A Serious Man

A Serious Man (2009)

TOBACCO INCIDENTS 178
AVG PER MINUTE 1.78
EDITION Universal Studios Home Entertainment DVD released February 9, 2010
MOVIE SUMMARY A father tries to keep his family together despite some turbulance in his life.
TOBACCO IN SHORT A sexy chainsmoking pothead neighbor & many ashtrays appear.
POSSIBLE SMOKESCREENS (?) The confusion around the student’s bribe, the sexy pothead neighbor, the blood-thirsty anti-Semetic neighbor, the unexpected news about Larry’s health, and the tornado that suddenly swirls up at the film’s closing.

TOBACCO INCIDENTS: 178

AVG PER MINUTE: 1.78

First visual frame at 0:31
Last visual frame at 100:01
Total visual running time: 99:30

# TIME ANGLE DESCRIPTION
1-3 12:00 ES A doctor pulls a cigarette from his pack & lights up, a large ashtray is also visible.
4 12:07 MD The wooden turkey in the background appears to be a decorative pipe holder.
This mirror of 4/4 incidents makes me think I should be counting the actual lighters also. The Coens are actually playing with the tobacco appearances now.
5-8 12:11 ES Repeat of doctor smoking, ashtray on desk, pack of cigarettes & offering Larry a cigarette.
9-11 12:14 OTS Repeat of doctor smoking, ashtray on desk & pack of cigarettes.
12-14 12:19 OTS Repeat of doctor smoking, ashtray on desk & pack of cigarettes.
15 12:22 MD Same wooden turkey pipe holder in background.
16-18 12:25 MD Repeat of doctor smoking, ashtray on desk & pack of cigarettes.
19 12:30 MD Same wooden turkey pipe holder in background.
20 12:39 MD A brass ashtray with handle appears in foreground on the desk.
21 12:41 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk.
22 12:51 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk in the reversal shot.
23 13:05 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk.
24 13:12 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk in the reversal shot.
25 13:14 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk.
26 13:16 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk in the reversal shot.
27 13:18 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk.
28 13:26 MD Same brass ashtray is partially seen on desk in the reversal shot.
29 14:43 ES A copper ashtray is visible outside of Larry’s office door as the student enters.
30 14:47 ES An ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to a big fancy lighter.
31 14:59 MD A big brown glass ashtray with handle & stand is clearly visible next to the student.
32 16:09 ES Same ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
33 16:17 ES Same ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
34 16:33 CU Same ashtray with handle is clearly visible on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
35 16:40 CU Same ashtray with handle is partially visible on Larry’s desk.
36 16:43 ES Same ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
37 16:50 Dolly in Same copper ashtray visible outisde of Larry’s office door.
38 17:05 WS Same copper ashtray visible outisde of Larry’s office door.
39 22:50 ES Same ashtray with handle on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
40-41 22:52 OTS Same big brown glass ashtray next to student & ashtray with handle on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
42 22:54 OTS Same ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
43 23:10 OTS Same ashtray with handle in the foreground on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
44 23:18 OTS Same ashtray handle is partially visible on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
Larry holds up the envelope of cash in front of the big brown ashtray next to the student in this shot.
45 23:25 OTS Same ashtray with handle is partially visible on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
46 23:44 OTS Same ashtray with handle is clearly visible on Larry’s desk next to same lighter.
47 27:48 ES Danny & his friend share a wacky tobacky cigarette in the school bathroom.
48 27:48 ES Continued from previous –> Dialog referring to the wacky tobacky cigarette: “Want some of this, fucker?”
49 28:05 Dolly in/TS Same brass ashtray with handle appears in foreground on the desk.
* 28:45 ES A red Ford Mustang convertable is visible in the neighbor’s driveway.
50-51 31:00 TS Larry’s nude sunbathing neighbor grabs a lit cigarette from the ashtray and takes a drag.
52-53 33:00 ES/OTS Same ashtray with handle and brown glass ashtray are visible in Larry’s office.
* 36:22 FS Possibly a silver ashtray with lid on the lamp table next to a possible lighter.
54-56 36:58 ES Three small brown glass ashtrays are visible on tables at the restaurant.
