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J.A.A. Purves

Paterson (2016)

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Adam Driver Hangs Out With a Bulldog and Writes Poetry in Jim Jarmusch's Cannes-Bound Drama:

"Paterson (played by Driver) is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey — they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, observing the city as it drifts across his windshield and overhearing fragments of conversation swirling around him; he writes poetry into a notebook; he walks his dog; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer. He goes home to his wife, Laura (played by Farahani). By contrast, Laura’s world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily, each a different and inspired project. Paterson loves Laura and she loves him. He supports her newfound ambitions; she champions his secret gift for poetry. The history and energy of the City of Paterson is a felt presence in the film and its simple structure unfolds over the course of a single week. The quiet triumphs and defeats of daily life are observed, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details."

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Does this project bear any relation to William Carlos Williams's epic poem of the same name?

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1 hour ago, Nathaniel said:

Does this project bear any relation to William Carlos Williams's epic poem of the same name?

I have the same thought every time I see the film title. Which I thought was here, but since this is a new thread I guess not. 

Edited by NBooth

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On 5/3/2016 at 1:05 PM, Nathaniel said:

Does this project bear any relation to William Carlos Williams's epic poem of the same name?

And now Indiewire gives us the answer:

Quote

The master text fueling "Paterson" is the poetry of William Carlos Williams, himself a resident of Paterson, New Jersey, where Driver's character — also named Paterson — resides. Going through the motions of his quiet routine as a bus driver (on the Paterson route, natch), he enjoys domestic bliss with his pregnant wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and their surly pug Marvin, whose passive reaction shots provide comic punctuation in this understated saga. While Laura harbors casual dreams of being a country music star and takes on a hobby making cupcakes, Paterson shows little ambition beyond occasionally scribblings verse as he drives around town.

 

Other reviews:

The Guardian

Quote

His poems themselves appear up on screen as squiggly handwriting as Paterson thoughtfully writes them in his notebook: homey, folksy, local newspaper verses, perhaps inspired by Paterson’s famous poet William Carlos Williams and the short poem which is rightly or wrongly his most well-known: This Is Just To Say, about eating the plums, which Paterson actually reads aloud to his wife. Jarmusch handles the tonal difficulty with Paterson’s work with matter-of-fact calm and ease. At first, it might seem as if the joke is that the poems are awful, and that Paterson’s commitment is a tragicomic delusion. That is not the point at all; the film doesn’t patronise or make fun of his efforts, but neither is it reverent.

 

Variety:

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Jarmusch, it may shock you to realize, is celebrating an existence that is wholesome and placid enough to seem right at home in the 1950s. And that ties into an honorable tradition of straight-arrow professional men writing poetry in their off hours, giving voice to their secret selves. Our hero’s poetic idol is William Carlos Williams, who worked as a physician in — you guessed it — Paterson. One thinks, as well, of Wallace Stevens, who toiled as a Hartford Insurance executive when he wasn’t lionizing “The Emperor of Ice-Cream” in ecstatic bursts of language. It’s almost as if they were literary Clark Kents.

 

The Wrap:

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Here, and in his previous film, the vampire mood piece “Only Lovers Left Alive”, Jarmusch interrogates his own aversion to the modern age. Where the vampires were tragic romantics, literal holdovers from Better Times, Paterson is just a technology-averse Luddite.


But Paterson isn’t celebrated for that — if anything, the film is constructed as a rebuke to his thinking. The closest thing he has to an arc is recognizing the value of owning a cell phone. A small revelation, to be sure, but in perfect in context and perfect in scope for this simple, and simply wonderful, film.

 

Collider:

Quote

Like the bus, life is sometimes a bumpy ride. Jarmusch is not trying to convey a message, but merely cultivating poetry with a unique texture. And while the pace may appear to some as slow as the bus’s commute through Paterson, it is nevertheless a sublime slice of life in the city of bards.

Edited by NBooth

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If anyone has any contact info for acquiring a screener for this, I would hugely appreciate it if you messaged me.

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I will have to let it percolate a bit more in my mind, but seeing this in a packed theater was deeply therapeutic for me. A quiet, peaceful film celebrating art, marriage, and vocation.

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This is my no. 1 film of 2016. (My 2016 year-end write-up, with 10 runners-up and 10 honorable mentions.)

Apparently I am a sucker for films that fit this pattern: 

Quote

For the second year in a row, my favorite film is a winning love story named for an urban area more or less in my backyard.

That’s about where the similarities end between John Crowley’s Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan, and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, starring Adam Driver — other than the fact that they are both quietly joyous tales about decent people leading ordinary lives unmarked by extreme conflict or suffering.

