Georg Simmel was an early 20th century German sociologist who criticized the mechanized lifestyle of living in a metropolis. He argued that the inhabitants of big cities are conditioned to operate according to clocks, bells and whistles, and rigid itineraries so that they become dehumanized. They’re always in such a rush to reach their destination that they don’t stop to say “hello” or “I’m sorry.” If Hong Kong filmmaker Wang Kar-Wai were to address Simmel’s ideas, he would probably make something like Mario Pinzon’s short “Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms.”
The film puts three different characters together in a philosophical tug-of-war set in New York City. The film devotes a segment to each of the main characters. The viewer meets Mars (Jason Chalk) first. He loves the city because of the anonymity it provides. Because no one knows your name or particularly care about what you do, you can do whatever you like. Mars thrives off of the energy that radiates from the city. A self-proclaimed “Guardian” of the city, he alone decides who can leave.
Dion (Sebastian Elliot) and Zeff (Ravi K. Anthony) are not nearly as enthusiastic about NYC. The two meet in a bar and begin to commiserate with each other. Dion wants to leave because the city is too fast-paced for intellectual reflection. Zeff doesn’t see why NYC is so great, especially since he isn’t allowed to smoke a cigarette while buying cigarettes. Dion and Zeff plot to break away from the metropolis, but one thing stands in the way between them and freedom.
Reminiscent of Wong’s “Chungking Express,” Pinzon’s film incorporates an episodic but interconnected narrative that benefits from voice-overs, a hand-held camera, slow motion, and Vora Vor’s Asian-influenced, meditative music score to convey the film’s theme. “Alcohol, Tobacco, and Fireams” is only fifteen minutes long, but in this amount of time, Pinzon has created something that would surely make Simmel very proud.