Paterson :: A Film About Poetry, Which Is Everywhere…

Paterson is a film about a poet called Paterson who lives in a city called Paterson. If that's the kind of thing you find annoying, maybe don't go see Paterson. Paterson is full of quirky little coincidences and echoes of conversations and dreams. Because life is. 

Paterson drives a bus for a living but he writes poetry for his soul. Poetry is everywhere in Paterson. As are poets. Paterson keeps meeting them randomly. The word poets is even in the name Paterson. Coincidence? I'm not so sure.

Paterson — both the film and the man — is gentle and sweet. Paterson is a really nice guy. We see him observing. We see him watching, listening, enjoying the conversations of others. He is a poet. This is what poets do. 

We become immersed in his routine, which is pretty stringent and one might even say mind-numbing, but it isn't mind-numbing to Paterson. He seems very comfortable in his life and in his skin.

Paterson has an achingly beautiful girlfriend, who is creative and whimsical. She appears to do a lot around the house but nothing that really needs doing. She doesn't bring in the mail or walk the dog, for example. Instead she cooks cheddar cheese and Brussel sprout pies and paints her own clothes while she's still wearing them.

Cineville - Paterson

When she pressures him to buy her a guitar, I started to suspect that Paterson was going to turn into a film about a man trapped in an unhappy treadmill existence. Sure he writes his girlfriend love poetry, but he seems not to want to spend any actual time with her, preferring to go alone to a local bar every night. And the more time we spend with her, the more his absence begins to make sense. She is rather cloying.

But as the film progresses further, it becomes obvious that they're both actually extremely satisfied with their lives together. She has her cupcakes and her country & western and her strong visual style. He has his routine and his passengers and his poetry. And they both have each other.

Ultimately, it's nice to spend time with them. And to see the joy they share, however mundane it might sometimes appear.

In Paterson, the coincidences never let up. Following a mention of twins in the opening scene, pairs of twins appear throughout the film, and throughout the week in which it is set. Lines of dialogue are repeated by different characters. Poets are everywhere — on walls, on park benches and in laundrettes — giving the film an all-pervasive sense of creative solidarity.

Paterson is a film about Paterson (the place) as much as it is about Paterson (the person). We learn through conversations on the bus and in the bar about famous Paterson alumni like Lou Costello (the comedian), Rubin "Hurricane" Carter (the boxer), Gaetano Bresci (the anarchist) and the poets, Fetty Wap, Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams (who of course wrote the famous five-volume epic poem, Paterson).

Cineville - Paterson

But mostly, Paterson is a film about poetry, and the fact that it's everywhere.

I started to feel a little exasperated by the film at one point, but then it pulled me back in and I was happy that I had been given the opportunity to spend some time with Paterson and his life.

In the few hours since watching the film, I've thought about it a lot, and I'm very pleased that films like Paterson get made at all.

We need films like Paterson, just as we need poems. They assuage our longing for meaning. And they expand our appreciation of life.



The Viewing

It's an afternoon showing, Thursday afternoon after 4, cold and snowy outside and yet there are queues at the cinema and zaal 3 is about 85% full for a Jim Jarmusch film. I think this reflects very well on Amsterdam.

There's not much else to say about this viewing. I've been working pretty hard this week and cinema has suffered. There's a lot I haven't seen at the moment, and I'm watching too much Trump news online. It's starting to make me feel weird. I keep feeling that I'm trapped in a film. Every day I become less convinced that I'm not in fact trapped in a black comedy about a bumbling narcissist who brings about a nuclear conflagration. It's only when I go to the cinema that things make sense again for an hour or two.

Oh, God, I just saw the worst McDonald's ad in the history of horrible McDonald's ads. All too often these days, the world feels like it's leaping towards extinction.

But at least we have art. So that's something.

I just saw trailers for American Honey and Twentieth Century Women, both of which look absolutely remarkable. Particularly the latter. The Jimmy Carter speech in the trailer is extraordinarily pertinent.

He speaks of "our longing for meaning". I like that. We do long for meaning, don't we.

Oh, speaking of coincidence, on Paterson's desk in Paterson is a row of books and one of them is Infinite Jest. I watched The End of the Tour on Saturday night. You should watch it. It's watchable on Putlocker if you don't mind not paying. If you like conversation films, and you like writers, you should definitely watch it.

I bought Infinite Jest after watching it.

I wonder if I'll read it before I die.

Hope so.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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