Ty Burr
June 14, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Blue in the Face

Current Status
In Season
Various Artists
Luaka Bop, Warner Bros.

We gave it a B+

An especially apt choice for video rental: It extends the shaggy-dog immediacy of the camcorder generation to feature films. Director Wayne Wang and novelist-turned-screenwriter Paul Auster so enjoyed making Smoke, their charming tale of Brooklyn solidarity, that they decided to keep the cameras rolling for another week and invite friends to stop by and shoot the breeze. Since those friends include Harvey Keitel (reprising his Smoke role of cigar-shop paterfamilias), Lou Reed, Michael J. Fox, Roseanne, Madonna, Mira Sorvino, Jim Jarmusch, and Lily Tomlin, you may feel as though you’ve wandered into a particularly high-rent backyard barbecue. The improvisations in Blue in the Face are a mixed bag — Reed and Fox are surprisingly hilarious, while Roseanne is a shrieking horror show — but the air of gentle play and a wistful sense that Brooklyn is some kind of lost Eden put this one up on the more structured Smoke. B+

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