Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An "art film" I actually understood...I think

At the weekend we watched, via Netflix, an "indie" movie titled Paterson, directed by arty farty specialist Jim Jarmusch. I'm not a big art film fan generally, haven't seen any other of Mr Jarmisch's offerings. Paterson, for the first 15 minutes or so was under threat of the big switchoff - by me. Husband is more of an art film fan, but even he had early doubts about this one. We persisted though, and I'm happy that we did.

Although I know not of Jim Jarmusch's work, I do know of Doctor William Carlos Williams and his poetry, which forms a kind of under-pinning of this film. When the film drew to its close I realised, and commented, that it was, in itself just like a William Carlos Williams poem. The ordinary, the undramatic, a celebration of everyday things: their everyday-ness evoking, eventually, something more than ordinary.

Bare-bones of the movie = a New Jersey bus driver called Paterson, in a New Jersey town called Paterson; his creative, slightly ditzy stay-at-home wife, and their English bulldog called Marvin. Marvin is the only one in the film exhibiting any sense of humour - with a name like "Marvin", as a bulldog, you'd have to, wouldn't you? The bus-driver is also a secret poet who writes his poems in an old fashioned notebook, during his breaks, and later at home, in his den in the cellar. He's a fan of William Carlos Williams, who had been a doctor practising in and around Paterson, the town.

Deeper into the movie's flesh and organs there are signs and symbols, things to be noticed : twins turn up frequently in the background, different sets, sometimes in the foreground too. Paterson's wife Laura's arty creations are always in black and white, repetitive and often circular in shape, repeating, repeating, like the bus driver's workday routines, Monday to Friday. Even Laura's cupcakes, baked for the farmer's market, are strangely repetitive, also decorated in black and white icing. Paterson does not carry a smartphone, own a laptop or computer; his favourite neighbourhood pub, where he drinks just one beer each evening, does not have a TV. Paterson lives in the world of Paterson, in his head and in his notebook.

Does anything exciting or interesting happen in this film? We waited for some kind of climax, and there came a couple of low-key events, but these proved even more low-key because of Paterson's own attitude to them. There was, though, a single event, involving Marvin. Marvin, by the way, does not get killed off for drama's sake in this movie, as dogs are wont to do in many movies. The Marvin event, for a while, shakes Paterson to his core, but a rather mystical, healing event follows.

Not everyone will appreciate Paterson, the movie. For viewers weaned on super-hero, slam-bammers, raunchy language, and soft-porn-ish scenes punctuating films, Paterson will seem like an anachronism and a complete waste of almost 2 hours. For anyone who enjoys the William Carlos Williams style of poetry, I suspect they would adore this film. I enjoyed it - didn't exactly adore it, but did appreciate what it was about, what it was doing.

There are a couple of my archived posts, from 2011 and 2015, about William Carlos Williams, including some astrology, HERE and HERE.

In closing this post, I cannot resist quoting a few lines from one of Williams' poems, The Forgotten City, where he recalled a "curious and industrious" working-class neighbourhood, he had driven through after a storm, and wrote:

.....I had no idea where I was and promised myself
I would some day go back to study this
curious and industrious people who lived
in these apartments, at these sharp
corners and turns of intersecting avenues
with so little apparent communication
with an outside world. How did they get
cut off this way from representation in our
newspapers and other means of publicity
when so near the metropolis, so closely
surrounded by the familiar and the famous?

Yes, how did they...the working class? Words as relevant today as on that day long ago when Doctor Williams drove through those streets and found inspiration for his poem.


Wisewebwoman said...

I must try and catch this one. Sounds D's intriguing.


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ It's a distinct oddity, but does offer food for thought.