Paterson

Paterson

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 118 minutes, Year: 2016
Grade: A+

Poetry makes the most mundane come alive with its exclusive beauty. If this statement of mine did not persuade you, the movie Paterson will. Paterson, which is the name for both our protagonist and the city he lives in, is a triumph of the medium; there is no other movies like it, as far as what I can say from my own experience.

Gustave Flaubert famously said, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” This quote does not appear in the movie, but our hero (played with tactful restraint by Adam Driver) must have surely been influenced by its message because his life couldn’t be more “regular and orderly.” He wakes up every work day around 6:15, eats cereal, greets his English bulldog Marvin, goes to work (he drives city-bus), comes home, eats dinner with his wife, walks his dogs, drinks one beer at the same bar, comes back home and sleeps. That routine is seared into his life; little details here and there may change, but the overall architecture of his life is constant every single day.

“Your poetry is really good, and someday you might let the world read it. Admit you are a great poet.”

However, the linearity of his life belies the active sine wave of a poetic mind. Paterson writes in longhand in his “secret notebooks” during the snippets of free time he has over the course of a day. The movie spans a week in Paterson’s life, the first scene showing us our hero Paterson waking up beside his wife on Monday and quietly eating his cereal. But he does something while he eats: he picks up a matchbox on the kitchen counter and slowly observes it, turning it over with his fingers, feeling its edges and surfaces. When he is walking to his work, he composes a poem in his head, and the voice-over narration recites it for us viewers, the words scribbling across the screen. When he is driving the bus, the camera mulls over the surrounding as Paterson is observing them. The outlooks and conversations of the passengers, the facades of buildings in the city of Paterson, the rustle and bustle of everyday happenstances. Within ten minutes into the movie, the director Jim Jarmusch makes all of us audiences into poets, and it’s magical.

 

The greatest existential malady that threatens the mass is the constancy of everyday routine. If, and I want to emphasize “if” here, there is any conflict present in this movie, it is that ‘routine of everyday,’ what we might call quotidian. You won’t find any of those cliche-ridden dilemmas in this film.

 

Also affective and perkily heartwarming is his relationship with his wife, his quiet way of listening to her ‘less-than-possible’ dreams. His wife is, in a sense, also an artist, but those two are very different kind of artist. The contrast between these two characters makes room not for any conflict, but impetus for understanding. Paterson has no will to publish his poems; it’s his silent vocation, but his wife wants to open a cup-cake business and become a famous country singer. Though different in the method of pursuing their ideals, their love for art and each other eventually gains our cheer.

This is the very first movie I watched in the year 2017, and I’m afraid I’ll see no movies as good as this one. The movie is perfect in every sense, and I would like to recommend it to anyone who wants to render everyday magical through one’s artistic sensibility and patience. I end the review with a poem featured in the movie.

 

 

Love Poem

 

We have plenty of matches in our house

We keep them on hand always

Currently our favourite brand

Is Ohio Blue Tip

Though we used to prefer Diamond Brand

That was before we discovered

Ohio Blue Tip matches

They are excellently packaged

Sturdy little boxes

With dark and light blue and white labels

With words lettered

In the shape of a megaphone

As if to say even louder to the world

Here is the most beautiful match in the world

It’s one-and-a-half-inch soft pine stem

Capped by a grainy dark purple head

So sober and furious and stubbornly ready

To burst into flame

Lighting, perhaps the cigarette of the woman you love

For the first time

And it was never really the same after that.

 

All this will we give you

That is what you gave me

I become the cigarette and you the match

Or I the match and you the cigarette

Blazing with kisses that smolder towards heaven.

Nocturnal Animals

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Nocturnal Animals

Directed by Tom Ford
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Isla Fisher
Genre: Drama/Thriller
Run time: 116 minutes, Year: 2016
Grade: A-

 

‘Visually arresting’ is an understatement. There’s something hypnotically absorbing about Tom Ford’s movies, and my initial kudos to the film’s optical dexterity isn’t the sole reason. In Nocturnal Animals, the narration insinuates (but never utters) the sequences of events (both real and fictive) that leads to delicious ambiguity in the end. During that journey, many emotions are provoked, and befitting his vocation as a fashion designer, those emotions are subtle yet permeating. Making sense is not the point, just like it isn’t in life. To feel is the point. To realize with your heart and soul, not with your intellect.
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Tom Ford’s second feature came seven years after his fascinating debut, A Single Man. It was based on English Writer Christopher Isherwood’s novel about a middle-age gay professor of literature mourning the death of his partner of twenty years. Nocturnal Animals is based on the novel titled “Tony and Susan” by the American writer Austin Wright. Susan Marrow (Amy Adams) and her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) take the center stage, although Edward in present time barely makes an appearance on screen. Jake Gyllenhaal also plays Tony Hastings, the male protagonist in the novel written by Edward Sheffield, the plot of which is portrayed in a movie form as Susan reads the novel sent by her ex-husband. Three different time frames interchange frequently as the movie progresses: 1) the present time when Susan is reading the novel, 2) the fictional space where the novel is taking place in rough-hewn Texas, and 3) Twenty years ago when Susan and Edward were young and shamelessly attracted to each other.

