A possible first reaction to Paterson is perplexity. Jim Jarmusch’s contribution to the official selection is at the same time simple and pensive. The film respects the dominant theme meticulously to its logical end: the concepts of repetition, regularity and ritual, instead of being monotonous, reveal great hidden meanings as the story proceeds. What could be really boring turns out to be inspirational and thought-provoking, without losing the charming tenderness that pervades the film from the very first shot.
Adam Driver is Paterson, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey: just the first of a series of inside jokes that punctuate Jarmusch’s picture. Local bus driver and aspiring poet, Paterson leads a life founded on habits, while scribbling poems into his “secret notebook”. The words are spelt out onto the screen as his voice reads them out loud with tangible hesitance and a tang of hope, but it is the simple perks and defeats of everyday life that contain the true significance of the film. In the meantime achingly naive and DIY-obsessed significant other Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) plays an interesting counterpart: the ingenuous housewife that lives off ever-changing dreams, unable to conceal excitement and immune to any kind of realistic setback.
The idea of using poetry, a discipline diametrically opposite to cinema which would seem quite incompatible with film, as the focus of the story should in itself prepare to a lot of reading and silence. Paterson is definitely a work that requires thought and interpretation, but does concede on a few comic moments to lighten the wisdom.
Paterson is about being a small man amidst the great men, a regular Joe with elusive pipe dreams trying to make those reveries come true. It takes simple things and allows them to speak for themselves, generating a whole new level of introspection and awareness. The film is also a moving gallery of Paterson, almost a photographic coverage of the New Jersey town, home to many famous intellectuals, sportsmen, musicians, and, of course, poets whose memory surrounds the main character.
The clockwork repetition of events and apparent simplicity of the story line (structured over the course of one week, with chapter-like divisions for each day) should not stop from delving into the wisdom of this film. Paterson may puzzle initially, but do not let go of it: it is simply – and those who have seen the film will understand the reference – “very poetic”.
Paterson does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Paterson here: