Who would have thought that a film about a week in the life of a bus driver and part-time poet named Paterson, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, would be one of movie highlights of the year? In his new film, independent American director Jim Jarmusch returns to the kind of minimalist work with which he made his name 30 years ago — films such as (1984), Down by Law (1986) and (1989). Paterson is a film in which conventional narrative is shunted aside in favour of detailed character observation; nothing “happens”, in a traditional sense, yet everything happens.
Paterson, beautifully played by Adam Driver, lives in a small suburban house with his girlfriend Laura (the radiant, Iranian-born Golshifteh Farahani) and their English bulldog, Marvin. Every morning (the film is divided into chapters named after the days of the week) Paterson wakes up soon after six, has breakfast — always the same cereal — and walks with his metal lunch box to the bus depot. Every morning he has an exchange with the doleful Donny (Rizwan Manji), the Indian depot manager, who never fails to moan about the series of disasters that have befallen him. During the day, Paterson overhears the conversations of his passengers — men talk about girls, a couple of boys talk about boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, and so on — while he composes poems (that appear in written text on the screen), all of which are basically love sonnets to Laura.
Laura, meanwhile, stays at home, decorating the house in her favoured black and white geometric patterns while planning to become a singer like Patsy Cline — she orders a black and white guitar — and preparing food for dinner (one startling recipe she serves combines Paterson’s favourites, cheddar cheese and brussels sprouts, in a pie). Towards the end of the week she bakes cupcakes topped with black and white icing to sell at the local market.
Every day Paterson, who writes his poems in a notebook that, despite Laura’s entreaties, he never quite gets around to copying, takes Marvin for a walk and stops off at a bar where most of the customers are African Americans. Here he chats with Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley), the bar owner, who refuses to have a television but has a Paterson Hall of Fame display on his wall, which includes beat poet Allen Ginsberg and comic actor Lou Costello (the latter seems to be Paterson’s most famous son; at one stage Paterson drives past the Lou Costello public park). This daily routine, except for weekends, is punctuated by unexpected encounters and incidents.
Paterson meets a little girl who turns out to be a poet and who shares Paterson’s admiration for Emily Dickinson; he also meets a Japanese tourist (Masatoshi Nagase) who, like Paterson, is an admirer of Paterson poet William Carlos Williams; on Friday, the bus breaks down, but it’s no big deal.
In the bar there’s a conflict between Everett (William Jackson Harper) and his former girlfriend Marie (Chasten Harmon), who wants no more to do with him. These are only digres- Paterson (M) Limited national release from Monday Rosalie Blum (M) Limited national release from Monday
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