Sunday, October 2, 2016
NY Film Festival 2016: 'Paterson' As Poetic And Socio-Economic Portait Of Our Time
The workingclass rarely or more likely never writes about themselves, much less makes movies about their lives. So it's virtually up to middle class filmmakers to do so by default, which is rarely a good thing - not to mention ever a genuine or even respectful representation.
So what we're usually subjected to - and with the workingclass ironically the largest demographic viewing movies either in theaters or at home - is stereotypical portraits on screen projecting primarily ridicule in comedies or moral condemnation in violent thrillers. Which is unfortunately the case in one subplot within this film, of a both frightening and ludicrously portrayed jilted African-American stalker.
But Jim Jarmusch in his latest, mostly humane pensive portrait laced with delicate, dignified humor, Paterson, has clearly done his homework. And burrowed into both the minimalist, muted inner world and social perspective of a humble Paterson, New Jersey city bus driver (Adam Driver) who also happens to be named Paterson. Which is very much a part of the signature Jarmusch, tapestry balanced subtlely between quirky and daffy. And in the case of the character Paterson, a man who has metaphorically and anonymously faded nearly unnoticed with the baggage of his melancholy muse, into his surroundings that likewise bear his name.
Paterson inhabits this typical economically depressed town in the symbolically laden shadow of that bustling NYC metropolis. And writing down poems (actually written by septuagenarian Oklahoma poet Ron Padgett), old school style in his rumpled notebook, from observations and passenger conversations gleaned all around him on his daily bus rounds. While likewise refusing the entrenched gadgetized culture of cell phones or computers, and inspired instead by the kind of poetic purity of the town's famed local bard, William Carlos Williams. And in similar fashion as his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) - lacking as well as a similarly thwarted housewife, an artistic voice in a commercially driven culture. And resorting instead to wildly creative homegrown drapes, furniture covers and wallpaper, along with imagination laden cupcakes she designs to sell at local farmers markets.
And that Jarmusch has caught the unfamiliar essence of Paterson's suppressed existence with such quiet but determined authority, may have much to do with the times we are living in right now. That is, as the country's economic crisis deepens and weighs particularly hard on this demographic of millennials - the first generation since WWII that will not do as well as their parents, if well at all as the middle class disappears. And perhaps the elixir of poetry and the fueled artistic imagination as balm for the stifled but awakened soul.
Arts Express: Thursdays 2pm ET: Airing on WBAI Radio in NY 99.5 FM, and streaming live and archived everywhere at wbai.org.