Romance & Cigarettes


John Turturro's clearly been taking on-set notes... But while his third directorial outing betrays Spike Lee's hungry-eyed observations of New York and the Coens' ideas-smothered exuberance, there's something in Turturro's chaotic marriage of domestic black comedy and Broadway musical that's uniquely his.

Only someone bubbling with over-ambition would attempt to stir such an over-proof brew - one part John Cassavetes and two parts Dennis Potter; a dollop of West Side Story. You can imagine Turturro's nervous, darting eyes behind the camera, orchestrating a troupe of pirouetting binmen as they encircle the bellowing barrel that is James Gandolfini.

Romance & Cigarettes may be a bit of a mess - a disjointed collection of scenes punctuated by characters singing along to old-time hits and a morbid final act inconsistent with the bawdy, rambunctious whole. In its best moments, though, it's glorious. Just witness Christopher Walken's psycho-eyed Cousin Bo doing a riotous rendition of Tom Jones' 'Delilah'. But even he has the show whipped from under his twinkling toes by Kate Winslet, whose grotty-gobbed Lancashire knicker-seller, Tula, is locked in lusty extramarital shenanigans with Gandolfini's blubbery metalworker, Nick. She's a crucible of molten mischief poured into a woman-shaped mould. Hair aflame, she brings Queens to its knees in a torrent of filthy language. If Tula had anything to do with making this film, it would have been called Shags And Fags.

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