Director: Jim Jarmusch (2016) BBFC cert: 15
Amazon Prime demonstrate their commitment to quality programming by funding this niche market film by a far from box office director. It is also an excellent example of how online streaming services are changing the nature of film production. And for the better.
Although Jarmusch’s brand of philosophy inflected observational drama is far from my cup of tea, his distinct voice would be missed if it could no longer find a platform from which to express itself.
The director followed up his vampire rockstar romance Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) with Gimme Danger (2016), an entertaining documentary of real life rocker Iggy Pop. Now he offers us this meditative tone poem. Its circular construction contains a mirage of faces and snatches of conversation.Twins and waterfalls are employed as motifs. To an eclectic soundtrack of electronic music mixed with rap, soul, blues and country and western, we pass though an urban landscape full of textures, patterns and colour.
Adam Driver’s unlikely leading man looks find him well cast as the bus driving poet known to everyone simply as Paterson. He lives with his artistically inclined girlfriend in a down at heel New Jersey town, also called Paterson. Time passes but he seems caught in an endless loop. Not that he seems to mind.
He has a tender relationship with the beautiful Laura who is played with a sweet self absorption by Golshifteh Farahani. Indulged in her fancies, she flits between guitar lessons, experimental cooking, interior design and dress making.
As lines of his poetry appear on the screen, we realise as a poet Paterson is best suited to driving a bus. His Sisyphean struggle to straighten his mail box is a metaphor for his life. It’s also a running gag which results in the films biggest chuckle. This is a warm and gentle film but not an overly humorous one.
There is a wall of fame on the bar Paterson frequents, full of pictures of former residents who achieved success and left town. Jarmusch likes his characters too much to make too many demands on them, though there’s a sadness as we suspect we could call back in twenty years and find them still living the same quiet lives.
The film presents creativity as a survivalist response to the mundanity of existence. The rappers, actors and poets Paterson meets are of every age, race and gender, pointing to the universality of the desire to express ones self in a creative manner.
I enjoyed the gentle spirit of Paterson, but others may find the pace of life a little slow.