Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. ZZzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. RON PCH. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. hngGGggh-Pfnhjv. ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZ. This is the mode Paterson puts you on. The film opens with Adam Driver (Paterson) and Golshifteh Farahani (Laura) sleeping. That sequence will be repeated, with very subtle variations, another six times, for each day of the week. After 40 minutes outside the cinema theatre, you’ll still be sleepy or hypnotised.
The idea behind the film is not new in Jim Jarmusch’s artwork: to bring poetry and music – in this case, hip hop – to cinema. He’s done that several times with a relative innovative point-of-view. In Dead Man (1995), a Gothic William Blake (Johnny Depp) is a wanted outlaw living in a cruel and chaotic world. In Down by Law (1986), a DJ (musician Tom Waits) divides a prison cell with a pimp (composer John Lurie) and an Italian tourist (Roberto Benigni). More recently, in Only Lovers Left Alive (2014), Jim imagined a vampire as a musician (Tom Hiddleston in the role of Adam) whose hobby is to collect vintage instruments as well as to moan about the state of the modern world and music scene. All those previous features contain a hybrid of glamour, noir and mist. Sadly, that missing in Paterson.
The new film, that premiered earlier in May in Cannes, portrays a bus driver who also happens to be a poet. His name is Paterson and he lives in Paterson, New Jersey. ‘Paterson’ is also the title of an epic poem by American poet William Carlos Williams published in five volumes from 1946 to 1958. (O, Muses, where are you? Are you also sleeping? There are too many Patersons here.) The issue is that William Carlos Williams’ poems were experimental, even revolutionary, whilst Paterson’s (the character) aren’t. They are very flat and descriptive. One of them describes a matchbox in as much detail as possible!
Maybe Jarmusch wanted to tell the story of an ordinary man who escapes his routine by writing poems. If so, art could rescue Paterson from the weariness of a bus driver’s life. Poetry saves the dull man. But what we taste is the dullness, not the poetry. Paterson has no ambition; he writes for himself, he doesn’t want to publish. Besides he does the same thing everyday: he wakes up between 6 am and 6:30 am, he walks to the bus depot, he observes his passengers, he goes back home, walks the dog and has a pint in the same pub every night. And then it’s time to sleep again. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
His crestfallen personality hits his partner’s joie de vivre. Laura is a colourful bird in a cage. She’s is full of life, she insists that his poems are good and everyone should have a chance to read them. She spends her time at home, painting curtains, learning music or cooking cupcakes. She is about to explode with life every time the camera focus on her, but then the light fades away. She surrenders to Paterson’s grey stupidness. Only a stupid man would allow his art to end as it did in the movie. (ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. Did you wake up? This is a spoilerless review.)
Well, then, maybe it’s time to go to bed. Grab a book.
Paterson was part of BFI London Film Festival that ended last Sunday. It will be released nationwide on November 25th. Stay tuned for a reminder around the time!
Watch the film trailer here: