Rated R for mild language and an attempted suicide, kind of. It's a fairly harmless movie and I feel like all Jim Jarmusch's films tend to lean R. But the content isn't really there. This feels like another R for the intended audience who would appreciate the movie. I don't remember any sexuality, but maybe I'm just forgetting something. Regardless, this is R, but shouldn't really offend too many people. R.
DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch
Of course I bought a collected works of William Carlos Williams after I watched this. That was always my little secret thing. One of the most horrifying things about being an English teacher is that everyone assumes you've read every major work ever. I mean, I try. I really do try. I love me some lists and I love crossing things off of that list. But I've faked my way through a pretty poetry intense master's degree without ever formally sitting down and reading the collected works of William Carlos Williams.
But I do tend to love poetry now, which kind of transitions me into my thought process about Paterson. See, I keep trying to like Jim Jarmusch. I keep trying and failing. Like my dislike for David Lynch, my disregard for one of the great auteurs seems to be damning my taste into a lower category. Everyone I know and respect, film wise, tends to love these directors. I want to love them so much. I really do. Do you know how much street cred I would get if I said that Lynch and Jarmusch were my favorite directors? Instead, I have to go around saying that Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Wright are my favorite director. While lightly snobby, I'm clearly in a category that isn't all that impressive. But I keep plugging away at their films, hoping that something will inspire me to view the films in a new light. While I'm still going to be striving to watch the complete oeuvre of Jarmusch, I don't know if Paterson is going to do much to change my mind about what I've already seen. But what I will say is that "I now get it."
Paterson is kind of a special movie. Jarmusch tends to feel very comfortable with his small stories. They tend to be stories about characters with fairly minor conflicts. The titular Paterson is almost an observer of his own film. He acts as a vehicle for the camera and we can see these snapshots of other characters' lives. Paterson just wants to be happy with his wife and write his poetry. The most insane conflict he has to deal with is the notion to share his art versus keeping it sacred and private. Yeah, the story comes to a head, but in a very minor way that is almost arbitrary to the story being told. Really, Paterson mimics the experience of writing and creation. The movie centers around the creation of art with all of its joys and insecurities. Paterson seems like a very talented poet. The mundaneness of his job contrasts to the depth of his writing. I know I liked the poetry, so keep that in mind, and if I'm missing something big, I apologize. But I'm rarely impressed when a film tells me that art is good. In the case of Paterson, I really do like the poems. And the fact that, in universe, this poetry is written by a bus driver is gorgeous.
And that's why Jarmusch's take on real world art is fantastic. Paterson seems like such a healthy soul. He rarely gets upset. He seems to thrive in routine. There's a gratitude for his small life. Yet, he's constantly at odds with the notion that his poetry is worthy of anything. He regularly denies that he's a poet, despite the fact that he's always writing. He hides the poetry until its ultimate destruction. And he's surrounded by an artistic wife, as supportive as she is, that acts as a reminder of the problem with artistic folks : they tend to be flighty and fickle. Within the film, Laura is obsessed with her monochromatic painting style, creating a new project per day. She is on an artisanal cupcake kick. And she wants a new guitar to become a country fan. The only thing that actually has any consistency with Laura is the black-and-white aesthetic. But there Paterson is, everyday, affirming her life choices. I love their marriage. It's almost a marriage of saintliness, if that's something I can say. I know that they don't have children and it seems a little shallow, but they are constantly working to affirm each other. There's a very deep love that comes from two creators constantly creating. While I don't want to every change my marriage or the fact that I have four kids, there's something very appealing about two people who affirm each other's passions and encourage further exploration.
The destruction of Paterson's notebook is a little off for me. I mean, I like plot. The reason that I've never really gotten on board the Jarmusch train is the almost intentional anti-plots he offers. The movie does all of this foreshadowing in terms of storytelling that often doesn't play out. For example, the boys telling Paterson about dog-napping, coupled with the dog being left outside the bar. Any traditional narrative would couple those scenes in juxtaposition as indication that the dog would be kidnapped. Not so. Similarly, the combination of Laura's flightiness and obsession with making these cupcakes for a farmer's market implies that she will be unsuccessful in her endeavors. After all, most films need conflict and hopelessness is fodder for conflict. That doesn't happen. Instead, the cupcakes sell really well. It's this kind of stuff that implies that the rules of plot shouldn't really matter. So when Paterson and Laura come home from the movies, the idea of something major happening to something that both characters deem as vital being destroyed happens, it really throws us into a complex plot very quickly. On top of that, the inciting incident happens pretty late in the movie. Paterson undergoes an existential crisis, wondering if he could continue being a poet knowing that his work no longer existed. But he comes around pretty quickly.
Maybe because the movie was about poetry, that was the film to bring me around to Jim Jarmusch. Perhaps all of his other movies speak to their audience because they surround the passion of a very specific subgenre that I never really understood. Because I get Paterson, with its every day obsession with creation and art, I get excited. So I actually look forward to watching another Jarmusch movie with the hopes that it will at least open my eyes to something else that Jim Jarmusch has to offer.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.