rolling up out of chaos . . . the city / the man, an identity—it can’t be / otherwise—an / interpenetration, both ways.
—William Carlos Williams, Paterson (1946-58)
Populated with poems, Paterson (Adam Driver) lives and works, as a bus driver, in Paterson, New Jersey (population 147,754). In Paterson, the director, Jim Jarmusch, follows this moonlighting poet for one week in an amiably understated ode to personal creativity, all the while authoring a wondrous distillation of his own cinematic style.
The title itself is written in Paterson’s hand. Each morning, he awakes beside his wife, artist Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), then gets behind the wheel of his Route 23 bus at the depot—penning lines in his notebook before his shift begins—catching snatches of passengers’ conversation as he drives his rounds. Each evening, after Laura’s dinners, he walks Marvin, their bulldog, to a nearby bar and enjoys a beer.
Sidling up alongside Paterson and settling into this comfy routine, we start to observe as he (and Jarmusch) do. Life’s lines come in little snippets, scraps, vignettes; there are curious coincidences and chance encounters. Paterson writes and revises his free verse poetry ever-so-slightly anew, one’s own humble world—but he doesn’t dare admit his own artistic ambitions. A small, serial drama at the bar involving an aspiring actor flirts with mock-drama as if Jarmusch is poking fun at the possibility anything grandiose could happen . . . though this particular week does turn out, in its way, to be momentous.
Jarmusch’s droll stroll, reworking his signature-style—cross-cultural encounters, bohemian souls, deadpan humour, the eye of an urban flâneur—makes Paterson his own two-hour, small-scale poem. In its tenderness, it may seem too romanticizing to glance at one everyman’s life, daubed with steady artistic strivings. But, as when a young girl’s “Water Falls” happens to be the best poem in the film, realism’s not the point. Paterson is about life not in its all-too-real mundanity, but in those fleeting moments of quiet beauty which, every so often, we can pick out and set down in front of us, running our minds over them.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
Mar 19, 22, 25, 28