Paterson

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.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

Midnight Special

Director: Jeff Nichols (2016)

This downbeat road trip takes you on a mild goose chase with no particular place to go.

A messiah metaphor without a message, the story is bogged down by it’s own dour incoherence.

Stern Michael Shannon and vulnerable Jaeden Lieberher play  Roy and Alton, a father and son on the run.

Alton is considered a weapon by the FBI and a saviour by the cult his father has just escaped him from.

Alton’s speaking in tongues has revealed location to which they are heading, but time is running out.

With his health is worsening, Alton has to wear goggles and headphones for protection – except for when he doesn’t.

Kirsten Dunst and Joel Edgerton offer solid support while Adam Driver brings as much humour to the role of an FBI analyst as he dare smuggle in.

Every line of dialogue is delivered with ponderous import but script has nothing to say about religion, belief or faith.

Car chases and shoot outs compete with earthquakes, meteor showers and power cuts but due to Alton’s increasing cosmic powers, there’s not much tension.

While We’re Young

Director: Noah Baumbach (2015)

A couple are re-energised when they hang with trendy new friends in this New York comedy drama.

Filled with topical commentary about social media, it’s well-paced with an engaging cast delivering strong performances.

But though it’s inspired by the New York films of Woody Allen it lacks his sharp one-liners. Plus there’s too much tired baby-orientated observational humour on the difficulties and disappointments of parenting and there’s some even weaker stuff about fading eyesight and creaky backs.

The relationship of forty-something childless couple Josh and Cornella (Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts) is thrown into relief by the newborn baby of contemporaries Marina and Fletcher (Maria Dizzia and Adam Horovitz).

Horovitz is better known as a former member of the once controversial hip hop group The Beastie Boys. It’s an achingly-knowing in-joke which threatens to stifle this world of middle-class comfort in a cloud of an intolerable smugness.

As an antidote to ageing, unfulfilled and angst-ridden Josh starts to hang out with twenty-something hipsters Jamie and Darby (Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried) whose generosity of spirit gives a fillip to Josh’s career and home-life.

Josh is a documentary film-maker whose latest film is an attempt to explain America in all it’s complex economic, political and intellectual glory. Production has stalled, eight years into production.

Clearly Josh is a surrogate for writer-director Baumbach who is attempting to explore contemporary America but through the medium of comedy-drama instead. Maybe he’s not an interpretative dance sort of guy.

While We’re Young is an enquiry as to how the development of technology has changed society’s relationship itself.

This runs parallel with a critique of nepotistic Hollywood’s obsession with youth and it’s struggle to adapt or even understand the way young people interpret their online experience as part of their everyday life.

Then Baumbach throws in another baby joke to lighten the mood.

While Josh’s baby boomer father-in-law Leslie (Charles Grodin) once made documentaries with integrity, Josh is consumed by the process not the end product. Millennials such as Jamie and Darby are obsessed with the success of the end product – not the product itself. They’re happy to twist any truth to create an online buzz to achieve the success they crave.

Josh and Jamie begin a documentary project and as it proceeds Josh descends into paranoia and jealousy. There’s betrayal, infidelity, drugs, an all night gay bar, hallucinogenics and vomiting.

Cinematographer Sam Levy producers some great camerawork, tracing characters through the streets as they have conversations on the move. One lovely reverse tracking shot follows two characters cycling – the shot itself raises a smile even if the laboured humour doesn’t.

Writer Baumbach cleverly exploits the audience’s awareness of Hollywood script structure to deliver a couple of twists on a traditional finale. Plus he creates several frequently annoying but believable characters.

The exception is Jamie’s sexy flatmate Tipper (Dree Hemingway) who is woefully under-written. Played by the daughter of one-time Woody Allen muse Mariel, she’s reduced to a couple of ironically logo’d T shirts and demonstrates Baumbach hasn’t yet mastered Allen’s art of creating characters with a couple of deft brush-strokes.

It ends with another wry baby joke. As far as baby jokes go it’s not awful and is in tune with Baumbach’s themes but it’s predictable and not funny.

There’s no shortage of ambition or craft to admire in While We’re young, I just didn’t find the self-obsessed characters as interesting or amusing as the film itself does.

Blade Runner watch – the soundtrack is used during a purging ceremony.