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Paterson is a celebration of the small details in life. A poetic and
charming love-story about a perfectly ordinary couple, living in a
perfectly ordinary town.
The town in question is Paterson, New Jersey. Home of poet William Carlos Williams, comedian Lou Costello, and one of America's largest waterfalls. The man in question, in true Jarmusch style, is also named Paterson (played with pinpoint subtly by Adam Driver). Paterson is a hard-working bus driver who quietly goes about his duties, all the while allowing the scenery and eavesdropped conversation to inspire his main passion in life; writing poetry. Meanwhile, his girlfriend and the love of his life, played without fault by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani, is a stay-at-home creative. She spends her day baking imaginative cupcakes and making new curtains from scratch. The films narrative centres around a seven day week. Each day brings a new variation on the theme, and each moment a reflection on two people who wholeheartedly accept each other for who they are.
Paterson is a quiet and contemplative film that sits perfectly in Jarmusch's repertoire. It's a film about how people choose to live their life, regardless of the necessities to work and make money. Like poetry, the words and images flow with little dramatic tension or conflict. Jarmusch explained at Cannes that he intended Paterson to be an antidote to the modern action film, and if this is the case, I'll definitely be coming back for another dose.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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Second, just to explain where I stand, I do like artistic movies, even slow ones, and even some of Jim Jarmusch's. They are offbeat, contemplative and somewhat poetic. In "Paterson", poetry is obviously his chief ambition: the main character is an amateur poet, there are talks about (more or less) famous poets and it relies on "everyday poetry", if this makes sense.
- One poetic component is repetition: the main character has the same name as the city he lives in; we see many twins (thus a "double repetition"); events occur repeatedly; there are a few correspondences (for instance Laura has the same name as Petrarch's muse); the camera focuses on leitmotifs (watch, cereals, lunchbox, mailbox, beer glass, etc.). All this creates "internal rhymes" that, interestingly, are missing from Paterson's poems. What about these poems, by the way? They are sort of nice in their genre, however do we really need to hear them two or three times each, and see them written on top of that? It would have required an outstanding style, which I think is lacking.
- Another poetic ingredient is oddity: strange elements slowly spill into an otherwise ordinary life.The black and white motifs created by Laura progressively invade the house: curtains, painting, carpets, clothing, and even the spare wheel cover of their car. When Paterson and Laura go to the cinema, they watch a horror movie which is, echoing Laura's motifs, in black and white (an additional correspondence). Small objects have a magical touch, notably the matchbox. Everett draws a gun in the bar. There are uncommon encounters, for instance the young poetess, the separating couple and the Japanese tourist. Entertaining, in a way.
- Another phenomenon is the "enchanted bubble" sensation. It is a happy life: Paterson and Laura have a relatively easy time (although he seems on the edge, yet nothing wrong happens); they love each other; everybody is friendly; it is always sunny. There are no news from the outside world. The couple is isolated from family, real friends and neighbours, if any; they have no TV, no computer; he has no mobile phone. The rare issues are trifle: gang youngsters in a convertible just provide a fair warning; the Indian driver's problems are not so dramatic (especially considering how he describes them); Everett's gun is fake; the bus breaks down without consequences. The only drama is the loss of the secret book, however Paterson continues to write on another notebook given by Providence. Moreover, it is comforting to see hidden talents behind apparently simple personalities (writing, cooking, decorating, chess, etc.): it demonstrates we all have something to express.
- Last, there is some form of humour, notably with the above-mentioned invasive motifs, the grumpy dog and the contrast between Paterson and Laura. She is enthusiastic, eccentric, willing to try all sorts of activities; she dreams of fame and actually is rather talented. He is reserved, quiet, slightly puzzled by her; he just wants a peaceful life and is talented as well, as a writer. She always is onto something new (and sometimes weird) while he is stuck in routine. Amusing, to an extent.
And then? Well, that's about it. The movie mainly relies on these bits and pieces. It is enough for a short film, however here it drags on for almost two hours. In the end, the ensemble feels somewhat pointless: this is partly intentional, of course, but it did limit my appreciation.
So what is missing? Probably, "Paterson" does not go far enough in its ambition. For instance, the bizarre touch could have been pushed further, to explore a different dimension. Or the humour. Or the elaboration of a stronger poetic structure. Or a progression of some sort. Or the inclusion of themes, adding depth and triggering another emotion than just having a pleasant time.
I cannot rate the movie lower than 5/10 because it is not terrible. There are a few interesting ideas, characters are likable, it is laid back, it changes form the standard blockbuster. Yet I cannot rate it higher because it did not appeal to me: it doesn't have much substance, doesn't evolve and doesn't provide a lasting impression, unlike exceptional films that linger in the mind for days. Not bad, not great, just in the middle. Half-baked.
