Paterson ★★★★

Something very odd happened to me late last year. My friend Olly and I went up to the Greatest Cinema Ever, the Tyneside in Newcastle, to watch Paterson. After travelling all that way, we discovered it was sold out. Let me just clarify this - a Jim Jarmusch film, about a bus driver who writes poetry, was sold out. In what parallel universe does that sell out a cinema? Is Adam Driver that big a draw now?

Well, maybe. (It would be nice to think Golshifteh Farahani has a few Geordie fans too) But on finally catching up with the film it's pretty easy to see why it's a crowd-pleaser. Jarmusch's brand of minimalism definitely lies at the less punitive end of the scale; it gives space to think, to reflect, it is always pleasurable and rarely stringent. It's met in this film with a kind of sentiment that I can't remember seeing in one of his films before - perhaps the closing vignette of Coffee and Cigarettes comes closest in mood, but here it's sustained for two hours. There is one particular moment, in a scene with his Mystery Train star Masatoshi Nagase, where a director like Alexander Payne would have cut to black for an ambiguous, maybe-happy ending. Jarmusch pushes the camera in, creates a brief rapture, then keeps going for another couple of scenes.

The camera is operated by Frederick Elmes, who has, if anything, an even wider brief here than he did in his collaborations with David Lynch. Paterson is a film that will pause to look at a character's shoes if Jarmusch thinks they're interesting enough, and he usually does. Like Only Lovers Left Alive, there's an epicurean feel to it, a sense that Jarmusch just wants to share all of the things he finds interesting with you. There is also - more successfully than the earlier film - a kind of quantum quality to it, in one of Paterson's later poems but also in the strange lattice of coincidences that overlay Paterson's life. Paterson lives in Paterson, NJ, the home of his favourite poet William Carlos Williams, he meets two twins called Sam and Dave named after the Paterson-native soul act, and so on.

He runs into a lot of twins, actually, suggesting some kind of cosmic significance which the ever-stoic Paterson doesn't chase after. There are also a number of characters who might be Paterson's twin - not physically, but in that they share concerns and ideas with him at a level that seems beyond chance. (The sense of getting brief glimpses of characters with a wider and more complex life reaches a peak when he casts Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as two anarchist students, deliberately inviting memories of their pairing in Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom) The most prominent of them is Laura, his girlfriend, played by the exiled Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani.

For me, Laura and Paterson's relationship was the oddest thing about the film. He's almost completely interior in that way Adam Driver does so well, she's effusive and talkative. Even their methods of creativity are at odds; he writes poems for an audience of himself and Laura, she obsessively paints and repaints the house. Laura would go very hard into Manic Pixie Dream Girl territory were it not for three things; firstly, that Jarmusch's humour is too deadpan for actual mania, secondly that Farahani is very good in this role, and thirdly that, for all her inexhaustible desire to support and encourage Paterson there's never any doubt that Laura's creative efforts are done to satisfy herself.

There might be a fourth reason - that Paterson finds Laura a bit stressful sometimes - but this might be down to Driver's funny micro-reactions rather than anything in the script. Even if that is the case, they're clearly made for each other. Doubtless a lot of men would love to have a partner who is attracted to the beer smell on their breath in the morning - but then, a lot of women would love to have a partner who limits himself to one beer a night at his favourite bar before coming home. The weird perfection of both Paterson and Laura becomes like a feedback loop, each creating more love for the other.

As far as films about creativity go, this is the anti-Shining. Barring two late incidents, one of which is easily defused, there's no conflict, and Paterson's poems seem to spring from his head fully formed without any messy redrafting. I didn't feel that its compilation of beautiful ordinary incidents was any less honest than the standard social realist film's compilation of depressing ordinary incidents, though, and in any case Jarmusch's eye for everyday charm is easily strong enough to fill two hours with nothing but that. Special mention goes to William Jackson Harper and Chasten Harmon as a couple at the bar who manage to split up in the most dramatic of fashions without disrupting the movie's Zen surface.

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