Paterson. Dir. by Jim Jarmusch. 2016

With Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani.


Every day begins the same. Paterson, a bus driver played by Adam Driver – who lives in Paterson (all of these same words have a hypnotic effect) wakes between 6 and 6:30, embraces his girlfriend, and gets dressed in the neatly folded clothes that he had laid out on the chair the night before. After breakfast of a small bowl of cheerios and coffee, he walks to work carrying his lunch pail, and begins his route on bus 23 through the city of Paterson NJ.

While he drives, he listens to the conversation of the passengers.  Examples include discussion of the girls construction workers might have liked to sleep with, or university students reviewing the anarchist movement of the early 1900s.   When he is on breaks, Paterson takes out his notebook and writes down some lines of poems he is composing from his life. Adam Driver’s extremely expressive face helps us live inside of this guy. Paterson’s routine includes daily walks with his patient bulldog.  There is a lovely rhythm to these scenes, and a build up to a bit of humor, and a bit of mayhem with some people in the bar who are having love trouble.

The poetry in the movie was written mostly by Ron Padgett, but there is also an excellent poem written by a young girl (not sure where it comes from) and some lines by W.C. Williams. The feeling of the process of how poetry gets written comes across clearly.  Even more refreshing is how the movie shows a man making a living by driving a bus, how people live every day, how some American cities have blacks and whites living together peaceably even when guns are whipped out suddenly with the cry, “Nobody move!”

The photography captures the dignity of a working class town, with its public park on the edge of  Passaic Falls where Paterson is located.  When Paterson sits on the bench and contemplates the water falling there as he writes a few lines, the audience is treated to a slowed down life at peace with itself.

Some other pleasures of the movie have to do with Paterson’s wife, Laura, who has an obsession with black and white decor, extending from her clothing to her shower curtain, to the cupcakes she ices.  However, Laura’s character seems less believable than Paterson’s.  She flounders around for a job.   Her urging him to copy his notebook instead of typing it takes lack of technology prowess to a ridiculous degree.  There is no tv in the bar.  The only cell phone is owned by a pre teen.


Reading Williams’ poem, “This is just to say”

If we don’t get distracted by the incessant pop up ads on our screens, we might have more room in our brains for the limpid verse that arises from Paterson.  As someone with a deep abiding faith in poetry, I appreciated Paterson for its glimpse into how things get written.


About Patricia Markert

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