Paterson: "They were only a few words written on water"
by Fabien Lemercier
- CANNES 2016: American director Jim Jarmusch, with German group K5 and Amazon on board as producers, brings us a fundamentally simple masterpiece
A process set in motion some years ago and picking up speed, the trend of establishing subsidiaries on American soil by big European groups, as well as ambitious independent companies that have most importantly grown up in the context of film with an emphasis on quality, has brought companies that would have previously been completely unlikely contenders to the line-ups of the biggest film festivals around, for example that which contributed to the creation of the remarkable Paterson [+see also:
film profile] by Jim Jarmusch. Unveiled in competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, the film was actually produced by K5 International (founded and directed by German-born Daniel Baur and Olivier Simon, with offices in Munich, London and Los Angeles – also selling the film abroad) and Amazon, one of the four ‘GAFA’ companies, paradoxically and ironically completely in complete contrast with the work of the highly skilled Jarmusche, who shoots for and touches the heart of zen minimalism with a serenely authentic film of conceptual appearance.
Strewn with calm irony, Paterson takes place in the town of Paterson and centres around the character of Paterson, a bus driver and poet played by Adam Driver who is happily married to Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who loves painting black and white designs on anything she can lay her hands on, from curtains and dresses to the spare tyre in her car and cupcakes. Scribbling verse down in his secret notebook in the style of the great American poet William Carlos Williams (a figure associated with the imagist movement whose poem Paterson, published in the 1950s, summed up the role of a poet in society in one line: "no ideas but in things"), our bus driver leads an extremely mundane existence characterised by routine, the tiny variations in which are shown by Jamusch over seven days, one week. He wakes up in bed with Laura, walks to the bus depot, takes charge of bus 23, works all day, goes home, exchanges notes on his day with Laura, takes their bulldog Marvin for his evening walk, and stops off at Doc’s bar. Then the next day, he starts all over again, with another almost identical day, until, of course, the weekend rolls round, with a Saturday of ‘fun’ (dinner followed by a film – The Island of Doctor Moreau). A sort of Groundhog Day depicting an existence stripped of all fireworks, which the director weaves together with patience, finesse wrapped in light humour and a kindly gaze, like a splendidly simple ceremonial blanket, with charm and intelligence calmly at work throughout each days and poems repeated like litany in progress, going so far as to have the words appear across the screen. A sophisticated abstract melody in a down-to-earth daily reality that recalls the evening of the awards ceremony in Cannes in 2005 when Jarmusch, as he came up on stage to accept the Grand Prix, paid tribute with the admiration of a disciple to Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien, who was in attendance and didn’t receive any award. As this is the destiny of a poet, the ability to tie nothing to everything, to keep up with the times and sometimes draw energy from imagining a bridge overlooking a waterfall.
(Translated from French)