But then, appreciating poetry is very subjective. Hence it is understandable some persons find the movie captivating and rate it 10/10 (which is easier to defend than the same rating for "Police Academy 6"). On the other hand, it also is understandable persons find it utterly boring and rate it 1/10 (which is easier to defend than the same rating for "Citizen Kane"). Question of personal sensitivity to this style.
"Paterson" tries to illustrate James Tate's brilliant quote: "Poetry is everywhere; it just needs editing." Unfortunately, I missed the editing part. Maybe I am narrow-minded.
From reflections in a puddle, cardinals singing, waterfalls, a
harlequin guitar, shadows, designer cupcakes and more, the love of a
creative and happy couple spills over the small town of Paterson, New
Jersey. The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Paterson, who shares his
name with the community at large, is a bus driver. The daily bus route
takes him through the heart of town where Paterson overhears intriguing
conversations, records observations in his notebook, generates poems
and opens lunchbox surprises from his lovely and artistic wife, Laura.
The couple's chemistry, expressed in kisses, constant conversation,
cheer and trust, is remarkable. "She understands me really well," says
Paterson. Lucky guy. Lucky girl. The attractiveness, talent, color and
charm of Laura and Paterson is infused in everything they do including
Paterson's nightly tavern visits, the plain yet peculiar meals they
have together, waking up in the morning and walking the dog.
Even in all its outward simplicity, there is astonishing and wonderful depth to the film characters, scenes, themes and conversations. This artistic sensibility that is infused in everyday life, is something I loved so much about Japan and Paterson shows what this imaginative awareness looks like in small town North America. Truly there is inspiration and beauty everywhere. While the film delves into music, paintings and other mediums, its main artistic focus is on poetry. There are nods to the poetry of William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens and others. The poems Paterson comes up with in his jaunts around town are brilliant and beautiful. A box of Blue tip matches inspires, rather sparks, a love poem. A poem called Another One is about seeing other dimensions, which is what this incredible film encourages itself.
Paterson is delightfully layered with surprising wisdom, complexity, diversity and humor at every turn. Twins make appearances every so often, for example, to remind us of one of the film themes; there is always someone out there like us that matches our hearts, and we are never really alone. Articles and images on a tavern wall take us to other dimensions in time in an instant. The on-screen chemistry between actors Adam Driver (Paterson) and Golshifteh Farahani (Laura) is critical to the film, and they are more than up to the task. They are outstanding, alluring and entirely convincing. The compassion and charm of this film is unforgettable. It reminds us that love and splendor spring from the unlikeliest of places. Seen at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's the summary: A bus driver named Paterson drives a bus in a town
called Paterson, NJ. He lives with a woman who doesn't work but paints
black and white designs on everything that doesn't move. A week in the
life of this pair runs as follows: He gets up and goes to work. Writes
some poetry in a notebook. We watch as he walks to and from work. There
are twins dotted all over Paterson. She buys an expensive guitar as she
wants to become a country singer and she also makes cup cakes. There is
a dog called Marvin. Marvin eats the poetry notebook. Paterson
despondent. But then meets a Japanese man who asks him if he is a poet
and gives him a new blank notebook. Closing credits. By which time the
red hot pins stuck in my eyes had become permanently embedded. What
sounded like clapping rose from one section of the meagre audience,
except it wasn't clapping. It was a woman slapping her partner trying
to wake him up.
Marvin was good.
I'm not sure if Jim Jarmusch ("Only Lovers Left Alive") in Paterson
wants to make America great again by giving us his vision of the way it
used to be, or is telling us that we only have to look around us to
discover that it's great right now. Performed by a brilliantly
authentic Adam Driver ("Midnight Special"), Paterson is not only the
name of the city in New Jersey known for its resident poet William
Carlos Williams, but is also his name. He is a poet whose Haiku-like
verses (actually written by Ron Padgett) are reminiscent of the city's
own poet William Carlos Williams. He writes a new poem every day (or
finishes an old one) on the #23 bus he drives before and during his
trip. Though his loving, energetic, somewhat scattered wife Laura
(Golshifteh Farahani, "Finding Altamira") keeps asking him to make
copies of them, he resists the idea, preferring to keep them in his
The film has little conflict, family dysfunction, or mental health issues. It is about what works and even (wonder of wonders) about a marriage that is not falling apart. Like most people with jobs and families, Paterson has a daily routine. There's too much variation in his day to call it a takeoff on Groundhog Day, but it does have that "same old, same old" quality. He awakes shortly after 6am, has a bowl of cereal that looks suspiciously like Cheerios, walks to his job driving the #23 bus through the streets of Paterson, listening in on conversations (often with a broad smile on his face) of passengers who talk about anything from Italian anarchists to boxer Hurricane Carter and comedian Lou Costello.
