Friday, March 31, 2017

Random film review: Paterson

 (Jim Jarmusch | 2016 | USA)

Tom Cruise isn't good looking and he can’t act. He can’t even act being asleep convincingly. I did enjoy Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow however, so much so I’ve watched it twice (once with daughter), perhaps the only Cruise movie I’ve watched more than once. It’s a sci-fi version of Groundhog Day, and pretty good, for a Cruise film.

Paterson is Jim Jarmusch's Groundhog Day. But not a Jarmusch film as we know it (it could also be Jarmusch's The Straight Story, with a bus instead of a lawnmower). Gone is the aching hipness and the irony, replaced with authenticity, sincerity, innocence and sentimentality. Apparently. Though all the way through the film I sensed something foreboding. I thought it was the music until I realised it was something almost Lynchian in the industrial factory settings, the loneliness, the odd encounters with strangers, the long dark shadows. It wasn't until the credits rolled that I noticed Frederick Elmes was the cinematographer, he who lit Eraserhead and Blue Velvet (the two films that redefined cinema for me), as well as several previous Jarmusch films.

The foreboding was also my wanting something to happen. Yes, something bad. Yes, sex or violence. Paterson was going to have an affair with the black chick at the bar! His wife would read the line of his poem in the (spoiler alert!) chewed up cherished notebook "I think about other girls"! But no!

Adam Driver plays Paterson, a bus driver and unpublished bad poet in Paterson, New Jersey. He seems slow-witted and boring. The only interest in his job is listening to the – often highly implausible – passengers conversations (such as teenagers discussing Gaetano Bresci, the Italian anarchist and assassin of King Umberto I. To be fair, he did live in Paterson, as did poet William Carlos Williams, Paterson's favourite poet and inspiration for his own poems). Amazingly Paterson has an attractive and kooky wife, Laura, played by Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani. Laura spends her days dressing herself, their apartment and her cupcakes in Bridget Riley-style black and white patterns.

I can only call Laura sweet but delusional. She thinks Paterson's poems are amazing (when Paterson bizarrely starts chatting to a 10-year-old-girl who also writes poems, the poem she reads to him is far better than any of his). Laura wants to open a cake shop one day, be a country singer the next. She gets Paterson to buy her a black and white patterned guitar so she can practise. It's $200 on eBay (expensive for them, but apparently they think they can pay in instalments on eBay).

Which brings us to technology, which is a bit of a fault in the film. I wasn't sure when the film was set at first. Fairly contemporary I thought but there's no phones, no laptops, no technology – obviously a conscious attempt to get back to real values or something. But when it's revealed (repeatedly) that the only copy of Paterson's poems are in his cherished notebook, it's fairly obvious said notebook will come to a sticky end (plus they own a dog, plus Paterson leaves his notebook on the sofa when they go out one evening = the obvious). Laura (repeatedly) tells Paterson to go the Xerox store to get them photocopied (which he never does). The Xerox store? Photocopied? Where are we, 1987? Scan them? Write them up on Word? Publish a blog? Photograph them on her phone (he doesn't own one)? Never occurs to either of them.

I really didn't think the relationship would last the film: they don't have much in common; the relationship is still based on politeness (he forces himself to eat and pretend to like her Brussels sprouts and cheese pie; I'm not even sure he likes her cupcakes; he humours Laura on her daily whims); he's morose, she's hot; Paterson spends every evening on his own in a bar drinking beer...

I didn't recognise Adam Driver at all. He's in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (my daughter thought he was terrible in it). He was also in While We're Young and Midnight Special, two films I liked a lot. But you know what? Some geeky-looking guy swings a lightsaber around, kills some people in Iraq (probably; he was a U.S. Marine), does a stupid TED Talk (where he actually says "firing weapons is cool" and "self-expression is just as valuable a tool as a rifle on your shoulder"), then does a few sensitive roles and suddenly he's up for awards and he's gorgeous and he's got range.

You know also what it is? You've as much chance of reading all of the poem Paterson by William Carlos William as you have watching the film Paterson and your eyes not glaze over.


Previously on Barnflakes:
Here's to you, Robinson

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