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Critic's Pick

'Smoke'

June 07, 1998|Peter Rainer

The Brooklyn cigar store run by Auggie Wren (Harvey Keitel, right) in this 1995 delight is Schmooze Central for the neighborhood gabbers and ne'er-do-wells. Pokey and episodic, "Smoke" is a lovely slow stroll with a few of those regulars. The screenwriter, Paul Auster, embellishing a short-short story of his that originally appeared as a Christmas Day op-ed piece in the New York Times, employs the film medium as an extension of his literary art. With director Wayne Wang, he's worked out a series of set pieces that play like resonant enigmatic doodles. Auster is a sly storyteller, though, and in "Smoke" he makes the deflations part of the movie's texture. A lot of dramatic stuff impends but nothing builds to a crescendo; time and again we're gently brought back to a bemused anticlimax. With William Hurt (left), Forest Whitaker, Harold Perrineau, Stockard Channing and Ashley Judd (Bravo Friday at 7 p.m. and midnight).

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