This new film from Jim Jarmusch was the opening film at the Leeds International Film Festival. Jarmusch also scripted the film and the Festival Catalogue quotes him:
“I love variation and repetition in poetry, in music and in art. Whether it’s in Bach or Andy Warhol. In the film I wanted to make this little structure to be a metaphor for life, that every day is a variation on the day before or the day coming up.”
What we get in the film is the slight variations in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver) who lives and works in the city of Paterson. The city is famous for the Great Falls situated on the Passaic River and as the subject an epic poem by William Carlos Williams, a member of the US modernist poetry movement.
Paterson is an amateur poet who works as a local bus driver. The variations in his life and work take place over seven days. We see him frequently writing poetry in his notebook. and there are occasional encounters including with a much younger would-be poet.
Mornings, evening and night-times are spent at his house which he shares with Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and her dog Marvin (Nellie, playing in a cross-gender role). Laura seems mainly involved in domestic labour. Marvin, a ‘British Bulldog’, clearly is jealous of Paterson. But Paterson take shim for his regular evening walk when he visits a local bar where we see the more local inhabitants and some of the drama in their lives.
The film offers low-key humour. The observation of Paterson and his environs is absorbing. However, he is a slightly fey character and Laura is even more so. I did think that Farahani’s part was seriously underwritten. I thought that Marvin was more developed in character. It would seem though that this will be Nellie’s only film role as an end title is dedicated to her memory. She won the 2016 Palm Dog posthumously.
The production of the film is well done. The cinematography by Frederick Elmes is clear, direct and makes good use of settings like the Falls. And the editing, by Alfonso Gonçalves, works well and makes some of the humour in its cuts. The composer Carter Logan, who worked on Jarmusch’s last film Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), adds to the irony with judicious music.
I should note that the Sight & Sound review by Henry K. Miller thought this the best work by Jarmusch since Ghost Dog (1999). If your taste is in Jarmusch movies then you will likely enjoy this.