I went to see Paterson expecting to be disappointed. As a long-time fan of Adam Driver I assumed his performance would shine however the trailer and reviews suggested a faux-artsy, long-winded, pretentious ‘nothing’ film. Rather than living up to my fears, the film met and exceeded my hopes. It was a beautiful cinematic experience following a week in the life of bus driver and private poet Paterson.
Paterson was a quiet but intelligent, amusing character interested in the world and its people. His girlfriend was ultimately an artist but had a thousand dreams which she happily pursued each day. I had massive house-envy with their yellow walls, ethnic rugs and monochrome accoutrements the girlfriend added each day. I have never been inspired to a foray into monochrome myself, but she managed it - making monochrome feel vibrant. Paterson’s comment on the curtains (Monday’s design moment) “I like that the circles are all different” will become important soon.
The cinematography was superb. There was a hint of Wes Anderson, if he directed realism. The couple’s house, for example, was still and perfectly aligned for the first few shots, then slightly closer, then slightly to the left etc. Similarly each week-day morning began with the same shot of the bed but the books on the bedside table would be rearranged and the couple lying in different positions. He would always wake her with a kiss but kiss her somewhere different each time. It was Wes Anderson with human error.
"I cannot pinpoint exactly what made this film seem so real"
This theme (the same but slightly different) ran through the film. Sets of twins appeared throughout, while pairs of people spoke on the bus the camera would flick to a shot of their feet. These repeated motifs gave the film the feeling of a song, as though each day is a refrain: the same tune but different lyrics. We have to concentrate to hear the lyrics (the difference between what appears the same), but we learn so much more when we do. The idea of slight changes also referred to Paterson’s poetry. Poems were repeated as he thought them out and refined them, changing slightly each time.
I cannot pinpoint exactly what made this film seem so real. Perhaps how much you trusted the time of day, gold afternoon sun at three showing the extent of the care with which the film was made. Maybe it was the honesty of the depiction of people watching- from eavesdropping on the bus to being alone in a bar, we can all relate to the experience of sitting and watching the world pass, with sympathy for our fellow humans and just a hint of amusement at their troublesome lives.
The subtle humour of the film was also fantastic. It was not the popular ilk of un-naturalistic fast paced wit which we can merely aspire to. Instead it was the small humorous comments and events of everyday (I hope you’re sensing a strong theme of the power of the everyday here) – a delicate exposé on the things which make us happy day by day.
This film was witty, profound, beautiful but never stilted or artificial. It was a total joy to watch and I cannot wait to revisit it. I know that each time I do I will see something different. It was everything I hoped but assumed it wouldn’t be.
More like this: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)