Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Rizwan Manji, Barry Shabaka Henley, Chasten Harmon, and William Jackson Harper
4.50 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS ~1/25/17
The late, great Leonard Cohen once said, “Poetry is the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”. Cohen is one of the great poets, both in music and literature. If there were a list of great poets in filmmaking, Jim Jarmsuch would be near the top of the list. Jarmusch’s films, like good poetry, have a distinct rhythm and flow that breaths life deeply into the themes and the atmosphere of every frame of the film, which makes everything undeniably unique, undeniably Jarmusch.
“Paterson” is a film about a working class poet and how the rigors and repetition of daily life influence the poetry that he creates. It’s also about the personal aspects of the creative process and the unique development of art. It’s about inspirations found in life, how the ordinary parts of life can become extraordinary with the right words. “Paterson” is a deceptively multifaceted film made by one of the founding fathers of indie cinema.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver working an ordinary nine-to-five job in Paterson, New Jersey. However, this working class man is also a poet, making the most of the small moments in his day to write in his poetry book. Everything about Paterson is simple; he has a daily routine that has become a rhythm to the many pieces of his day. Whether the journey to work, the drive on his transit line, or the nightly walk with his dog, these pieces of the daily puzzle paint a picture that becomes words of insightful poetry for the common man.
Jarmusch builds an interesting form through the commonplace routine in “Paterson”. We see Paterson as he wakes up every morning for an entire week; we are engaged in his routine from the very beginning. It’s throughout this process that Paterson’s words sprawl across the screen, taking space during the routine of his life; we are introduced to the ramblings of the bus driver but also the design of the form and structure of poetry for a poet. It’s an interesting construction that Jarmusch develops. The influences that Paterson encounters board his bus, an assortment of ages, genders, and anecdotes about everything from past flings to the history of the city they live in. The influences also interrupt his walk to and from work, like a young girl who is also a poet, and invade his personal space, like bulldog named Marvin; Paterson sees poetry all around him. In a great scene, that is purely Jarmusch, hip-hop artist Method Man makes a cameo as a rapper trying to find the design of a verse. It’s a small but important scene in the composition of the film that displays the process of an artist, but also how poetry has evolved far beyond the sonnet or limerick into popular culture.
The performances in the film are exceptional. Adam Driver is remarkable, providing a character that is nuanced and restrained. It showcases just how talented the actor is. Director Jim Jarmusch admires these kinds of characters; Paterson is a person who looks deeply into the world, an admirer of everything around him and a vessel for everything both good and bad. Golshifteh Farahani plays the muse to the poet, the influence of love that brings healthy doses of inspiration through chaotic patterns that adorn every plain space in their home (an entire article could be dedicated to how pattern influences poetry), indecision with her pursuits of being a cupcake baker on one day and the next day wanting to be a country singer, and change that is an emotional motivation for everything in her world. Farahani is very good throughout, balancing these numerous qualities in one performance effortlessly.
“Paterson” is so much more than the simplistic premise about a week in the life of a bus driver in New Jersey. It’s a film about the development of the poet, the rhythm of daily life, and the influences that shape and mold the structure of art. “Paterson” displays the talented work of one of cinema’s greatest visual poets.