by Alan Yudman
I was born in PATERSON. Lived there for 5 plus years until we moved across the Passaic River to a more suburban town. My memories of Paterson were of a place abandoned by the Middle Class and a place we never wanted to go to. By the time I was in high school, it was a the typical abandoned industrial city. Filled with crime and squalor and abandoned factories. The only reason to go was to visit the Falls. Those Falls are a character, cleansing in Jim Jarmusch’s new film PATERSON.
Adam Driver plays a bus driver named, wait for it…. Paterson. He is married to a woman best described as innocently quirky and marvelously played by Golshifteh Farahani. Paterson is also a poet, writing free verse about his marriage and his life. They are all love poems of a kind. His wife implores him to share his gift with the world. Paterson seems reticent and describes himself to anyone who asks as a bus driver. He is in a routine, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He drives his bus, he comes home, eats dinner and takes their English Bulldog, Marvin for a walk that always ends up at his neighborhood bar. The next day is pretty much the same as the last. Some situations change, he meets new people, but he wakes at about 6:15 A.M. each day and goes to work, writing poetry before he drives the bus and while at lunch. It seems a part of him, but more of an avocation. His wife Laura aspires to greatness in baking, design, country music. She sees bigger things. Paterson seems content.
Jarmusch brilliantly makes Paterson an Everyman who really is anything but. At one point a girl he meets says with irony, hmm a bus driver who like poetry. Paterson the man is like Paterson the city. He is filled with talent. He doesn’t boast, doesn’t want to be flashy but his history and talent cannot be denied. The legacy the city has left in the form of poetry, music and comedy are woven throughout the story. It seems plain on the surface but wash away the dirt and grime and it will shine. The Falls are the instrument that can do it to both the city and the man. Paterson visits the Falls to eat lunch every day, seemingly cleansing himself in an effort to reveal his inner poetry. And when the unexpected happens he must recover just as his namesake city must.
This is a love letter to Paterson, but it does not bludgeon you over the head to get the message across. Jarmusch has made a funny, subtly dramatic story of love and poetry. Driver is absolutely great. Paterson is a quiet talent, in love with his wife but you can tell he is both bored and bemused by his routine. Driver captures that perfectly with his performance. He walks upright and straight, proud but not prideful. He is not tormented, but not exactly settled. It is a fantastic performance in a wonderful movie.
I had long forgotten about Paterson and its place in American history. Watching this film made me realize what a wonderful place it is, and that beauty and poetry can be found anywhere.
Sent from my iPad