighborhood activity, and the stories of its customers.

Release Year: 1995

Rating: 7.5/10 (17,907 voted)

Critic's Score: 70/100

Director: Wayne Wang

Stars: Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Giancarlo Esposito

The plot of this movie, like smoke itself, drifts and swirls ethereally. Characters and subplots are deftly woven into a tapestry of stories and pictures which only slowly emerges to our view. This film tries to convince us that reality doesn't matter so much as aesthetic satisfaction. In Auggie's New York smoke shop, day by day passes, seemingly unchanging until he teaches us to notice the little details of life. Paul Benjamin, a disheartened and broken writer, has a brush with death that is pivotal and sets up an unlikely series of events that afford him a novel glimpse into the life on the street which he saw, but did not truly perceive, every day. Finally, it's Auggie's turn to spin a tale....

Giancarlo Esposito - OTB Man #1, Tommy
José Zúñiga - OTB Man #2, Jerry
Stephen Gevedon - OTB Man #3, Dennis (as Steve Gevedon)
Harvey Keitel - Augustus 'Auggie' Wren
Jared Harris - Jimmy Rose
William Hurt - Paul Benjamin
Daniel Auster - Book Thief
Harold Perrineau - Thomas 'Rashid' Cole (as Harold Perrineau Jr.)
Deirdre O'Connell - Sue the Waitress
Victor Argo - Vinnie
Michelle Hurst - Aunt Em
Forest Whitaker - Cyrus Cole
Stockard Channing - Ruby McNutt
Vincenzo Amelia - Irate Customer
Erica Gimpel - Doreen Cole

Taglines: The most precious things are lighter than the air


Official Website: Miramax |

Release Date: 9 June 1995

Filming Locations: Phillipstown, New York, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $7,000,000(estimated)

Gross: $8,349,430 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Harold Perrineau is only two years younger than Forest Whitaker who plays his father.

Audio/visual unsynchronized: Mention is made of opening up a bottle of Mateus, when it is clearly a bottle of Chianti, not the distinctive Mateus shape.

[first lines]
OTB Man #1, Tommy: I'm gonna tell you why they aren't going anywhere.
OTB Man #3, Dennis: Why aren't they going anywhere?
OTB Man #1, Tommy: Management.
OTB Man #3, Dennis: Aw jeez.
OTB Man #1, Tommy: Those guys are walkin' around with the head up their asses.
OTB Man #3, Dennis: Right, yeah. Well ya know, they made some good trades too ya know. Carter and Manis. Without them two there never woulda been a World Series.

User Review

A beautiful depiction of humanity

Rating: 10/10

"It's such a sad old feeling, the fields are soft and green, it's memories that I'm stealing, but you're innocent when you dream, when you dream, you're innocent when you dream" ---Tom Waits

Smoke is a very difficult film to describe because it does not unfold with a coherent narrative, but rather with slice-of-life vignettes about chance, communication, and inter-connectedness. Author Paul Auster and director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club) worked on the story for years before it reached the screen and the collaboration produces a highly literate, novelistic cinema that is divided into separate chapters, each elaborating a different character. I have seen this small masterpiece many times, but I keep watching it because I love its celebration of the simple pleasures of life: friendships, good conversation, and, of course, smoking a good cigar. Smoke is not a complex or experimental film, just a beautiful and simple delineation of humanity.

Harvey Keitel plays Auggie Wren, the owner of a small cigar store in Brooklyn. An amateur photographer as well as a raconteur of tall tales, Auggie has taken one photograph a day from the street corner outside his store every day for the past 14 years. "People say you have to travel to see the world,'' Auggie says. "Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you're going to see just about all that you can handle.'' When a friend comments that all the snapshots look alike, Auggie points out the differences: the light, the season, and the look on people's faces. It's all a matter of slowing down, Auggie says, being in present time, and observing what is in front of you.

One of the store's regular customers is writer Paul Benjamin (William Hurt) who hasn't published a novel since his wife died a few years ago in an incident of street violence. When a young Black man, Rashid Cole, (Harold Perrineau Jr.) saves Paul's life by pulling him away from on an oncoming car, Paul offers him a place to sleep. The lives of the two become intertwined in the young man's encounter with some robbers and in his search for his father, brilliantly played by Forrest Whitaker. When Auggie's former lover, Ruby (Stockard Channing), shows up, she tells Auggie he has a pregnant daughter (Ashley Judd) that now needs his help. These incidents come together in a powerful, fully realized conclusion.

Although Smoke has its moments of high drama, it is mostly a low-key, slice-of-life type of film that depicts events in life as happening for a purpose, not as random or chance occurrences. The characters are not "movie colorful", but ordinary down-to-earth people brought to realization by a flawless ensemble cast. The film reaches a sublime conclusion in a tender Christmas story narrated by Keitel and supported by Tom Waits' haunting song "Innocent When You Dream". Everyone ends up in a better place than when they started, including myself as viewer.