Thursday, May 17, 2018
2018 Cannes Marathon: Paterson
(Winner of the Palm Dog Award to Nellie (posthumous) at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival)
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson is the story of the week in the life of a bus driver who writes poetry to let his day go by. The film is a simple story of a man and his simple life as he lives in a small town in New Jersey as writes about what he sees. Starring Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Cliff “Method Man” Smith, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper. Masatoshi Nagase, and Barry Shabaka Henley. Paterson is an extraordinarily rich film from Jim Jarmusch.
The film is the story of a bus driver from Paterson, New Jersey who drives the same route every day in the course of a week as he has a routine that he does in his job and in his life while he writes poetry about his surroundings and the things he sees in his life. It’s a film with a simple premise as it follows the week in the life of the titular character (Adam Driver) as he also has a wife named Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who dreams of becoming a country singer and opening her own cupcake store. Jim Jarmusch’s screenplay is largely told in the span of seven days as it follows Paterson driving the same bus route every day as he listens to the different passengers he has and then returns home to see what Laura has done in creating curtains, clothing, and such and then would walk their English bulldog Marvin (Nellie) on the way to a local bar where he chats with its bartender Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley).
During these days at work, he would see different set of twins as well as see a couple argue every once in a while at Doc’s bar as it play into his life that he would write about in his poetry as the poems are written by Ron Padgett which also references the work of William Carlos William who wrote a book of poems after the city. While Paterson is a good poet, he’s reluctant in having them published as he prefers to keep it to himself to emphasize his lack of ambition and just settle for what he has while being supportive of Laura’s many dreams.
Jarmusch’s direction doesn’t bear a lot of visual styles other than emphasizing on repetitious compositions to play into Paterson’s day-to-day routine in the course of a week. Shot on location in Paterson, New Jersey which is a character in the film in the many different street corners as well as the waterfalls including the Great Falls of the Passaic River where Paterson would often eat lunch and write poetry during his lunch break. While Jarmusch would use some wide shots of the entire city and its locations, much of the direction involves him using close-ups and medium shots to play into the intimacy of the bus that Paterson drives as well as the scenes at his home with Laura and the scenes at the bar. Still, Jarmusch’s approach to repetition as the path where Paterson walks to the bus station as he passes by old and abandoned factories along the way as well as the path he would walk Marvin to the bar show his simple routine as there’s something different that happens every once in a while. Even as the weekend approaches where Laura would receive a guitar that she wanted to learn to be a country singer as well as a bake sale that is happening on that Saturday.
While Paterson’s lack of ambitions of having his poems published do emphasize the need to keep his work for himself as he would meet a 10-year old girl who also wrote a poem as she would keep it in a secret notebook. It also showcases the power of poetry when it has someone writing for himself such as a moment late in the film where Paterson meets a Japanese tourist (Masatoshi Nagase) who is at the town due to his interest in poetry and the town itself. Though Paterson may write about ordinary things about what he sees, hears, or remembers, he uses poetry as a way to feel alive rather than express it publicly for vanity. Overall, Jarmusch crafts a tender yet intoxicating film about the week in the life of a poetic bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey.
Cinematographer Frederick Elmes does excellent work with the film’s cinematography as it is largely straightforward to play into the natural look of the city in the day and night including the low-key lights for the scenes at the bar. Editor Affonso Goncalves does brilliant work with the editing with its stylish usage of jump-cuts, superimposed dissolves for the poetry scenes, and some transitional fade-outs. Production designer Mark Friedberg, with set decorator Lydia Marks and art director Kim Jennings, does fantastic work with the interiors of the bar as well as some of the creations that Laura made in the curtains at the home she shares with Paterson.
Costume designer Catherine George does amazing work with the clothes that Laura wears that is very stylish with its emphasis on black-and-white while maintaining a more casual look for the rest of the characters in the film. Sound designer Robert Hein does superb work with the sound in capturing the way a bus would sound when it is turned on as well as other low-key yet sparse textures in many of the film’s location. The film’s music by Carter Logan, Jim Jarmusch, and Squrl is terrific for its ambient-based score that appears in a few scenes to play into Paterson’s sense of wonderment while the rest of the music soundtrack appears largely in scenes in the bar or on location as it include cuts by Teddy Pendergrass, Reuben Wilson, Killer Mike, Pouran, Tammy Wynette, Lester Young, Gary Carter, Bad Medicine, and Jerry Brightman.
The casting by Ellen Lewis and Meghan Rafferty is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles from Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as a couple of students talking about anarchy on the bus, Sterling Jerins as a young poet that Paterson meets on his way home from work, Chasten Harmon and William Jackson Harper in their respective roles as Marie and Everett as this bickering couple who frequent at the bar, Rizwan Manji as a co-worker of Paterson in Donny, and Cliff “Method Man” Smith as himself working on a rhyme. Masatoshi Nagase is superb as the Japanese tourist that Paterson meets late in the film who shares his love of poetry as well as the work of William Carlos William. Barry Shabaka Henley is excellent as the bartender Doc as a man who loves to play chess and chat with Paterson about their town and the many wonders of their small town.
Golshifteh Farahani is incredible as Laura as a lively woman with big dreams of being a country singer, making cupcakes, and all sorts of things as someone who is supportive of Paterson’s poetry while wanting to ensure they have a good and thriving life. Finally, there’s Adam Driver in a sensational performance as the titular character as bus driver who drives many people around the town of Paterson as he spends a bit of time writing poetry as well as observe all that is around as it’s a quiet yet endearing performance from Driver.
Paterson is a phenomenal film from Jim Jarmusch that features great performances from Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani. Along with its low-key approach to storytelling, poetic tone, naturalistic visuals, and a soothing score. It’s a film that showcases a week in the life of an ordinary man who proves to be just as fascinating as everyone else around him though prefers to keep it quiet. In the end, Paterson is a spectacular film from Jim Jarmusch.
Jim Jarmusch Films: Permanent Vacation - Stranger Than Paradise - Down by Law - Mystery Train - Night on Earth - Dead Man - Year of the Horse - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - Coffee and Cigarettes - Broken Flowers - The Limits of Control - Only Lovers Left Alive - Gimme Danger – (The Dead Don't Die) - The Auteurs #27: Jim Jarmusch
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