MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1h 58 min
Who’d have guessed that the road to Nirvana, that state of perfect bliss, passes through the aging, industrial town of Paterson, N. J.?
Master minimalist Jim Jarmusch susses it, directing his new film, Paterson, with an exquisite slowness. He presents the magical properties of the city, its people and its prominent waterfall on the Passaic River through the beatific eyes of a bus driver and mobile poet, played by Adam Driver and coincidentally also named Paterson.
Paterson lives a blessedly contented life with his Iranian-American wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, a revelation), and their scene-stealing English bulldog, Marvin. He’s an introvert set in his ways: a bowl of Cheerios every morning, a single beer every night, the latter in the bemused company of barkeep Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley).
Laura, in contrast, is an extrovert bubbling with ideas: she’s a cupcake baker one day, country singer the next, but always a restless artist. She’s forever redecorating their modest bungalow in patterns of black and white.
Despite being yin and yang, they are sweetly in love and full of purpose. Up with the birds, Paterson heads to the bus depot every morning wearing his blue overalls, toting a grey lunch box. He finds inspiration in all he sees, capturing his thoughts in the “secret notebook” where he writes his poems. His words, the work of real-life poet Ron Padgett, come alive on the screen.
Jarmusch, who made supernatural vampires seem human in Only Lovers Left Alive, now finds inspiration in the mundane. A box of Ohio Blue Tip matches provides the spark for a poem that surprises in its depth. Later, a reference by Laura to a dream about twins becomes a running sight gag as Paterson encounters twins at every turn, although he’s barely aware of it.
Paterson is a funny movie, although the humour is not of the laugh-out-loud variety (except for one Marvin scene straight out of silent-era comedies.)
It’s also a gorgeous film, much of it shot by cinematographer Frederick Elmes apparently during the “magic hour” of golden light just after sunrise and just before sunset. In this light, the ordinary becomes ecstatic.