Smoke (1995): Wayne Wang’s Adaptation of Paul Auster

Wayne Wang scored a big artistic and commercial success with Smoke, based on novelist Paul Auster’s short-story that originally appeared as a Christmas Day Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times. Using film as an extension of literature, Smoke, a deceptively quiet film, celebrates the art of storytelling–and the art of kindness.

The five major characters act benevolently in their need to establish meaningful links with each other. An unexpected act of kindness is always the beginning of a story, which comments on the teller’s life. Set in Brooklyn’s Park Slope, where Auster lives, Smoke is about the joy of neighborhood life, about people taking care of one another.

Gentle and kind but not soft or sentimental, Smoke was greeted enthusiastically by critics, partly because it was released in the summer amidst a cycle of violent, Tarantino-like movies.