Both the director and star of Paterson have described it as “an antidote” to “heavy action, heavy drama, heavy crisis.” Heavy crisis films can be valuable and important (I have some of these among my top films for 2016, though fewer than in 2015); so can antidote films. In my review of Brooklyn I wrote that “it isn’t just one of the best films of 2015, it’s also in a way the antidote to all the rest.” This year there is Paterson.

My review talks about the "Ecstatic Quotidian" (which is related, though I don't say this, to Thomas Howard's "Bravo the Humdrum"), and why Golshifteh Farahani's character is not a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl, and how Paterson offers a welcome alternative screen image of masculinity — with the capacity of rising to physical heroism if needed. "Taxi Driver reimagined by Fred Rogers," in the memorable phrase of Jeffrey Overstreet, in his final (sniff) Viewer Discussion Advised column for CT on the film

Adam Driver and Andrew Garfield: MVPs of 2016. 

Edited by SDG

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10 hours ago, SDG said:

Mine too. I still appreciate La La Land, but this has all of that film's strengths, especially as it explores art and vocation, with none of its weaknesses. My review.

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Did anybody figure out the point of all the twins? I think one pair shows up almost every day, but I was never sure what Jarmusch was doing with them.

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Posted (edited)

On 2/3/2017 at 2:12 PM, Joel Mayward said:

Mine too. I still appreciate La La Land, but this has all of that film's strengths, especially as it explores art and vocation, with none of its weaknesses. My review.

Mine too, unless you include documentaries. I've seen it three times now, and it just gets sweeter.

So, how many people here noticed the two amazing cameo appearances among Paterson's bus passengers? (I think it's in-your-face obvious, but I've seen the movie with folks who didn't recognize them at all.) 

WAIT — before you answer, you might want to spoiler-text any reply. It's too good of a surprise to ruin for people.

To Tyler's question:

I think the emphasis on twins is playful in a variety of ways. First of all, his wife dreams that they become the parents of twins. He jokingly says, "One for each of us." The idea lodges in his subconscious, and he starts seeing them everywhere. And we've all had that experience, right? You learn a new word, and suddenly you realize that it's all around you and you've just never noticed.

Also, one of his poems begins "We have plenty of matches in our house." The word "matches" becomes a flexible term, just like it would for an attentive poet. He has "matches on the brain," so to speak. This is so typical of poets. Multiple meanings for words don't just occur to them; being aware of a variety of definitions for a word awakens you to creative possibilities of expression and interpretation.

Also, when you see twins, you immediately start looking for subtle differences. Paterson is an observer of subtleties.

 

Edited by Overstreet

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I recognized the cameos when I first saw the trailer, and while I would have preferred the surprise of discovering them when I saw the film, it was still my favorite scene of the year. It's also what I was referring to in the last sentence of this short review.

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A screenwriter friend of mine also wrote on Facebook a while back:

"In 'Paterson', Adam Driver plays a guy who is an absolutely terrible writer, who has a gorgeous Iranian girlfriend, who thinks his writing is wonderful and encourages him, is a wonderful cook, is hugely supportive to him and calls him every endearment there is and sits at his feet and wraps her arms around him, who lets him go to the bar in the evening and loves the way he smells when he comes back, and who lays in bed with him on Saturday mornings, and wants to take him out and watch old black-and-white horror movies with him.

"Yeah. So that's definitely a cockamamie work of total bullshit fiction."

He later added: "I wondered if the poems were meant to be a joke, and the story was going to explain to him that he was talentless, and that his girlfriend was just being super-nice to him. Honestly...that was meant to be poetry?" One of his friends proposed -- in jest, I think -- that the protagonist's girlfriend was imaginary.

My screenwriter friend didn't like 20th Century Women either, though, and I kind of did, so make of that what you will.

(I have not had a chance to see Paterson for myself yet.)

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Posted (edited)

This is not my favorite Jarmusch film, so take what I have to offer with a grain of salt.

I have been thinking about Darren's tweet since I saw it, as I felt the same tension while watching Paterson the first time. But Paterson as a character definitely fits into the Jarmusch universe, which is populated by wanderers and dreamers who don't quite fit into what happens around them. Jarmusch films typically operate on two planes at the same time - a mainstream, normal, public stage which constantly runs in the background, and a character self-isolated from that mainstream in a variety of ways (beatnik, lower class, odd criminality, drug induced stupor, being an immortal vampire, etc...). While Jarmusch clearly identifies with this outsider motif, we always have to suspend a little belief to get into the same empathetic space. 