He comes home at six, corrects a leaning mailbox that moves daily thanks to his grumpy English bulldog Marvin (RIP), has dinner (some on the exotic side) talks with Laura who fills him in on the many projects she has going on including painting black and white circles on draperies, learning to play the guitar, and making cupcakes to sell at the local farmers market. He then takes Marvin for a walk and goes for a beer at the local pub where he chats with the owner Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley, "Carrie"), and often acts as a moderator between Everett (William Jackson Harper, "True Story"), a dramatic actor who desperately wants to reunite with his ex-wife Maria (Chasten Harmon.
The poems that Paterson reads as the words are flashed on the screen are not about odes to nightingales (though there's nothing wrong with that) but about down-to-earth things, such as one about matches, inspired by Ohio Blue Tip matchboxes that have disappeared from our lives. In "The Run," he says, "I go through trillions of molecules that move aside to make way for me while on both sides trillions more stay where they are. The windshield wiper blade starts to squeak. The rain has stopped. I stop. On the corner a boy in a yellow raincoat holding his mother's hand." In other poems he lets the world know how much he is in love with his wife, though he confides in us that he occasionally looks at other woman, something which as far as I know is still legal.
To Paterson, a poem should be simple and direct and he is moved by one such poem by a 9-year-old girl who recites it to him while she is waiting for her mother and sister. He complements her on her poem about a waterfall, remembering a few lines and reciting them to Laura when he gets home. Contrary to most films where, except for films about wealthy financial elites, work does not play a big role in the life of the characters, Paterson makes real what daily living is about for a majority of working people. The film has warmth and humor wrapped in a portrait of a city which has seen better days, a city in which Jarmusch creates a structure of closely observed small moments revealed with empathy.
Paterson is a man who is not looking for life to give him satisfaction but who brings satisfaction to it, a man who knows that satisfaction does not depend on accumulating things but in being grounded in who you are and what you can bring to the world. He comes to appreciate that poetry is not extraneous to life but that life itself is poetry. Although the film presents an idealistic picture of a city without visible slums, drugs, and crime which we know exists, Jarmusch may be providing us with a welcome counterpoint, showing us the way our cities should be and can be again.
I owe Jarmusch a debt of gratitude for being a formative figure in shaping my cinematic tastes. I shall never forget watching Stranger Than Paradise (1984) in NY in the early 1980s: the novelty, joy, patient camera movement, the fantastic way of playing Creedence Clearwater Revival's 'I Put a Spell on You' throughout the soundtrack. I have seen most of Jarmusch's movies ever since and more than three decades later, Paterson did not disappoint. Jarmusch is as creative as ever, gifting us with a wonderful film. The set is Paterson N.J., the protagonists are a bus driver also named Patterson and his artistically creative spouse. Paterson writes poetry, reads poetry, and encounters poetry wherever he goes and whoever he meets. This is it. And it is as engaging, uplifting, funny, and as insightful as a film can be. Patterson may be watched as a homage. It delicately portrays a particular place, Paterson New Jersey, reminding us that a place, any place, is always a product of the way its present mixes up with its past, of the way people both walk it and remember it. But the film is not only a homage to a place, it is also a homage to daily life, to the mundanity of just going to work and having a drink after a day's work. One striking feature of this film is that there are no bad characters here, no evil spirits, no mean intentions. In fact the only mean character in the film is the protagonists' dog, but even the dog is not too bad, just a drag. And miraculously, in spite of this, the film is totality innocent of naiveté. As if at the hands of a gifted anthropologist, the camera curiously follows and watches, and the film never falls into anything resembling judgment and condescension. It is truly genius in its ability to draw us into the perspective of the protagonists, to embrace their feelings and movements, to empathize with them and to fall in love with their numerous small encounters. Remarkably, one of the achievements here is that the film feels and looks timeless. It could be shot in the 1950s, or the 1970s, and yet it makes no attempt to hide the fact that it has been shot only recently. Incidentally, Paterson makes a point about not having a mobile phone. It does wonders to the film and its ability to give homage. A truly uplifting film.
I really felt that although folks mostly agreed that the movie captured
the "poetry of everyday life", there was much more to be had from the
movie, which has it subtleties aplenty. Yes the ruins of Paterson are
beautiful, yes the dappling of the light is fine, yes Laura and
Paterson are a beautiful couple but go deeper!
Most art that you initially create is going to be derivative. Paterson's poetry is essentially derivative of William Carlos Williams. You have to fight through this phase and find your own creations. So when Paterson's homework is eaten by the dog (remember to see the humour in this), I was mindful that the dog had done him a favour, because all of the early stuff is worthless, unless you happened to be called Rimbaud or Chatterton, and even then I imagine they burned a lot of doggerel before they wrote a good sentence. Derivation can be incredibly apparent in painting, for example Mondrian, where he dabbled with other folks' styles (impressionism, fauvism and even pointillism) before he arrived at his unique mature expression, for which he is famous (termed neoplasticism).
Writing poetry is difficult, as so eloquently pointed out by WB Yeats:
"We sat together at one summer's end,// That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, // And you and I, and talked of poetry.// I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;// Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, // Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.// Better go down upon your marrow-bones // And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones // Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; // For to articulate sweet sounds together// Is to work harder than all these"
Paterson will need to break a lot of patterns and cobwebs if he wants to become a great poet.
Many have looked at this portrait of a relationship and saw something sweet and tender. I'm sorry but I saw two disconnected individuals, a freeloading girlfriend, a boyfriend without a backbone, and a couple that didn't make decisions together. They're both good-looking tranquil people, but they're not soulmates. Laura tells Paterson that his poetry is great, but he needs challenge, not a sycophant, he needs someone who understands him, not someone who uses his wages to buy an expensive dog and gets him to walk it every evening! So when he recites a love poem, it's something false, it's a confection, it's what we want to hear but it's not true, and this is why he's still so far from greatness.
The use of doubles in the movie is far from trivial, what it's saying is that there is a different lives Paterson (or any of us) could be leading, we have to make choices every day about which person we are going to be. The dissolve at the end when Paterson is lying in bed and seems to disappear momentarily is hinting that he might be best off disavowing his current life, he should be running a mile. Yet it's a comfortable life, and everyone likes comfy right? Two guys on the bus have a discussion where both recall recent encounters with women they liked and both had managed to fumble the ball through inaction, they chose, they don't live uncomfortable lives, but they chose not to live passionate lives. So that's why I chose the title for the review, because we all have to decide whether to embrace nonbeing, some sort of Taoist concept of naturalness, or whether we want to bristle our creativity, and streak like comets. Maybe the latter is innately egotistical. I think that the choice is what this movie is about, be humble or be brave. The movie is dualistic, no one interpretation is there to be forced on you. For me when he writes a poem about the song "Swinging on a Star" that's saying something key, he mentions that the only line he really plays again in his head is the one about being a fish, not being any of the others lives in the song. Again this is dualistic because it could be saying that he knows the life of a poet is for him, and it's the only one he thinks about, so he should embrace it, but if you read the full lyrics of the song, it talks about the fish who "can't write his name or read a book". Whereas another option "Would you like to swing on a star // Carry moonbeams home in a jar // And be better off than you are". Seems like the best though radical option that is open to Paterson, to change everything, but perhaps he won't take it.
Ending on a more playful note, congratulations to Mr Jarmusch for yet again working a matchbox into proceedings!
Jim Jarmusch films can be challenging and Paterson (2016) is no exception. Audiences who are accustomed to plot or character-driven stories will find themselves grappling instead with a mood in search of a reason. Without a genre label to help, we must work through an exploratory essay into the ordinariness of human existence elevated occasionally by the creative impulse to write poetry. If it sounds cerebral, then it's a Jarmusch film. Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in Paterson, USA. If that sounds odd, then it matches this whimsical story based on the typical week of a nondescript transport worker who lives not a life but a routine. His unchanging beige existence is in bold relief to his beautiful Iranian-born wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who is artistically creative and continually reshaping her goals. Their lovable and irascible bulldog Marvin is the story's primary source of humour. Paterson drifts into writing poems throughout his day, composing lines in his head, and sometimes his silken words appear as on-screen text framed by banality like an urban bus window. His free-flowing verses are a contrast to his symmetrical and ordered life. While Laura thinks they should be shared with the world, he is bashful about them because the sentences do not rhyme. The pattern of his days is always the same, punctuated by what happens to others rather than what happens to him. Quirky characters create capsule sketches that represent the mundanity of living: a woe-riddled supervisor, a broken romance, a curious Japanese tourist, overheard passenger conversations, and a broken down bus all part of a quiet existential stream notable only for its inconsequence. Narrative turning points work like signposts that tell us that something significant is about to occur in