Friday, September 30, 2016


I don't know if it was intentional or not (probably not) but Paterson makes a reference to almost every Jim Jarmusch film that came before it. The opening & closing credits utilize the same kind of font as the opening credits from Night On Earth (both Night On Earth & Paterson are also about characters who make a living driving people from one place to another). In one scene we see our protagonist "Paterson" (Adam Driver) share a tender literature-based moment with a young girl just like Forest Whitaker did in the park bench scene in Ghost Dog. The state of Ohio (where Jarmusch is from) is mentioned numerous times in the first 20 minutes of the film which reminded me of Stranger Than Paradise (Ohio is the first stop on Willie & Eddie's road trip). Two characters in Paterson are named "Sam" & "Dave" just like in Mystery Train (and, just like in Mystery Train, both scenes where we see the Sam & Dave characters take place at a pool table). There's another major tip of the hat to Mystery Train in that one of the actors from Jarmusch's classic Elvis-themed anthology film has a cameo towards the end of Paterson. The use of the color pink all throughout Paterson is an obvious nod to the use of pink in Broken Flowers (the door to Paterson's house, the color of his wife's car, and all the clothing worn by the background characters are pink just like the typewriter and other various items sprinkled throughout Broken Flowers). Paterson also has an unexpected WU-Tang cameo which ties in to both Ghost Dog (RZA) & Coffee & Cigarettes (RZA & GZA).

Classic shot used in many Jarmusch films...

The subtle use of the color pink (and the positioning of the characters) in Paterson is very similar to Broken Flowers...

The overlapping imagery in Paterson vs. the overlapping imagery in Ghost Dog...

But beyond all the references, Paterson is a return to the Jim Jarmusch I (personally) missed. While there's always going to be something I'll enjoy about his movies, I haven't been excited about a Jarmusch film since Broken Flowers (2005), and that's not even one of his quintessential works in my opinion. And if it is, it's ranked last on my list of classic Jarmusch movies (that doesn't mean I dislike Broken Flowers. It's just not a classic in my book like Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law or Mystery Train).

Hopefully some of you will get this reference...
Paterson is Jim Jarmusch's Ned Rilfe in that Hal Hartley kind of returned to his classic form with Ned Rifle just like Jarmusch has done with his latest (I find it wonderful that after over three decades of filmmaking Hal Hartley & Jarmusch can still be mentioned together in the same sentence).

I wanted to post my thoughts on Paterson immediately after seeing it at Toronto but something kept me from sharing this right away. This is the kind of movie you want to sit on/with for a week or two partially because it's meant to challenge things like immediacy, rushing and just anything fast-paced. So it would be a little hypocritical for me to post some rushed 500-word review that doesn't offer much of a unique/worthy perspective.

Paterson is a simple story about a bus driver ("Paterson") with a hidden talent for writing poetry who has to find inspiration to continue writing after an unfortunate event (his quirky/loyal/artistic wife is the only other person that he shares his poems with). That's really about it. And it works just fine. Naturally there are funny encounters, lots of repetition, and dry deadpan quirky moments, but in terms of plot - it's really just about a bus driver with a hidden love/talent for poetry.
I admit that when I first saw the trailer for Paterson I was a bit worried but my skepticism was put to rest early on in the film. 20 minutes in I knew I was going to enjoy this until the very end.

And for those of you that may be concerned that Jarmusch is stuck/set in his ways by referencing so many themes from his old work, he does try out new editing & sound techniques that he's never tried before (these new techniques really enhance the poetry featured in the movie). This is also his first film without any of his (new and/or old) stock actors (no Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeffery Wright, Tom Waits, etc). And with the exception of Adam Driver and one unnamed cameo, the entire cast is made up of "unknowns" or seasoned veterans used to playing supporting roles).

Jarmusch does a great job at avoiding a lot of cliches. Any time you think something obvious is going to happen it doesn't. Nothing happens. Like...literally nothing. I respect that. At one point in the film we feel a potential threat against Paterson's dog but nothing ever happens (actually, this scene in particular is why I appreciate Jarmusch's subtle comments on race in that he takes a car full of "thuggishly" seeming characters of color and does something a lot of filmmakers wouldn't do). We expect there to be tension or drama between Paterson and his wife on more than one occassion but they get along just fine from beginning to end without any drama. You think there's going to be some accident while he's driving his bus but that doesn't happen either. Had the same material Jim Jarmusch used in Paterson ended up in another director's hands this would've been a kitchen sink melodrama about an angry tortured bus driver. That's not to say Paterson is all "light" & "fluffy", but there is a calmness throughout the story that isn't often associated with a lot of the basic subject mater in the film.

What I loved most about Paterson is that it's a movie for folks with talents/passions outside of their 9-5 jobs (Paterson gets a lot of his writing done during his lunch break/downtime at work, and when he is working his mind is on his poetry). This is definitely something I relate to on a personal level (over the last 6+ years of running this blog and writing for other websites, quite a bit of content was generated on my old job's company time).

I'm trying my best to not over-praise this (I am a Jarmusch fan/completist) but I can say, without any favoritism, that Patterson is a success and the best thing Jim Jarmusch has done since Broken Flowers.


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