57 41:15 MD/TS Danny smokes a wacky tobacky cigarette & passes it to his friend as the camera rolls by.
58 41:18 TS Continued from previous –> Dialog referring to the wacky tobacky cigarette: “Gimmie that fucker!”
* 47:33 ES Same red Ford Mustang convertable is visible in the neighbor’s driveway.
* 47:41 ES Possibly a big green ashtray on the living room coffee table.
59 48:39 OTS A big brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
The big fancy cigar lighter that is seen beside Larry is seen quite a few times in this scene.
60 48:51 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
61 48:56 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
62 49:01 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
63 49:08 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
64 49:34 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
65 49:47 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & new big fancy cigar lighter are clearly visible on the lawyer’s desk.
66 50:09 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is partially visible on the lawyer’s desk.
67 50:42 ES/Dolly in A glass ashtray is clearly visible in the foreground on the nightstand.
68 50:58 ES/Dolly in Continued from previous: another glass ashtray is visible on the table as Larry opens the blinds.
69 52:24 Crane Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk as he answers the phone.
* 53:00 Crane Columbia record club is mentioned along with Santana’s Abraxas album.
70 55:55 ES/OTS A big brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
71 56:09 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk in the reversal.
72 56:15 ES/OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
73 56:27 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk in the reversal.
74 56:33 ES/OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
* 56:56 MD First appearance of the silver ashtray that is creeping into view on the left.
The masters are truly at work here — some silver sparkly historical Jewish dishes in the corner precede the ashtray so your mind probably doesn’t notice it slip into the frame.
75 57:06 MD A sparkly silver ashtray with stand is visible beside Larry.
76 57:10 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
77 57:24 ES/OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
78 57:31 ES/OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
* 60:13   A Red Owl grocery store is mentioned and clearly visible.
79 60:44 ES Same silver ashtray with stand is partially visible beside the Goy character.
80 61:16 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
81 61:19 ES/OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
82 61:42 MD Same silver ashtray with stand is clearly visible beside the Goy.
83 61:45 MD Same silver ashtray with stand is clearly visible beside Larry.
This near seamless transition puts the ashtray in full view for an easy point of reference between the two shots.
84 61:48 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray is clearly visible on the rabbi’s desk.
85 62:01 MD Same silver ashtray with stand is visible beside Larry.
* 66:25 ES Same possibly a big green ashtray on the living room coffee table.
86 66:37 ES Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are clearly visible on the lawyer’s desk.
87 66:44 WS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
88 66:55 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are clearly visible on the lawyer’s desk.
89 67:00 WS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
90 67:03 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are clearly visible on the lawyer’s desk.
91 67:07 Dolly in Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
92 67:20 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are clearly visible on the lawyer’s desk.
93 67:22 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are visible on the lawyer’s desk.
94 67:27 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
95 67:33 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
96 67:38 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are visible on the lawyer’s desk.
97 67:40 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
98 67:42 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & lighter are visible on the lawyer’s desk.
99 67:45 OTS Same brown porcelain ashtray & two lighters are visible.
100 67:54 WS/HA A giant silver ashtray is clearly visible on the lamp table under two owls.
101 71:03 ES Same glass ashtray is visible on the table in Larry’s motel room.
102 71:14 ES Same glass ashtray is visible on the table in Larry’s motel room.
103-104 72:52 ES An orange ashtray & pack of cigarettes is visible on the center table.