I tend to think of Jarmusch characters as occupying a bubble in the real world, and because typical narrative rules are suspended in this bubble, they are able to encounter gradations of grace, mirth, and decrepitude which one does not normally encounter "out there in the real world."

So Paterson is a lot like Ghost Dog or even Adam (in Only Lovers...). His sense for poetry and desire to write pushes him outside the mainstream flow of life into this calm little eddy Jarmusch has constructed. Laura is beautiful, supportive, and because of that a little impossible to accept as a realistic human. But the supportive encouragement she offers is exactly what any artist longs for, so Jarmusch graciously gives that to Paterson. And it works. And to be fair, I have seen Laura in other women, so she may be less hard to imagine than we think. When she claims she loves his cooking, the smell of the bar on his body, etc... I am willing to accept this claim because elements of that are certainly true. This may be the closest Jarmusch has gotten to a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she also makes good sense in context of WCW's Paterson line "Besides, I know myself to be more the woman than the poet..." - there being a subtle collapse in the film between this male and female character.

And the genius of Jarmusch is how he finds ways for the bubbles he constructs to overlap with what we feel is more realistic, part of the mainstream plane we inhabit as the audience. He sends us out of the theater primed for a Binx Bolling response to reality. In this case, when Paterson sits on the bench next to the Japanese man reading William Carlos Williams, they have a conversation which ties the entire film into a real state of affairs. William Carlos Williams did write, he wrote Paterson, and people like this Japanese man sit on benches in Paterson reading his words. And people do this because they find something more real and coherent in poetry than they do in the other areas of their life. I guess Jarmusch is willing to risk making a film feel tawdry or cockamamie in order to show us someone passing through that very experience. 

 

Edited by M. Leary

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, M. Leary said:

This is not my favorite Jarmusch film, so take what I have to offer with a grain of salt.

It's not mine either. (That'd be Down By Law.)

I suspect that viewers' interpretation of Paterson's relationship with Laura, and their perception of Laura, will be very different based on experience.

Some find Laura too MPDG-ish. I've met, and call as close friends, several women who remind me of Laure, and they're not behaving like her to get guys' attention or to be liked. They are irrepressibly creative, and constantly throwing themselves with enthusiasm into new kinds of creative pursuits. 

To the issue of codependency — I don't see it. Paterson seems capable of taking care of himself. He was a Marine, and he still follows some of the rigors of those routines. He is watchful and careful in caring for the passengers on his bus. He listens to, enjoys, and takes action to protect people in the bar. He doesn't need a housekeeper (although he might need a cook). I think he's with Laure because it delights him to support her creativity. 

And lest we make too much of her "sitting at his feet," hoo, boy. We might remember where she's likely to have come from, and the typical body language and gender-role norms in that culture. We might remember that some couples might interact this way without seeing any of it as hierarchical — it might just be humility and tenderness.

Is their relationship perfect? Of course not. It's not hard to imagine what issues they would bring up if they were seeing a therapist. But that's part of why they seem very human to me.

I almost always agree with Darren Hughes. But "desperately clinging to beauty in the mundane"? I recognized Paterson more than almost any character I've seen in the movies. He is distracted by, delighted by, beauty in the mundane. And let us remember that, like Alvin in The Straight Story, he has suffered some kind of trauma at war. His response to the near-violence in the bar shows us that. He's walking wounded. I imagine he feels gratitude for even slight experiences of grace.

Also, for what it's worth, these poem were written by an accomplished poet to represent the work of an amateur poet. Paterson's poems remind me of poetry by some of my favorite poets, even if they don't remind me of those poets' best poems. They sound like poems by undergraduate poetry students who would make me think "They get it. They're beginners, but they get it."

For whatever it's worth: My wife is a published poet who has taught poetry and received endorsements from some of our favorite published and accomplished poets. She likes Paterson. She enjoys his poems too. They're not T.S. Eliot, but they're more complicated than they might seem at first. They demonstrate an awareness of all kinds of "play" between words, their sounds, their meanings, and their possibilities.

Paterson is not supposed to be a genius or a great poet. He's supposed to be like the rapper in the laundromat — a guy who, despite the ordinariness of his life, is alive because he is awake to some form of play, and that lets meaning into the incidental. It would seem arrogant and hard-hearted to me to scorn such characters as "not real poets" because they're "not good enough." That would be like condemning James Taylor because Radiohead, or Billy Collins because W.H. Auden.

Having said all of this, I do think there is a certain messiness missing in Paterson that I love in other Jarmusch films. There's a "grit" in Down By Law — and even in Only Lovers Left Alive  that I miss here. But they all have a great deal in common — particularly a love of language, of the power of play, and of strangers who speak different languages connecting over a shared love of particularity.

