Paterson is a 2016 film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. I saw it at a the cinema when it came out and, I admit it straight away, it disappointed me a bit. I love Jarmusch’s cinema (I wrote about all his movies!), but this film just didn’t convince me. But, as usual, let’s start with two lines of plot.
Paterson (Adam Driver, whom I admire for his willingness to work in independent projects when he’s not busy in some big blockbuster) is a bus driver (and the actor actually got a bus driving license for the film) . He is also an aspiring poet and lives with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and his dog Marvin in Paterson, New Jersey. The film, quite simply, shows us a week of their life.
Around the release of the film, I read that Jarmusch wrote this film as a sort of response to the ultra-kinetic cinema of Marvel and company, a type of cinema that he obviously doesn’t like (and that I don’t like either). But maybe this time Jarmusch has exaggerated a bit in going against what he doesn’t like! Why am I saying that? Because nothing happens in Paterson. And I know that you could tell me that this is also the case of many of the films of the Cuyahoga Falls director. Actually, he has always said that he writes films starting from the characters rather than from the plot. True, but I probably prefer it when there’s a plot, such as in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), or Dead Man (1995).
However, I think that Jarmusch took a certain pleasure in not having anything happen in the whole movie. For example, when a couple of ugly guys make some comments about Marvin, you might think that something is going to happen to it during one of his walks where it inevitably ends up tied to a pole outside the pub. Well, no, nothing happens. And what about the bus breaking down? Nothing happens there either. And do Laura’s passions lead somewhere with all that country music and those muffins? You guessed it: no, they don’t.
The more I think about it, the more I suppose there’s nothing wrong with it, maybe it’s just that I entered the cinema with different expectations, that’s all! Laura is actually a lovely character, and Paterson writes poems that, strange as they are (they’re written by the poet Ron Padgett, a friend of the director), aren’t very different from those of William Carlos Williams (who wrote an epic poem called Paterson himself). We discover that in the finale with the mysterious character played by Masatoshi Nagase (here’s another Japanese in a Jim Jarmusch movie, after those of Mystery Train, 1989).
In short, like all Jarmusch films, you should certainly see it. It’s very poetic (in every possible sense), so the circumstances in which you’ll do that will probably matter a lot. Who knows, maybe if I rewatch it I will enjoy it more than the first time, after all I still remember a lot of details, which I certainly cannot say about all the films I’ve seen five years ago! Ciao!
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