Leave the cannoli, take the movies

Review Blog


Posted by Jonathan Leithold-Patt on January 7, 2017 at 12:45 AM

PATERSON   ***1/2

Jim Jarmusch


IDEA:  A week in the life of Paterson, who drives a bus in Paterson, New Jersey and writes poetry about his experiences.

BLURB:  Paterson brings the viewer into a serene, meditative state of mind hard to come by in contemporary American cinema. It sharpens our focus to make us cognizant of the mundane beauty immanent in our surroundings, appreciative of those strange synchronicities that can often feel like meaningful cosmic winks in the fabric of an indifferent time-space. Like few other filmmakers, Jarmusch drolly surfaces the sublimity in quotidian environments and actions, suggesting at once the richness of the world we inhabit and the ability of the arts – film in particular – to reconfigure our conceptions of it in order to tease out its most peculiar treasures. Paterson does this more literally than most of the filmmaker’s past work: subtly assuming the subjectivity of a bus driver poet whose name is identical to the city he lives in, it amusingly and poignantly articulates a perspective on work, relationships, and life informed by poetry. It illuminates how the world is in constant, reciprocal cultural exchange with its subjects, who are formed by its external spaces and rhythms as much as they form them through their expressive presences. In its recursive structure and meticulous formalism, it produces a kind of naturally unfolding feng shui that manifests itself in a bounty of visual rhymes and narrative echoes. An earlier, more cynical Jarmusch might have treated all of this repetition as some cruel cosmic mind game on the protagonist, but here the connections are fortifying whether they have meaning or not, signifying an attentiveness and receptivity to life’s vagaries that indicate the virtues of simply being present. While it contains the familiar hallmarks of Jarmusch’s other films, Paterson replaces his typical confusion and irresolution with a profound sense of equanimity, demonstrating with Zen contentment how, foibles and all, we still maintain our balance, day in and day out.

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