Paterson

January 23, 2017 at 11:41 am | Posted in 2016 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ½

This is the story of a man named Paterson who just happens to live in Paterson, New Jersey. Really, it is just that simple. In what could be considered either a masterpiece or a dull disaster, Jim Jarmusch explores one ordinary week in one very ordinary life. Jarmusch is an astonishingly gifted director, who has given us the likes of “Ghost Dog,” “Coffee & Cigarettes,” “Broken Flowers,” and “Only Lovers Left Alive.” He knows how to create mood, particularly of the melancholic variety, using tone, lighting, music and dialogue. He also loves to delve into the psyche of his characters, revealing the vulnerability beneath the surface. However, none of that is on display here. Instead, Jarmusch shows us the simple beauty of the magnificently ordinary. His eponymous protagonist (Adam Driver) is a bus driver, happily married and living a very simple, routined life. He has the same cereal every morning, the drives the same route every day, he has a beer at his local bar every night. And he’s perfectly happy about it. There is no fundamental tension in this film, no story arc, climax or resolution. But, there is something very deep going on. The film references William Carlos Williams multiple times. Williams lived in Paterson and, in fact, wrote a 5-volume epic poem about the town, also named “Paterson.” Williams is known for capturing the beauty of everyday existence; think of his famous poem “The Red Wheelbarrow.” Jarmusch appears to be adding another volume to the poem, telling yet one more Paterson story that illustrates the beauty in the everyday. Like a poem, this film is filled with recurring imagery. In particular, the concepts of sameness and opposites seem to reoccur. There are continual images of twins throughout the film and there is the sameness of each of Paterson’s days. But, there was also the stark contrast of black and white (in everything his wife did, in the chess sets that kept appearing, in the black and white movie they saw) and the contrasting relationships (how different Paterson and his wife are, Paterson’s happy relationship vs the miserable one his friends were in). Patterns, sameness, routine, laced with contrast. There can be something so beautiful in the very simplest of things. In fact, perhaps the most beautiful things are the everyday. And Jarmusch, like Williams, wants us to see it.

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