Paterson (film)


This latest work by Jim Jarmusch deserves the accolades and nominations it’s collected. It is sweet, mesmerising and subtly profound. It’s set in the city of Paterson, New Jersey and centers around a bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver). Paterson is young and working-class, with a simple life and a modest house he shares with his wife. He drives a big city bus around town from morning till evening with a lunch break in the middle when he enjoys a lunch packaged exquisitely by his wife. He  listens in on people’s conversations while driving the bus, and working through poems in his head to write down later. Through his writing, he creates beauty out of what seems to be a relatively mundane surrounding and life.
 
By contrast, Paterson’s wife is constantly dreaming and striving for fame and riches with her art, cupcakes, music and so on; however, her products come across lacklustre and devoid of meaning compared to Paterson’s poems. An artist, the movie tells us, is an individual that cannot help practicing their art: money might come, but is the result of an insatiable appetite to create.

There are a couple of side themes that Jarmusch plays on: twins and historical famous people from Paterson; particularly a poet called William Carlos Williams. Williams himself wrote a book of works called Paterson, which was unusual for its time due to its focus on the everyday lives of people in Paterson rather than the grand theme of many esteemed poets. Paterson (the movie) is partially a visual depiction of Williams’ work, and the random appearance of twins is Jarmusch throwing in visual “rhymes”.

The film is very one-directional in that it is purely from the perspective of Paterson. This may explain why his wife is a bit of a flawed character; I found her to be a completely unrealistic portrayal of a woman. A charitable interpretation is however that the character reflects Paterson’s image of her: playing with her painting and costumes all day long, like a dreamy and innocent child. I was almost waiting for him to wake up at the end of the film and realise that it was all a dream and she never existed.

That aside, I found the core message of the film to be humbling: pursuing art for the sake of art, because you enjoy it and it makes life more wonderful, not because it’ll give you fame and riches. Moreover, by focusing on the great individuals that emerged from such a humble town, we are reminded that greatness can be achieved anywhere: what is important is one’s state of mind.

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