Paterson is a bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey - they share the name. Every day, Paterson adheres to a simple routine: he drives his daily route, he writes poetry into a notebook; he stops in a bar and drinks exactly one beer; he goes home to his wife, Laura. By contrast, Laura's world is ever changing. New dreams come to her almost daily. The film quietly observes the triumphs and defeats of daily life, along with the poetry evident in its smallest details.
The poems in the film came from Ron Padgett, one of Jim Jarmusch's favorite contemporary poets, who agreed to write the poems for the film and who let Jarmusch use some of his pre-existing poems. See more »
It's made clear that Paterson doesn't own or use a cel phone, but when he has to borrow one, he dials it using his thumbs. A person not used to texting on a cel phone would use his index finger to dial. See more »
I really felt that although folks mostly agreed that the movie captured the "poetry of everyday life", there was much more to be had from the movie, which has it subtleties aplenty. Yes the ruins of Paterson are beautiful, yes the dappling of the light is fine, yes Laura and Paterson are a beautiful couple but go deeper!
Most art that you initially create is going to be derivative. Paterson's poetry is essentially derivative of William Carlos Williams. You have to fight through this phase and find your own creations. So when Paterson's homework is eaten by the dog (remember to see the humour in this), I was mindful that the dog had done him a favour, because all of the early stuff is worthless, unless you happened to be called Rimbaud or Chatterton, and even then I imagine they burned a lot of doggerel before they wrote a good sentence. Derivation can be incredibly apparent in painting, for example Mondrian, where he dabbled with other folks' styles (impressionism, fauvism and even pointillism) before he arrived at his unique mature expression, for which he is famous (termed neoplasticism).
Writing poetry is difficult, as so eloquently pointed out by WB Yeats:
"We sat together at one summer's end,// That beautiful mild woman, your close friend, // And you and I, and talked of poetry.// I said, 'A line will take us hours maybe;// Yet if it does not seem a moment's thought, // Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.// Better go down upon your marrow-bones // And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones // Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather; // For to articulate sweet sounds together// Is to work harder than all these"
Paterson will need to break a lot of patterns and cobwebs if he wants to become a great poet.
Many have looked at this portrait of a relationship and saw something sweet and tender. I'm sorry but I saw two disconnected individuals, a freeloading girlfriend, a boyfriend without a backbone, and a couple that didn't make decisions together. They're both good-looking tranquil people, but they're not soulmates. Laura tells Paterson that his poetry is great, but he needs challenge, not a sycophant, he needs someone who understands him, not someone who uses his wages to buy an expensive dog and gets him to walk it every evening! So when he recites a love poem, it's something false, it's a confection, it's what we want to hear but it's not true, and this is why he's still so far from greatness.
The use of doubles in the movie is far from trivial, what it's saying is that there is a different lives Paterson (or any of us) could be leading, we have to make choices every day about which person we are going to be. The dissolve at the end when Paterson is lying in bed and seems to disappear momentarily is hinting that he might be best off disavowing his current life, he should be running a mile. Yet it's a comfortable life, and everyone likes comfy right? Two guys on the bus have a discussion where both recall recent encounters with women they liked and both had managed to fumble the ball through inaction, they chose, they don't live uncomfortable lives, but they chose not to live passionate lives. So that's why I chose the title for the review, because we all have to decide whether to embrace nonbeing, some sort of Taoist concept of naturalness, or whether we want to bristle our creativity, and streak like comets. Maybe the latter is innately egotistical. I think that the choice is what this movie is about, be humble or be brave. The movie is dualistic, no one interpretation is there to be forced on you. For me when he writes a poem about the song "Swinging on a Star" that's saying something key, he mentions that the only line he really plays again in his head is the one about being a fish, not being any of the others lives in the song. Again this is dualistic because it could be saying that he knows the life of a poet is for him, and it's the only one he thinks about, so he should embrace it, but if you read the full lyrics of the song, it talks about the fish who "can't write his name or read a book". Whereas another option "Would you like to swing on a star // Carry moonbeams home in a jar // And be better off than you are". Seems like the best though radical option that is open to Paterson, to change everything, but perhaps he won't take it.
Ending on a more playful note, congratulations to Mr Jarmusch for yet again working a matchbox into proceedings!
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