Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani
Runtime: 118 minutes, Year: 2016
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.
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.