Sometimes a Cigar Is (Not) Just a Cigar: Distinctions of Masculinity in SMOKE

The movie Smoke, written by Paul Auster and directed by Wayne Wang, begins with a few men in a cigar shop talking about sports. Nothing unusual here, however, this charged, masculine space changes when Paul Benjamin walks in. He casually enters into the conversation when a question is posed regarding how tobacco was introduced to Europe. Paul goes on to tell a peculiar story of how Sir Walter Raleigh determined a way to measure the weight of smoke.

After Paul leaves, Auggie explains how Paul is a writer, but hasn't written since his wife was killed in the cross fire of a police shootout. He goes on to say that she was pregnant which means Paul lost his first child and his wife the same day. Here, in a matter of minutes, we move from a group of guys talking about the New York Mets, to an amusing anecdote, and finally to a tragic and intensely personal story. Wayne Wang's film, Smoke, is primarally about masculine identity and masculine friendship in particular, so it's interesting to see how Wang constructs a masculine space where emotional distance and intimacy can occur simultaneously.