If John Turturro's Romance & Cigarettes had been financed and released by a studio, it would have been a calamity on the level of Francis Ford Coppola's infamous One from the Heart. That's not meant to be an insult. Though One from the Heart was one of many Hollywood productions (Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate among them) that hearkened the last gasp of the much-hallowed days of Seventies filmmaking, when directors were given big budgets and free reign to experiment on large canvases, it was also a gloriously earnest film that purposely, necessarily alienated its audience in order to collapse conventional narrative parameters--much in the same way it literally collapsed space and walls with its innovative use of video technology and breakaway sets. Romance & Cigarettes, like One from the Heart, is an interiorized musical set somewhere between stark lower middle-class reality and all-consuming artifice--also like that film, it's not entirely successful in its aims, often poking around rather than rooting to its characters' emotional core. Yet the labor of Turturro's love is evident in nearly every frame.
Click here to read the rest of Michael Koresky's review of John Turturro's Romance and Cigarettes.