- Carolina Barriga
Cigars on Screen
A few days ago, I watched an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld's show on Netflix. In episode 6 of collection 4, Jerry has breakfast with the American comedian Larry David, who, among so many other hits, wrote the TV series “Seinfeld.” While they share breakfast, Jerry reminds him of that time.“You would have a cigar after lunch, remember that? And you would offer sage advice. You seemed like: Yes, come my child, I have all this figured out”. Everything you say with a cigar just sounds so much better”.
They then discuss why a person who smokes cigars gives the impression of being wiser and having the correct answers. After comparing the moment of contemplation that is the ceremony of smoking a cigar versus the anxiety and rush of someone who smokes a cigarette, they come to the perfect conclusion together: “It’s a matter of time. A cigar takes time; that’s the whole key. A person smoking a cigar is in no hurry”.
In cinema, the directors of the most iconic movies have integrated cigars to reflect this idea of time and wisdom. In other cases, the cigar creates precise atmospheres related to sophistication, power, seduction, success, satisfaction, pleasure, generosity, or victory.
One way or another, every time a cigar appears on the silver screen, it comes with the critical mission of underlining or highlighting some specific feature of the character or the atmosphere of a particular scene in the movie.
Here are some examples:
The “wait for it” cigar scene
This autobiography by the brilliant Steven Spielberg, which has already won 2 Golden Globes and is nominated for 7 Oscars this year, is one of the best films of recent times and a cigar makes a spectacular appearance in this movie.
Young Sam (Gabriel LaBelle) gets the unique opportunity to meet the most influential director and one of his idols, John Ford, incarnated by the brilliant David Lynch.
Before John and Sam can exchange words, John cuts a cigar and lights it with tremendous parsimony, creating the tension, suspense, and excitement one of the most important encounters of young Spielberg's life deserves.
In several interviews, Spielberg talked about this moment that changed how he made films forever.
However, when he tells the anecdote, he does not mention that John Ford was smoking a cigar. We believe Spielberg chose to introduce this element specifically to indicate the importance of the advice he was about to receive and generate this ambiance of wisdom transfer. The movie's last line is Lynch answering Spielbergs' "thank you": He's holding the cigar close to his face, exhales smoke, and answers, "my pleasure."
Cigar scene message: Time and wisdom.
The “straight up with a twist” cigar scene
From all the James Bond cigar appearances, we chose this one with Xenia Onatopp, the villain in the femme fatale mold portrayed by the sophisticated Famke Janssen.
The scene takes place around a baccarat table in the casino of Monte Carlo. She just beat a Japanese opponent who stands up and leaves the table. As a sign of victory, she lights up a cigar. When she looks back up, the movie's hero sits before her. Pierce Brosnan is now her rival in the game.
Xenia deals the cards; she is clearly in a position of power. All eyes are on her, and she knows it.
When agent 007 wins the hand, the cigar goes from being an element of power to an element of seduction. James Bond asks for his infamous martini, shaken, not stirred, and asks her what she is having. “Straight up, with a twist,” she says while she holds the cigar straight up and looks him in the eye. The sexual tension is high, and the cigar is witness and accomplice of heavy flirtation.
One cigar, four messages: Sophistication, victory, power, and seduction.
A victory smoke of another world
Captain Hiller (Will Smith) lands abruptly in his parachute after shooting down the last alien ship. He walks over to the enormous extraterrestrial apparatus, climbs on top of it, and pulls the hatch open to find that the creature inside is still alive. With no hesitation, Smith punches the alien in the face and knocks it out, “welcome to earth,” he says. He then sits down, still agitated and clearly exhausted, pulls out an aluminum single cigar case, throws the cigar straight to his mouth, and spills out the infamous punchline: “Now that’s what I call a close encounter.”
Cigar's message: Victory, reward.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
"A last breath of empathy" cigar scene
We chose this as the most profoundly artistic and philosophic of all the Clint Eastwood cigar-featuring scenes.
In this western classic, Clint Eastwood plays the ''man with no name,'' who is called ''Blondie,'' a cigar-smoking, shrewd, and calculating character who is prudent in using force.
Eastwood lights a cigar, walks through the rubble left over from one of the civil war battles and finds a young, dying soldier. In silence, they exchange a few glances; Clint removes his jacket, covers the soldier, and extends his cigar, holding it out for him to smoke. The bad guy shows his empathetic side and shares a gesture of generosity with the boy. The smoke floats in to signify the detachment of the young soldier's soul as he dies.
Cigar's message: Generosity, compassion, a last pleasure in life.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
The description of pleasure - cigar scene
Many films with Pacino contain cigars. We have chosen this one because it is different regarding the position of power and abuse.
In Tarantino's film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Al Pacino plays the Leonardo di Caprio character’s agent.
A super elegant Pacino enters a bar to meet the Brad Pitt and di Caprio's characters. After introductions, Al praises di Leo's work and follows to describe the moment he sits down to watch his movies. “I open up a box of cigars. I light up, pour myself a cognac, and watch, ‘The 14 Fists of McCluskey.’" He finishes with a facial expression of elation.
To describe his ultimate pleasure moment and flatter the one he now wants to be his client, he pairs his two greatest pleasures in life, a good cigar and a great cognac, coupled with Leo's performance – an effective flirtation and demonstration of generosity.
Cigar appearance message: generosity, pleasure, sophistication and luxury.
Cigar lovers choose a specific cigar depending on the experience they are willing to have. Directors choose cigars to express clearly a mindset or personality. Even for non-cigar smoking audiences, a character that smokes has a certain quality that becomes clear through the cigar as a cinematographic tool.
If you know other memorable cigar scenes, please share in the comments section below.
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