The Last Cigarette-Stranger than Fiction

Last night I went to my favorite documentary series in NYC, Stranger Than Fiction, and I saw a film called The Last Cigarette. It was directed by Kevin Rafferty, who’s most recent film Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 is currently screening at the Film Forum. The Last Cigarette was made in the mid 90s purely out of news and archival footage. It fits into the documentary genre, yet there are no interviews or original voice-overs and it seems in fact that the filmmaker never once picked up a camera while working on this project. All in the editing room, like a modern day mash-up, it meshes scenes from Vertigo and Psycho with footage from the Congressional hearings, in which the cigarette companies were held to task for selling cancer sticks. The middle aged men, who represent Philip Morris et al. bumble and attempt to euphemize their way out of taking responsibility for smoking deaths. They all actually say that they don’t believe smoking is addictive, that it does not cause cancer, and they swear that their companies have never marketed to children. Interesting. The film serves as  a comical, yet frightening glimpse back into the mid-nineties. It is hard to believe how much attitudes  towards smoking have changed in the past 15 years. Plus, quite bizarre that people have gone from thinking that cigarettes weren’t that harmful, to knowing they are, and smoking anyway.

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