Cannes 2016: Adam Driver stars in Jim Jarmusch’s idiosyncratic study of a relationship
Jim Jarmusch’s latest film recalls some of his best work and, once again, the American indie maestro presents a unique and intricately crafted world. It’s an off-kilter ode to prose and poetry, and a tribute to the titular city.
We meet unassuming bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) – a resident of Paterson, New Jersey – as he lies in bed beside his partner Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). Jarmusch places his camera directly above the couple and observes their world with a curious gaze over the course of one week. Paterson is resigned to routine, and Laura appears to spend most of her time alone – decorating the house in monochrome prints, baking cupcakes and indulging in her wild fantasy of becoming a country singer. She owns an English bulldog named Marvin, whose many portraits hang on the walls of their small abode. Watching her actions through Paterson’s eyes is like viewing a non-stop stream of exquisite photos on Tumblr. You get the impression that Paterson loves her ways but is, at times, a little overwhelmed by it all, and Driver superbly conveys this feeling with a restrained charm. Jarmusch doesn’t appear to be passing judgement on Laura’s behaviour though. Instead he’s fascinated by her desire to catalogue, frame and share all her creative impulses.
Paterson is also a poet and, when writing, he puts pen to paper (the poems appear as text on screen and are actually written by Ron Padgett). All of his work is stored in a secret journal, which he refuses to duplicate. He doesn’t own a smartphone, rejecting modern technology. His favourite poet is William Carlos Williams, who created an epic poetic collage dedicated to the rich history of the city, but he also enjoys the work of Emily Dickinson, whose distinctive use of slant rhyme is often used in rap music. With the appearance of Method Man, who we meet spitting rhymes in a launderette, the connection between the old and new is gracefully fused.
Jarmusch picks through film history too. On the number 23 bus Paterson drives we meet a grown up Suzy and Sam (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) from Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, as they discuss Italian-American anarchist Gaetano Bresci. And, towards the end of the film, a familiar face from Mystery Train appears to impart some words of wisdom to our bereft protagonist. Jarmusch is seemingly drawing a line between past and present, popular culture and the outré, with Paterson and Laura representing opposite sides of the coin. The pair sleep contently side by side, but there’s a strange disconnect in their waking lives.
Screening as part of Cannes 2016. General release TBC.