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Blue in the Face

Wayne Wang, Paul Auster / , 1995 / 83 min.

The follow-up to Smoke, about a New York tobacco shop and a place for unexpected meetings, with cameos by Lou Reed, Michael J. Fox, Madonna and Jim Jarmusch, and loosely directed by Paul Auster. To accompany My Name is Peter Stillman, the virtual reality adaptation of Auster’s The New York Trilogy, EYE screens three films written by Auster, a film aficionado whose writing is inspired by film techniques. 

Blue in the face movie poster 1995 1020211201

Smoke was set in a tobacco shop in Brooklyn, and modelled after the shop frequented by author and fervent smoker Paul Auster. The chance encounters in the shop provided the inspiration for Smoke and its follow-up Blue in the Face. A regular guest in the tobacco shop run by Auggie (Harvey Keitel) is an author with a writer's block called Paul (William Hurt) – no arbitrary name.

When Auggie announces the shop will be sold to a health food chain, all his regular and slightly offbeat customers drop by to discuss the big news, sharing at the same time their own idiosyncratic views about the world with anyone who will hear. The improvised scenes are acted by celebrities like Lou Reed, Michael J. Fox, Madonna and Jim Jarmusch. The film was shot in six days, not long after Smoke. As filmmaker Wayne Wang fell ill, Auster not only wrote the script but also directed the film himself.

Paul Auster

Film plays a major role in almost all of Auster”s novels. There are numerous crossovers between his films and his novels, filled as they are with casual meetings, doubles, malleable identities and solitary writers who sometimes even bear the author”s (first) name, as in Smoke. The characters in his books often share a common past and have met before. In this way his books and his films form a coherent universe.

My Name is Peter Stillman

EYE screens Blue in the Face together with the VR installation My Name is Peter Stillman, which will be running in EYE's Project Space from 1-10 April. My Name is Peter Stillman draws you into the haunting story of Peter Stillman, the protagonist of The New York Trilogy, Paul Auster”s debut novels. Also screening are Auster”s Smoke (1-9 April) and The Inner Life of Martin Frost (2-6 April). Jason Wood will talk about Paul Auster as an author, filmmaker and scriptwriter for theatre and VR on 3 April.

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Wayne Wang, Paul Auster

Production year


Original title

Blue in the Face


83 min.



Part of


Virtual Reality productions are an increasingly important element of the contemporary film experience. Eye has created a new programme, Xtended, to focus on VR. In Xtended, you’re not confronted with the flat surface of a film screen. You move around virtually in 3D through a designed space that surrounds and immerses you on all sides.

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