In Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, Adam Driver plays a bus driver-poet named Paterson in—wait—Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson is a poet of the purest variety, one who writes and studies poetry for the simple joys themselves. He cares not a whit to copy his poems from what he calls his secret notebook, to send them out to magazines, for him it's enough to read them at night to Laura, his wife and muse (nod to Petrarch). He composes poems as he walks to and from the bus depot every morning and evening and we have the pleasure of hearing his lines and reading them onscreen as he thinks them. (The poet behind these poems is Ron Padgett.) Paterson also works on his poems as he sits on a bench overlooking the Paterson Great Falls eating his lunch (Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems makes a cameo appearance), a lunch lovingly prepared by Laura, played by the lovely Golshifteh Farahani. Yes, there's a lot of twinning at play, a charming device derived I suspect from the twinned name of William Carlos Williams (or as Laura refers to him, Carlos Williams Carlos) who made Paterson the locus of his imagination and his famous epic poem. The film is divided into the days of one week, Monday through Sunday, in which nothing much happens. That is, almost nothing. Paterson drives his bus. He eavesdrops on passengers’ conversations, many of which refer to other notable Paterson natives (Lou Costello, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Allen Ginsburg, Gaetano Bresci). He writes his poems, walks the couple’s English bulldog Marvin, gets a beer at the neighborhood bar where (is it Wednesday or Thursday?) he intervenes in an unexpected act of violence which turns out unexpectedly to be not violent. He somehow manages to meet an astounding number of identical twins, one of whom, a ten-year-old girl, is also a poet and a very good one. Laura is an artist as well, but unlike Paterson she’d like to be famous. As in: country music star. She revels in black-and-white designs, from curtains to cupcakes and a Harlequinesque guitar. She urges him to get those poems out of his secret notebook and onto a copy machine and into the hands of a publisher. He promises he will. On their one big night out they see a movie, the 1932 black-and-white The Island of Lost Souls, which foreshadows (and twins?) the one big thing that does happen to Paterson and that throws him off balance. But not for long. This is a fantasy, after all. And I’m not saying.
Paterson is a meditation on place. And an ode to poetry and the quiet acts of observation that feed its writing. Most of all it’s a celebration of the quotidian nature of making art. The highs, the lows. Day in, day out. I loved it.