105-106 73:03 MD Same orange ashtray & pack of cigarettes are clearly visible in the foreground.
107-108 73:30 OTS Mrs Samsky grabs a wacky tobacky cigarette and a lighter. Dialog: “Something I do for recreation.”
109 73:40 OTS Mrs. Samsky lights the wacky tobacky cigarette. Larry’s dialog: “Marijuana?”
110 73:46 OTS Mrs. Samsky extends the lit wacky tobacky cigarette to Larry.
111 73:51 OTS Larry takes the lit wacky tobacky cigarette from Mrs. Samsky.
112 73:58 OTS Larry holds up the lit wacky tobacky cigarette.
113 74:00 OTS Larry takes a drag from the wacky tobacky cigarette.
114 74:08 2S/DA Mrs. Samsky smokes a cigarette as she and Larry lay on the couch.
115 74:37 MD/DA Mrs. Samsky takes a drag from the cigarette at center screen.
This is one of the most iconic smoking shots — and quite strange looking out of context — this would be a great lead-off to a trailer etc.
116 74:55 2S/DA Mrs. Samsky holds up a lit cigarette as she and Larry lay on the couch.
Here Larry considers how meaningless his problems are as the sexy neighbor lady holds up a cigarette that fumes proudly like an olympic torch.
117-119 75:18 WS/DA Mrs. Samsky sits up to ash her cigarette; same orange ashtray & pack of cigarettes are visible on table.
120 75:31 ES Mrs. Samsky comes out of her front door holding a lit cigarette.
121 75:52 ES/OTS Mrs. Samsky walks into the background holding a lit cigarette.
122 75:59 ES/OTS Mrs. Samsky remains in the background holding a lit cigarette.
123 76:07 ES/OTS Mrs. Samsky remains in the background holding a lit cigarette.
124-126 76:14 ES Three large brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible on an otherwise empty conference table.
127 77:02 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
128-130 77:12 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible as pipe smoking man enters.
131 77:14 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
132-134 77:16 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible as pipe smoking man is about to sit.
135-138 77:22 WS/OTS Same three brown glass ashtrays are visible as pipe smoking man sits down.
139-141 77:30 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible in front of pipe smoking man.
142 77:32 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
143 77:34 MD Closer view of pipe smoking man as he prepares his files.
144 77:38 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
145 77:42 MD Closer view of pipe smoking man as he puts on his glasses.
146 77:47 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
147 77:51 MD Closer view of pipe smoking man as he looks over a file.
148 77:56 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
149-151 77:59 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible in front of pipe smoking man.
152 78:01 HA/CU Closeup as same man suddenly drops the pipe out of his mouth onto the table.
153 78:03 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
154-155 78:04 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible on the conference table.
156 78:06 MD Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible in front of Larry & lawyer.
157-158 78:07 WS Same two brown glass ashtrays are clearly visible on the conference table.
159-162 78:09 WS/OTS Same three brown glass ashtrays & man’s pipe are visible on the conference table.
163 78:12 FS Same brown glass ashtray is clearly visible on the conference table.
164 80:24 MD/LA Mrs. Samsky takes a drag from a cigarette in Larry’s sex dream.
165 80:30 MD/LA Mrs. Samsky exhales a puff of smoke into the air.
166 80:33 MD/LA Mrs. Samsky exhales a puff of smoke at the camera.
167 80:35 CU/DA A puff of smoke blows into Larry’s face in the reversal.
168-169 80:44 ES/HA Same two glass ashtrays are visible in Larry’s motel room.
It’s a dark room yet Larry’s ashtray is somehow bathed in light… And what about that other ashtray in the dark next to Arthur? Thankfully some headlights drift by and bring it clearly into view… How convenient, wouldn’t you say!
170 83:25 MD Same glass ashtray is clearly visible on the nightstand as Larry turns on the light.
171 83:32 MD Same glass ashtray is clearly visible on the nightstand beside Larry.
172 87:24 CU Three cigarette butts are visible on the bathroom floor by the feet.
173 94:50 MD Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.
174 94:56 OTS Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.
175 95:01 MD Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.
176 95:06 OTS Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.
177 95:14 OTS Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.
178 95:27 OTS Same ashtray with handle & fancy lighter are visible on Larry’s desk.

