It’s been 10 months since the beginning of the pandemic, at least here in Italy. We have been stuck at home basically for the entire duration of this crisis. This had us all to spend more time watching TV than usual and the libraries of Netflix, Disney + and Prime Video became the place where to find enjoyable movie or TV shows to binge watch. Almost unexpectedly the other day I bumped into a movie that I never heard of before. Only by checking its wikipedia page I found out how relevant it was when it was initially released. In the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival in 2016 and also nominated as Best Foreign Movie at the David di Donatello Awards ( the Italian “Oscars”) this film is a true gem. It’s title? Paterson, by movie director Jim Jarmusch.
Paterson: plot, cast and characters (Spoiler Alert!)
The movie stars Adam Driver who plays a bus driver (Yep! Driver plays a driver…) in the city of Paterson, a town in the state of New Jersey in the United States. His name is Paterson, like the city where he lives, and he enjoys writing poems in his spare time. He is a love relationship with a girl who has many hobbies: cup cake baking, painting (always in a black and white pattern) and playing the guitar. While Paterson has only that one hobby: poetry. He reads it ( his favorite poet is William Carlos Williams who wrote the collection of poems titled “Paterson”), he writes it ( he alwasy carries with him a notebook) and he recites it whenever the occasion requires it.
Paterson’s life is extremely routinary. He drives the bus which metaphorically renders perfectly how his life never changes. The same route everyday, listening to the passengers’ stories, from weird dating to the anarchist past of the city (Gaetano Bresci, the anarchist who in 1900 killed the King of Italy Humbert the First lived in Paterson).
At night he takes his girlfriend’s dog out for a walk to the bar where he meets the ordinary and bizarre humanity of this city of New Jersey like a couple (Chasten Harmon and William Jackson Harper) engaged in the end of their relationship or the bar owner, Doc, played by Barry Shabaka Henley.
But one day, its routine comes to a sudden stop. The bus he is driving breakes down ( due to “an electrical problem” he highlights. It is “not going to explode” he remarks), Marvin the dog eats the notebook and despite his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) urged him to make a copy of it, Paterson never did.
Without his white pages even its favorite spot in the city, the Great Falls of the Passaic River seem not to be so interesting anymore until an unexpected encounter gives strength once again to its creative will.
A Japanese man (Masatoshi Nagase) who is also fond of poetry and who is in Paterson because he wanted to visit the birthplace of the poet William Carlos Williams, asks him if he too was a poet. Paterson says no, but then the Japanese man gives him a new (and empty) notebook and he starts writing again.
Paterson: a movie for destination marketers
The city of Paterson is surely one of the last places a European would want to vist. I mean if you are from Italy and have a couple of thousands to invest in a trip to the US, this little city in New Jersey won’t for sure come into your mind before New York, Miami or LA.
But when you watch this movie you find yourself appreciating its normality. This is what the characters of the movie do. The bar owner has this wall where he hangs pictures of celebrities that some how have made the history of the city, by living there, by being born there or simply because they did something great in Paterson and he asks to Paterson if a particular person is worthy of going on the wall or not.
There is also this redundancy of the name Paterson. The city, the main character’s name, the poetry book. The word “Paterson” keeps on being pronounced throughout the entire duration of the movie. And suddenly this word becomes familiar. Through the movie the viewer starts to know a bit more about this anonymous ( but not so much now…) destination, its history and its point of interests like the falls where Driver’s character spends his lunch break writing poems and where he meets the Japanese man, who curiously visits Paterson. At the end of the movie the viewer finds himself wanting to go to Paterson, like the Japanese man, because he has a reason, the Japanese poet wanted to see the birthplace of his favorite writer, the Italian movie enthusiast wants to visit the places where the movie Paterson was shot.