skip to Main Content
Chas’ Blog – Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson

Chas’ Blog – Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson

Jim Jarmusch’s latest film “Paterson” is a gem of a movie…I don’t believe that I can  find enough good things to say about it but  I’ll give it a try.  I have prefaced this piece with the cover of a volume of William Carlos Williams’ epic poem “Paterson” because poetry  is one of the aspects of the film that appeals to me.   There aren’t many movies that I have seen that I have wanted to rewatch a second and third time after first encountering it but this is one. Some of you may say that I just didn’t get it the first time…
It is a Jim Jarmusch film and in my limited experience he makes slightly quirky movies: witness his last outing at the Civic in 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive which was a vampire movie with a twist and a sense of humour. It was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes festival. Other Jarmusch films include “Down by Law” (1986), a rambling character-driven story with a twisted sense of humour ; “Night on Earth” (1991) which presents five stories each involving an entirely different cab ride in five locations around the world which are shown unfolding simultaneously; and “Mystery Train” (1989) which tells three distinct stories that are linked by a flophouse hotel in Memphis presided over by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, a gun shot, and Tom Waits as a radio DJ playing an Elvis Presley recording of “Blue Moon”.
The actor portraying the title character in “Paterson” is Adam Driver – someone I associate with light romantic comedy before his appearance as Kylo Ren in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” earlier this last year. He has begun to show the range necessary for a serious part although it might be hard to find the dramatic parts in “Paterson”.
The film’s co-star Golshifteh Farahani has appeared in 2009’S “About Elly’, Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies” (2008) with Russell Crowe and “The Patience Stone”(2012) in which she portrays a woman in a war-torn country who alleviates her silent suffering by relating her dreams and secrets to her comatose husband. she is very effective at conveying emotion with few words.
“Paterson’ is a story in which not much happens and yet the little that does happen is very compelling for me. I think Jarmusch has found and masterfully depicts great beauty in everyday things.
The American poet William Carlos Williams figures prominantly in the story as a kind of muse for the hero… I can remember Williams from my first year college English course when one of his short poems appeared in our American Poetry anthology. It was fifty years ago but I’ve never forgotten it:
“The Red Wheelbarrow”
So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
I can remember some of the other American poets… T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, and E.E. Cummings but Williams was my favourite because I always knew exactly what he was talking about.
“Paterson” is the name of the Adam Driver character in the story. It is the name of the bus which he drives and it is also the name of the small town in which he lives and works. Characters in the film speak of Williams as though he resided in and composed his poetry in Paterson but he actually lived most of his life in Rutherford New Jersey so Jarmusch has taken some “poetic” licence here. “Paterson” is also the name of an epic poem by Williams published in five volumes over an extended period from 1946-1958 and set in Paterson NJ. Among the considerable volume of quotes attributed to him I am most fond of this:
“It is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”