Additional Thoughts…

“Receive everything happening to you with simplicity”
Quote by Roshi that opens the film.

Said to be one of the Coen brothers’ most personal films, A Serious Man (2009) follows the everyman character Larry Gopnik (played by actor Michael Stuhlbarg) as he navigates many uncertainties surrounding his marriage, his family, his career, his religion, and even his health. You can tell that the Coen brothers enjoyed crafting this story about a middle-aged man, especially the parts about Larry’s son getting stoned before his bar mitzvah.

“Very unsettling.”

Many of the tobacco incidents in this film come from Larry’s next door neighbor — a turbo sexy wierd pothead lady. She’s the calm level-headed relief in an otherwise nervous picture. Actually, she’s the only relief in Larry’s life. And although she’s constantly holding a long cigarette, she only takes an occasional drag.

Even as Larry’s sexy neighbor lady lays out sunbathing in the nude, she even blindly reaches over for her lit cigarette resting in an ashtray on a table nearby. Every time Larry encounters his sexy doe-eyed neighbor, not only is she is smoking a cigarette, but usually some free spirited hippie type music comes on which is completely removed from the rest of the film. The feeling you get from watching the scenes of the sexy wierd neighbor lady, you know that is the hip place to be during this period film.

“Letting it breathe, so important.”

Once Larry finally enters the woman’s home, they drink some iced tea and smoke some pot. These optically unique scenes shot in crooked Dutch angles deliver many bright warm colors in the otherwise drab film and they are some of the most memorable parts in the movie. Trust me — if desire is a destination, this is where Larry wants to be.

However, even as Larry fantasizes later about wild colorful sex with his neighbor, she retains her zen-like calmness and continues clutching her signature long cigarette — she even blows smoke in Larry’s face during coitus as his dream is reaching its climax.

One very interesting musical number is used throughout the movie: Jefferson Airplane’s song “Find Somebody to Love”

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies
Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love

In this film, what exactly could the song be referring to?

[ insert image of a single cigarette ]

The Jefferson Airplane song is even referenced again near the end of the movie when Larry’s son meets with the head rabbi.

In some ways, this song does parallel the turbulence happening in Larry’s life… In other ways, this movie is much like other Coen films where stuff just happens unexpectedly. All of the Coen brothers movies are confusing in ways that other mainstream films aren’t. However, once I started filtering out the tobacco elements from these films I quickly came to the conclusion that the Coen brothers could be doing all of this random confusing stuff for just that reason — to confuse the audience. If my wacky tobacco theory is true, filmmakers like the Coen brothers probably don’t give a shit about little details like the fact that their films don’t actually make sense. To them, the goal might really be to make a two hour commercial for cigarettes, and to give it some hype so not only will people see the film, people will be talking about it as well.

I’ve realized it’s best not to think too hard beyond the two hours you spend watching the Coen brothers’ films. But on the contrary, isn’t that what we love to hate about the Coen brothers’ movies? We love to sit around and discuss these films endlessly in order to find some additional meanings or interpretations. But what if there is none? What if Joel & Ethan’s only real intention is to make viewers desire a cigarette when they leave the theater. If they don’t have any other endgame in mind, they are at least doing just that.

The first blatant smoking that appears during A Serious Man (2009) is around twelve minutes into the film. However, following the strange fable segment that appears at the start of this film, this particular tobacco reference actually appears around two minutes into the normal/modern part of the film. It’s an interesting tobacco reference because it is delivered by a doctor sitting behind a desk in his white doctor coat… Perhaps a kind of a throw back to Raising Arizona (1987)? Anyways, this doctor lights up and then offers a cigarette to Larry before they talk doctor stuff. The especially interesting part is… Similar to the plight of Young Donny in the Coen brothers’ earlier film The Big Lebowski (1998), main character Larry is the one who never touches alcohol or cigarettes but ends up with some serious health problems by the end of the film. Ultimately, this same doctor who delivered the first tobacco appearance ends the film by summoning Larry to his office for a “serious” talk.

“Accept the mystery.”

FUN FACT — A DISAPPEARING ACT

The first time you see Larry in his office during A Serious Man (2009) on the desk in the foreground sits an ashtray with a silver handle & a large decorative lighter. The second time you see Larry in his office, the same ashtray is present on the desk but the large decorative lighter has now moved a little closer toward Larry. Coincidentally, Larry is having a conversation with an unhappy student who says “…I’m not missing anything… I know where everything is.”