“When you love someone you have to be careful with it, you might never get it again.”

Susan Marrow is a gallery owner, drowning in superficial opulence, resenting life. We learn that she once aspired to become an artist, but lacking creativity (her own words), she settled for catering to other artists. Edward Sheffield, when he was young, yearned to become a writer, but he didn’t seem to be very good at it. But he has kept at it and twenty years later, he completes a novel and ships it to his ex-wife. The novel tells of a young family whose wife and daughter are kidnapped, raped, and murdered on the nightly highway. How much of Edward’s past life contributed to the content of the novel? Is intertextuality in play here? If so, we have many layers to combine and crumple. The story in the movie, the story in the book that appears in the movie, and the past that’s deeply ingrained in the present all together signify something not so obvious to our comprehension.

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Thinking about the title of the movie’s original source might be helpful: It is titled Tony and Susan. It’s not “Edward and Susan,” but “Tony and Susan.” Susan is a real person, but Tony is a man created by Edward for his novel, yet their names are next to each other as if those two names together make more sense. Many people would be confused about the ending, yet, thinking about this original title may help.

“Susan, enjoy the absurdity of our world. It’s a lot less painful. Believe me, our world is a lot less painful than the real world.”

Nocturnal Animal has less coherence and less complexion than A Single Man because it depends, maybe little too much, on the visceral feelings it evokes. How does art depict our real lives’ dilemmas? What should we do about our regrets? What does it mean to become an artist? These are some questions I tried to answer with the afterthoughts on the movie.

The Lobster

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The Lobster

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Run time: 118 minutes, Year: 2015
Grade: A

 

If he is to be turned into another species, he wants to be a lobster, he says, because

1) he likes the sea

2) a lobster lives to be 100 years old

3) it is blue-blooded, like an aristocrat

4) it is fertile throughout all its life.

He will be turned into a lobster if he fails to find a significant other within 45 days. That’s the rule of this society portrayed in this searing and ingenious movie directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, that a human being will be turned into an animal of his/her choice if one remains a ‘single’ adult for more than a specified duration. Everyone needs to be in a romantic relationship if he/she is to stay a human being.

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Does this sound like a premise of a comedy? A Sci-fi or a horror? It is indeed labeled as a black-comedy, but the feeling of tragedy and gloom I felt obliges me to disagree somewhat. Rather, it is a trenchant social satire, as smart, relevant, and mind-numbing as it can be. I want to iterate that this film is one of the most original, daring, and socially-conscious film to come out in the 21st century (not just in this year), and duly deserves attention of all. It’s about the horror of living in a totalitarian state, but also about love, sacrifice, and freedom. It is a modern depiction of the world of Orwell’s 1984, with a tinge of fantastical elements. The visuals entailed with silvery hue embodies the bleakness of the affair. It deservedly won the Jury Prize at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

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David (no last name is given), played superbly by Colin Farrell, is the man who would choose to become a lobster. His wife left him, so he has 45 days to find another woman (he is asked if he prefers men and he says he likes women, so homosexual relationship is accepted as a legitimate form of romance). Another restriction surfaces; the couple must have at least one unique characteristic of their physical condition shared between the two. This rule is based on a theory that similar characteristic will ensure a longer relationship with less trouble. Adults without a partner is invited to an old-fashioned hotel that fosters a regulated hook-up culture, and some residents, fearful of looming beastly metamorphosis, fakes a  relatable characteristic to their partner’s. (One guys punches his nose often because his potential partner frequently nosebleeds.)

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In this society, one has to be a rebel in order to stay a single. Deep in the forest, a group of insurgents live together, but they have the rules of their own, different in content but same in severity and mercilessness: a person will be persecuted if he/she were to fall in love. Among them is a nameless woman (Rachel Weisz) to whom David is finally attracted. As can be inferred from his naïve explanations for choosing a lobster as his preferred animal state, he yearns for life where his interests can be expressed, albeit in the world of mechanized emotions.

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What do we, the viewers, to make of this allegory? The setting has a dangerous slippery slope that can lead the movie into a pit of absurd ridiculousness, but the movie stays afloat, never once a scene of lame moments. And the ending, it will stay with you; one of the perfect endings I’ve seen. The scene will make you cringe, both for horror and the beauty of love.

Recommended to all movie lovers.