Much has already been said about how Jim Jarmusch's most recent film, Paterson, explores the poetry of the mundane and cyclic nature of everyday life. Adam Driver's Paterson, who lives in Paterson, New Jersey, drives a bus around the city but is usually fixated on the sights and sounds of his hometown to fuel his quiet formulation of poems. Paterson takes the time to sit, before he drives off to pick up the first passengers of the day, and write as much of a poem as he can possibly usurp. Meanwhile, his wife, Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani, seems to be exploring her artistic expression with all sorts of mediums: interior design, cupcakes, or country music. While Paterson keeps his poems in a secret notebook, Laura happily parades her new designs in front of her husband. They both love and support each other. After work, and after the daily conversation Laura has with Paterson urging him to publish his poems, Paterson takes his dog, Marvin, for a walk, stopping by a local bar to drink one, and only one, beer and chat with his friends.
That's about it in terms of a general synoptic description, as the film observes one week of their lives, we experience the sense of the gentle banality and repetition we all face in our un-cinematic lives. Viewing the world through Paterson's poetic eyes, we break out of that sameness and into a natural lyricism, visualized by text of written poetry and some lovely superimpositions as Paterson stitches together the things he has witnessed into something profoundly personal.
So go if you like poetry, if you are from Paterson, if you like dogs, or cupcakes, or Method Man. Because each of these things (or person), whether they are important or not, are respected with a joviality of their existence. And that is something most films don't even regard and audiences take for granted.
Yet, I'd like to indulge in some analysis as a way to further celebrate this film, an angle of exploration that ties into the brilliant approach Jarmusch, I think, intended. This begins with the title, itself, Paterson. It is the name of both the protagonist and the city of which he lives in. Sufficient enough, but lets us stretch the significance and promote the idea that Adam Driver's Paterson is the city. Now, let us ask: what is a city? Superficially, it is a collection of buildings and roads. Well, in fact, there are a lot of definitions, but the one definition that aligns quite snuggly with the film is an melding of individual ideas, experiences, and feelings. Due to dense population, where people are in close proximity most of the time, there is a high probability that you will run into someone vastly different from you. Actually, that is no less than a guarantee.
Driver's Paterson as a bus driver is important because his vehicle is, essentially, a vessel for an assemblage of experiences. Paterson drives and he listens. He listens to guys talk about girls, anarchist talking about anarchy, and many other seemingly random topics. Paterson absorbs these experiences and thoughts. He thinks...contemplates. Eventually, he expresses or, in other words, reflects his own experience. And what is a city but a reflection of the mish-mash of individual's living their lives? Cities are filled with anarchists, poets, interior designers, bartenders, rappers, bus drivers...they are filled with people dealing with hard times, people discover new things, people content of their life's direction. And that may change eachand every day! A city is never at a resting state, always dynamic, always at an imperceptible flux.
Many films have a city as a character (see The Third Man, Man With a Movie Camera, Blade Runner, Dark City, Lost in Translation, Truman Show...alright, I'm done) but not many films, if I am remembering correctly, literally have the city be a character. Cities, whether you like them or loathe them, have an erratic nature that is still tied down to some order, no matter the imperceptibility. What Paterson achieves is finding the lyricism within the dynamism, become fully aware of life's, or city life's tendency to produce its own repetition or motifs. The loose mailbox, the one glass of beer, the bus route; there are patterns of which we can extrapolate among the arbitrary. And this arbitrary nature does not settle with the present, no, it has its history, so it also makes sense that Paterson always has an eye on what has already happened, the history of the city, and the influence of figures like Lou Costello and William Carlos Williams.
And because Paterson illustrates the intersection of many forms of humanity in such a mundane way, Jarmusch may have made his most ambitious point: that we cannot escape an overwhelming diversity of people, who may share some notions of life and living but will most certainly hold very different perspectives. And that is the way it is...it is just that, just like the film. Driver's Paterson is a hushed character (not a boring one, mind you) that one could say he is not only a representation of the city he lives in but a tabula rase, a blank slate of which all sorts of experiences latch on to. Once enough things have adhered to his being, he manifests a poem. He understands the many kinds of people that live around him...and that is all he needs to do. And yes, that, my friends, is the end of the lesson.