Edited by Overstreet

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2 hours ago, M. Leary said:

An anxiety certainly resolves in that quiet final act.

What I found remarkable about the film was how it, at once, made me feel incredible calm and peaceful while still having this subtle, underlying tension or provocation. That literal "aha!" moment in the conversation with the Japanese man is the moment of catharsis and release of the tension, a further invitation for Paterson into his vocation of "poet." Without that moment, the rest of the film would feel too sparse and inert.

I don't see the codependency or terrible writing suggested by Peter's screenwriting friend--that entire interpretation of the film feels like a significant misreading of the characters and their interactions, as well as a cynical evaluation of Paterson's poetry, which I found to be better than average. Like Jeff suggests, I think there's so much more going on under the surface of these characters, especially Paterson and Laura, which is only hinted at through this week-long snapshot of their lives. How did these two meet? How long have they been together? How did their respective backgrounds and cultures and personalities lead them into this routine, a daily office in the vein of monastic life? What about children? I think the film offers hints and glimpses without spelling anything out.

I agree that Paterson is "clinging for beauty in the mundane," though I don't think his search for beauty can be considered "desperate." I might be clinging for beauty in the mundane, too. I hope I never give up that search.

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I've filmed more than one leaf caught by a single strand of spiderweb so that it seems to defy gravity. I love those videos. I guess that makes me a ridiculous American Beauty plastic bag guy who's "desperately clinging for beauty."

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12 minutes ago, Overstreet said:

 guy who's "desperately clinging for beauty."

A case could be made that there is a good version of this guy and a bad version of this guy. I do not have any good examples of the latter at hand, but surely there are some.

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I'd argue that the American Beauty guy is a bad version. He's detached, desperate to find beauty in really troubling things without honestly engaging with the truth of them. "Hey, the dead body of someone close to me! His head's shot open! Cool! How beautiful!"

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Posted (edited)

Quote

I imagine he feels gratitude for even slight experiences of grace.

Isn't that the same thing as "desperately clinging for beauty?" I think you've loaded my comment with a lot more criticism than I intended. I also identify strongly with Paterson -- I'm working through PTSD and am a bit codependent and hyper-vigilant (to quote my therapist), which is why the film made me so anxious.

Peter might not have seen my other Tweet last night because it was in conversation with someone: "It still might be really good -- just not in the ways I originally experienced it."

Edited by Darren H

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Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification, Darren. I admit, I reacted in a "punchy" way when I saw the tweets Peter shared. I hadn't seen the other one.

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Posted (edited)

One thing I found truly unrealistic [MILD SPOILERS] was the idea that Paterson would be unable to write his poems out again from memory; or at least some of them; or at least try. Even his wife, positive and upbeat character that she is, doesn't suggest it. I used to memorise poetry as a kid, and I've scribbled the occasional verse myself, so I know how the cadences of a poem - however 'free-verse' - echo through the cranium. Especially when your brain has created those lines itself, and spent energy on trying to get each line weighted correctly, with the right word in the most telling place. That amount of passivity seemed unrealistic even for him.

As to the quality of his poetry - I thought the scene with the girl was perhaps meant to be a moment when he meets someone who has real ability rather than simply inclination. She's young - eleven, I think - but there's a certain life to her poem, and a sense of potential opening up around her that she herself doesn't realise yet. Something that Paterson sees and that possibly makes him reconsider his own efforts.  At least, that's how I read it.

Edited by Anodos

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On 6/23/2017 at 2:07 PM, Darren H said:

"It still might be really good -- just not in the ways I originally experienced it."

So pleasant when that happens. Currently having this experience with every Kubrick film.

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For the record, my tweets were an attempt to describe the scenario in realistic terms. Jarmusch always has one foot in reality, so I think that kind of description is not only fair but essential to understanding how the films work. I wasn't condemning the film. "It's about an emotionally co-dependent amateur poet in a not-altogether-healthy relationship" is a pretty great starting point for a film. Paterson, obviously, is about other things too.

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OT: Twitter has a way of making even the kindest and most thoughtful of us seem like arrogant, dismissive jerks at times. The desire to deliver a "sick burn" in the heat of the moment of experiencing art is too much for most of us. As I told Ryan H. once in a Twitter thread, I'm tired of moralistic language being used to describe films on Twitter (in other words, tell me more about the film, less about your reaction to the film and why you're better than me for disliking it). But it's a function of the medium. I digress.

PATERSON is still on my must watch list.

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