Jim Jarmusch’s latest release is a heartening ode to ordinary, everyday life.
Paterson expresses a fondness for the creative method in both its form and its content. You get the sense that making this film, what is essentially the contextualisation of William Carlos Williams’ multivolume modernist epic Paterson, has been particularly enjoyable. We are driven through the city of Paterson by bus driver-cum-poet Paterson (Adam Driver) meeting poets in pretty much every encounter.
Adam Driver’s spectacular lead performance
The film is structured around a daily routine so rich that fumbling over matchsticks sparks the inspiration for a love poem. We are gifted with the sublime work of Ron Padgett, a successor of the New York School (Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara and James Schuyler), who writes all but one of the film’s lyrics – ‘Water Falls’ is indebted to Jarmusch himself. Even the dialogue that is not intended as poetry is swept up by the film’s charm: Paterson’s passengers share chit-chat that is profoundly insightful, while others speak with remarkable honesty – a notable exchange is one between two working men who have both missed out on opportunities with women because of the exhausting nature of their labour.
The Great Falls in Paterson
We return to the Passaic Falls a few times during the film. They are not just a source of poetic inspiration (‘Water Falls’), but the site of the nineteenth-century town planner Alexander Hamilton’s utopian vision for a town with a limitless supply of energy. There is plenty more about the city where we lay our scene that lends itself to romantic idealisation. Shift work is rewarding and Paterson’s wife Laura (the delightful Golshifteh Farahani) contentedly builds them a home whilst pursuing her many talents and aspirations. It is no coincidence that Paterson’s wife shares her name with Petrarch’s muse. Their relationship is one of mutual satisfaction, upholstered by a fair few jazzy monochrome prints.
Driver and Farahani
I might, if I may, give away part of the plot so if you’d rather it not be spoilt: look away now. I am very certain that the film’s production company Inkject Inc had some part to play in the unfortunate turn the plot takes. When disgruntled British bulldog Nellie tore Paterson’s notebook to shreds, I thought perhaps they were trying to make a claim for the importance of saving copies of your work.
This is a film about a poet inspired by a city that inspired another poet. Poetry begets poetry; we leave with our souls enriched.