With two new Jim Jarmusch releases in cinemas at the same time, Christmas has arrived one month early for fans of the great American independent film maker. After a three year wait since the Only Lovers Left Alive double-running with The Stooges documentary Gimme Danger is Paterson, a story of a week in the life of a New Jersey bus driver.
The title character, Paterson, played by Adam Driver, like many of Jarmusch’s wonderful characters over the years, has an independence about him; but rather than being an outsider on a journey, the spirit of a warm, calm and gently paced film is of a man who has learned to find freedom, escape and pleasure while balancing routine and compromise.
Paterson makes the sacrifice of living with his partner’s troublesome dog, an admired bulldog rather than the black and white Dalmatian which would have been in-keeping with Golshifteh Farahani’s character Laura’s two tone colour obsession. But while taking the dog for a daily evening walk he always stops off at a bar, finding pleasure with a beer and another community where he feels at home.
He listens to the mini-soap operas of other regulars while sitting comfortably on a bar stool; during his day job he overhears a range of conversations that bring a smile to his face while driving a 23 bus; he reads poetry during his lunch hour; he walks to clear his head; and his paid occupation of a bus driver is balanced with his private poetry, which the viewer sees constructed on screen, like other films may now show SMS messages, except at a different pace, and with Driver’s mind drafting the words.
Paterson himself is meanwhile too stubborn to get a cell phone and is almost disdainful of the internet. A small framed picture in his bedroom reveals a military past, but in the week the film is set he is now already settled into his current life, kindly and silently suffering a salty meal he doesn’t like with a glug of water for a greater love. He is at ease with himself, rather than handcuffed by the boundaries of his lot.
When the British football phone-in took an inventive turn to light entertainment in the early nineties, hosts Danny Baker and Danny Kelly practically exploded with excitement when the caller Lewis from Lewes phoned in. If they were movie producers they would have been creaming themselves when Jim walked in with the premise of a story about Paterson from Paterson. But the film subtly showcases the little known history of the New Jersey town, even throwing in an in-joke Iggy Pop cross-reference, alongside the Passaic Falls, its celebration of poets and history of anarchists.
From the typography on the brickwork in the exterior shots to the typically excellent score, the film has the hallmarks of memorable American indie all over it. The aerial sleeping bed shots recall Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, while the bar scenes were as relaxed as films were largely based there, like Trees Lounge.
For a film where little actually happens, the magic of Jarmusch makes the viewer feel like wanting to watch and enjoy it again immediately.
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