Paterson (2016)


Second time with Jarmusch (after Dead Man).

Paterson (the man) is a square peg in a square hole. No-one bears him ill will; all potential danger dissipates under his placid stare; his town (world) is hermetic and there is little to no rattle as he moves around inside it. All very pleasant.

I like P (the man)’s poetry (interested to read that it was contributed by Ron Padgett, not Williams, as I’d thought). Spare but resistantly arhythmic, verisimilitude of thought processes (I have read nothing by WCW, and almost nothing in American modernism. The modernism I think of first is superabundant, densely urban observation and painstakingly assembled chaos. [DFW on P’s shelf] Refreshed by the incongruity here.)

But what P sees seems at odds with what we see: vignettes on the bus; regularity in twins, yes, but the differences in the detail (swinging vs grounded feet, clean vs dusty shoes). J’s world (P the town) is closely observed, but P (the man)’s poetry flows only from moments at home (matches, shoulders) or dives straight into abstraction. Here is a very popular mubi review:

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 23.03.27

Is P (the man) “observant”? He watches, but his words do not seem to “spring from ordinary streets”. Yes P (the town) is the source, the world of germs, but the relationship with P (the man) seems curiously antagonistic: when P (the man) writes he reads unhesitatingly, interrupted only by others. (Wish I’d had what Duncan’s having)

I wanted to rattle the peg; I wanted to “disturb the universe”; I jeered quietly when the bus broke down. Jarmusch teases us – the joke is that normality asserts and reasserts itself; P (the man) is restored to the centre. Should we be like P (the man)? He exhibits very little empathy: his eyes glaze over; a colleague stops complaining to him because he “wouldn’t want to know”, and we feel he is right. No real antidote to Eliotian aloofness here.

Does P (the film) feel 4 hours long (its less than 2) because nothing happens, because of the repetition? I like many films with structural repetition, films where nothing happens, many very long films; I don’t like them because of any frustration arising from these qualities.

Made me want to return to A Serious Man.

Mixed messages, but poetry is great.



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