Smoke (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byWayne Wang
Written byPaul Auster
Produced byGreg Johnson
Peter Newman
Kenzo Horikoshi
Hisami Kuroiwa
CinematographyAdam Holender
Edited byMaysie Hoy
Music byRachel Portman
NDF International[1]
Euro Space
Smoke Productions
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • June 9, 1995 (1995-06-09)
Running time
112 minutes
CountriesUnited States
Budget$7 million
Box office$38 million

Smoke is a 1995 American independent film by Wayne Wang and Paul Auster. The original story was written by Paul Auster, who also wrote the screenplay. The film was produced by Greg Johnson, Peter Newman, Kenzo Horikoshi, and Hisami Kuroiwa. Among others, it features Harvey Keitel, William Hurt, Stockard Channing, Harold Perrineau Jr., Giancarlo Esposito, Ashley Judd, and Forest Whitaker.


The film follows the lives of multiple characters, all of whom are connected via their patronage of a small Brooklyn tobacconist store managed by Augustus "Auggie" Wren. Auggie has been taking photographs of the store from across the street at 8:00am every morning and collects all his photos in albums. Paul Benjamin, a recently-widowed writer, spends an evening with Auggie and is initially dismissive of his photography project, saying that the photos are "all the same". Auggie replies that they only look the same superficially, but they are in fact all different, with each photo representing a unique moment in time. Auggie implores Paul to "slow down", which he agrees to do. Paul sees his wife in one of the pictures and breaks down.

The next day, Paul is lost in thought as he crosses the street and is saved from being run down by a truck by Rashid, a young black man named Rashid. Paul invites Rashid to stay at his apartment as a form of thanks. Rashid accepts, but irritates Paul by making noise and breaking dishes while Paul is writing. Paul asks Rashid to leave, which he does. Paul is visited by Rashid's aunt, who demands to know why Rashid has been staying with Paul. She reveals that Rashid's real name is Thomas, and that he is from an underprivileged background. She also says that Rashid has been estranged from his father since childhood, and that his father had been spotted recently at a gas station outside the city.

Rashid tracks down his father, Cyrus Cole, at his gas station, which he sketches. Cyrus, not recognizing him, befriends Rashid and hires him to carry out renovation work at the gas station. Rashid conceals his identity and tells Cyrus that his name is Paul Benjamin. His father has an artificial arm, which he tells Rashid was the result of a car accident in which his then wife (who was in fact Rashid's mother) was killed. Cyrus says that he was driving drunk and that his artificial arm is God's way of reminding him to better himself. Rashid leaves the gas station, without any notice.

Rashid returns to Paul's apartment to give him a secondhand television as a gift. As Rashid tries to leave, Paul forces him to stay and to call his aunt to reassure her that he is safe. Paul finds $5,000 that Rashid has stashed in the apartment. When Paul confronts Rashid about the money, he reveals that he took the money from robbers, which is why he is in hiding. Paul implores Rashid to return the money. Rashid disappears without explaining where he has gone. Paul and Auggie track Rashid back to Cyrus' gas station. Rashid reveals his true identity. Cyrus finally understands that Rashid is in fact his son but initially rejects him. After an emotional breakdown, they reconcile. Rashid is hired to work at Auggie's shop.

Auggie imports a box of Cuban cigars that he intends to sell to city officials; he has spent $5,000 on the shipment, the entirety of his savings. Rashid ruins the cigars when he is left to look after the shop on his own by allowing a sink to overflow. He gives Auggie the $5,000 to keep his job. Auggie initially refuses but eventually agrees to keep the money. Ruby McNutt, Auggie's ex-girlfriend, visits the shop and asks Auggie for money to cover rehab costs for a woman Felicity, whom she says is his daughter and who is pregnant and on drugs. Auggie later gives her the same $5,000 that was given by Rashid. Auggie asks Ruby if Felicity really is his daughter, to which he receives an ambiguous response.

Paul tells Auggie that he has been asked by The New York Times to write a story to be published on Christmas Day. With Paul suffering writer's block, Auggie offers to tell him the best Christmas story he has ever heard in exchange for lunch. Auggie tells a tender story about spending Christmas with a blind grandmother who at first thinks, and then pretends, he is her grandson. After the grandmother falls asleep, Auggie finds stacks of stolen cameras in the bathroom and decides to take one for himself. Weeks later, he regrets the theft and decides to return the camera, only to find that the grandmother has died in the meantime, meaning that she had spent her last Christmas with him. Paul is impressed by the story, but implicitly suspects that Auggie invented it.

During and after the closing credits, Auggie's story is enacted in a poignant black-and-white sequence to the soundtrack of Tom Waits's Innocent When You Dream.



On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a rating of 88% based on 34 reviews. The consensus summarizes: "Smoke draws in a stellar ensemble, holds the audience's attention with a robust blend of connected stories, and sends viewers out on a pleasurable high."[2]

It opened on 4 screens (including two in New York and one in Los Angeles) and grossed $70,744 for the weekend, being the number one exclusive release in New York and L.A.[3] It went on to gross $8 million in the United States and Canada and $30 million internationally.[4]




  • Stockard Channing - Best Supporting Actress - Screen Actors Guild


The film was followed by Blue in the Face, a sequel of sorts that continues following a few of the characters and introduces several new ones.


The character Augustus "Auggie" Wren (played by Harvey Keitel) is modelled after the real-life owner of Augie's Jazz Bar, which closed in 1998. When the establishment reopened in 1999, the new owners could not keep the former establishment's name. To honor its legacy, they named the new club after the 1995 film. [6][7][8]

A VHS copy of the film can be seen on top of the television set during the house party finale of the 1996 horror movie Scream.


  1. ^ "NDF International Home". Retrieved 2019-07-16.
  2. ^ "Smoke". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media.
  3. ^ Evans, Greg (June 13, 1995). "'Smoke' screens coasts". Daily Variety. p. 14.
  4. ^ Liu, Sandra (2000). "Negotiating the Meaning of Access: Wayne Wang's Contingent Film Practice". Countervisions: Asian-American Film Criticism. Temple University Press. p. 96. ISBN 1-56639-775-8. For paperback: ISBN 1-56639-776-6.
  5. ^ "Berlinale: 1995 Prize Winners". Retrieved 2011-12-31.
  6. ^ "All That Jazz: Smoke Jazz and Supper Club, Harlem". Archived from the original on January 7, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  7. ^ "Smoke Jazz & Supper Club-Lounge: Great Venue In New York". January 13, 2009. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  8. ^ "NY Times Critic's Pick: Smoke Jazz & Supper Club-Lounge". The New York Times. Retrieved June 30, 2011.

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