a story, but there are none here. Each time it appears possible that the story might progress in some interesting new direction nothing happens, perhaps to reflect how Paterson lives his life. There are layers of unreality across many scenes and the dialogue often feels as if it is being delivered at a script reading: clear diction, perfect rhythm, without emotion. This slight air of inauthenticity forms a backdrop for the sincerity and lyricism present in Paterson's poetry. It may or may not be good poetry; that is not the point. It is about contrasting layers of reality and they are evident elsewhere, always with the same effect. When a small girl who also writes poetry says "Cool. My bus driver is a poet" we feel like responding: "well, why not?"; creativity hides everywhere. Not everyone will stay with this film because of its minimalist pace, deadpan humour, prolonged silences, understated acting and noticeably sparse music to lift the emotional tone. It is devoid of regular cinematic artifice and feels like we have momentarily glimpsed into the inner space of a true gentle soul and can walk away the better for it. Author: cinemusefilms.com
It's not so easy to say what 'Paterson' is about. It's about a week in
the life of a bus driver - that's the easy answer. A week in which not
much happens, by the way. But it's also about poetry: the bus driver
writes poems while waiting behind the wheel. It's about happiness: the
film is drenched in it. And about simplicity: the bus driver's life is
extremely simple. He wakes up at about quarter past six, kisses his
sleeping wife, eats a cereal breakfast, walks to the bus garage, drives
his bus, and returns home to the evening meal his wife has prepared for
Jim Jarmusch shows this seven times: once for each day in the week. But there are slight differences: sometimes he wakes up at half pas six, his wife's position in bed is different each day (once she's not there because she got up before him), the talk at dinner depends on the events of the day. And small things happen every day: there's an incident at the local pub, the bus breaks down, his wife sells cupcakes at the farmer's market.
When the average Hollywood blockbuster is a roller-coaster ride, this film is a quiet walk in the woods. Some people may find it boring. I didn't. 'Paterson' is a special film, because it has a very rare characteristic: it's not about anything in particular. Or is it about life itself? It's up to the viewer to decide.
Greetings again from the darkness. Do you find poetry in everyday life?
What about poets
do you envision loners whose lives are filled with
angst and suffering? Our lead character here is a pretty normal guy who
drives a city bus, has a happy marriage, and walks his dog each
evening. He's also a poet and a pretty interesting one.
Writer/director Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, 2005) often seems like he is making films for his circle of friends all whom must be much cooler than you and me. This time, however, he takes an opposite approach and brilliantly focuses on a dude that any of us could know. Paterson (Adam Driver) is a New Jersey Transit bus driver who writes poetry based on his observations of life's seemingly minor details (his first poem notes "We have plenty of matches in our house").
You should be forewarned: there are no murders, kidnappings, bank robberies or shootouts. Things move rather deliberately. Also missing are any special effects heck, Adam Driver even got licensed to drive a bus for the role. Instead, we are forced to slow down and see each of the seven days of a week through the eyes and words of Paterson. He observes. He listens. He people watches. He then commits his thoughts to the page and recites them for our benefit. Sometimes he is eavesdropping on bus passengers, while other times he curiously tries to figure out the newest "dream" for his beloved wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Having the soul of an artist, Laura cloaks her world in a geometric black and white color scheme while energetically bounding from cupcakes to country and western music to cooking as she pursues her place in life.
There are many Jarmusch touches throughout. Paterson the poet actually lives and works in Paterson, New Jersey yep, Paterson from Paterson. The interactions at the neighborhood bar (run by Barry Shabaka Henley) are simultaneously real and surreal right down to the wall of local fame (including Hurricane Carter and Lou Costello, but no mention of Larry Doby). Coincidences abound. A young girl recites her poem to Paterson her writing style, personal book, and delivery make her seem like his poetic doppelganger all while the recurring appearance of numerous sets of twins make us believe in the law of attraction. Lastly, the closest thing to a villain in the film is Paterson's bulldog Marvin, in what plays like a love-hate relationship with the mailbox being center-ring.
Another local Paterson (the city) aspect is Paterson's (the poet) admiration of the works of William Carlos Williams, a poet whose style he emulates. One of the terrific scenes near the end involves a spontaneous interaction between Paterson and town visitor (Masatoshi Nagase) that takes place next to The Great Falls, and serves as a reminder that we should accept who we are, no matter the challenges or lack of glory. This is truly director Jarmusch's ode to the artist/poet in each of us and in ordinary life. Creating art as best we can is a very personal thing, and for some it's a need - while for others it's one of life's simple pleasures. Regardless, a "normal" life with daily routines is not to be scorned, but rather embraced, should you be so fortunate. If you doubt this, Paterson asks, "Would you rather be a fish?" **NOTE: sharp moviegoer eyes will recognize Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, who both had their debut in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom (2012).
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