No Palm for "Paterson"

in 69th Cannes Film Festival

by Tereza Brdecková

Paterson by Jim Jarmusch didn’t receive any prizes at Cannes, although global critics from Screen and Variety to fresh young French websites considered the film a masterpiece. No prize – no surprise.  Great masters are rarely appreciated: How many years was Steven Spielberg waiting for his Academy Award? And, of course, Jarmusch is not Spielberg. Very few of his films performed at the box-office (only Down by Law, Broken Flowers) and Paterson will probably not be one of them. This is a film about poetry, poems and the poet, the fine and funny description of “feeling poetry” as a miraculous level of life, as universe full of breath-taking although tiny coincidences.

Paterson is a small town in Connecticut, a once flourishing industrial centre, now forgotten. But Paterson is also the birth place of Allen Ginsberg and Williams Carlos Williams – the poet whose best known book is entitled Paterson.

Paterson is also the name Jarmusch gives his protagonist, a bus driver (Adam Driver). Paterson writes poems too and though they are not very good, there is something about them. Paterson himself is too modest and unassuming to consider himself a poet. That’s why he never listens to the advice of his beloved wife, who worship his talent. He does not reproduce his poems from the handwritten original in a paper notebook. But a day comes when Paterson must admit that a notebook is probably much more important for him then he thought.

Very little happens, no suspense, not much plot. Paterson’s environment, his home and his bus, is at the same time claustrophobic and free. Brown houses and moderate tones of music evoke Jarmusch’s first success: Permanent Vacation.

The life of Paterson is as simple and structured as a life of the monk: His bus, his wife, his dog, his bar and his notebook. But Jarmusch proves again that his art consists in the capacity to transform the most ordinary events in Zen discoveries, unexpected jokes and visual metaphors. He is one of the last filmmakers who can see deep into the soul of his heroes and bring out their secret inner worlds, like Bergman or Antonioni.  He rarely asks how things look. As a film director he asks about what things mean – a quality appreciated by millions of Jarmusch fans around the world.

The idea of Paterson is not new, Jarmusch was thinking about it twenty years ago. Only now did he discover the right actor in the modest and brilliant Adam Driver and he ask his friend and favourite poet, Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Padget, to write poems for the film. Here is one of them:

The Run

I go through
trillions of molecules
that move aside
to make way for me
while on both sides
trillions more
stay where they are.
The windshield wiper blade
starts to squeak.
The rain has stopped.
I stop.
On the corner
a boy
in a yellow raincoat
holding his mother’s hand.

Edited by Rita Di Santo