Cannes Film Festival: Paterson

In Competition
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani
Watch on iTunes

by Joanna Orland

A dry yet slightly surreal character study of a bus driver with an inclination towards reading and writing poetry, Paterson is a minimalist observation of the everyday life of an everyday man.  Adam Driver plays Paterson, a bus driver in the city of Paterson New Jersey.  Paterson’s love of poetry is the grand metaphor of this film as his own observations provide inspiration for his poetry while his own life is filled with workaday prose.  The abstract meets the ordinary in the life of this bus driver, as the audience is the observer of a week in the life of Paterson.

Jarmusch’s latest effort is an unhurried plotless exploration of the mundane, with Adam Driver in the, er, driver’s seat with his subtle yet somewhat sentimental performance.  His mere presence brings a legitimacy to Paterson who lives in a world filled with caricatures of humans, notably his wife Laura played by Golshifteh Farahani who gives a purposely stunted performance.  As the film progresses through the days of the week from Monday onwards, it almost feels as though it is playing out in real time as we swiftly fall into Paterson’s prosaic routine as he finds the little moments of poetic exception in his life, for example his wife’s artistic endeavours, the bus passengers’ conversations, or his favourite pastime of sitting and staring out at a waterfall.

To watch this film is as banal as Paterson’s routine, but to afterwards reflect on the themes and ideas is a much more interesting process.  I was at first very quick to dismiss Paterson as a pretentious and shallow film, but writing this review has forced me to deliberate the deeper meaning behind the mundanity of the film and to reconsider the artistry behind the pretension.  While Paterson may not be for me, I can’t argue against Jim Jarmusch’s flair for minimalist and contemplative filmmaking.


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