More noise than signal


Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

This episode’s catch-up corner sees us turn our attention to the recently appearing on Netflix Paterson, last year’s widely acclaimed film from Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch, will he do the fandango?

Ahem. Sorry.

This follows wannabe poet and bus driver Paterson (Adam Driver) going through his routine over a week or so, driving, writing, then going home to his off-beat girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and taking cinema’s most hateful dog for a walk, sometimes stopping by the local bar for a drink and to witness the latest drama in his friend’s lives.

Paterson’s life itself is largely drama-free, however. Indeed, for the bulk of the film it seems like the most traumatic thing that will happen to him is that his bus breaks down, mildly inconveniencing almost ten people, for a short while.

The rest of it largely consists of staring at a dog while Laura tries to turn their entire apartment monochromatic, but they seem to be happy and supportive of each other’s ambitions, so who am I to judge? #woke.

I contend that Adam Driver is a computer generated character, and Paterson provides little evidence of his alleged humanity. His uncanny-valley appearance, and his weird, blank canvas performance/sub-routine proves to be a real deterrent to absorbing all of the dramatic narrative this film hasn’t.

I do not get this film, or the reason for its existence, or what on earth it’s trying to say. Paterson’s most profound poetry is simply a description of his favourite matches, and what drawer he keeps them in. After a while, I got the message that I wasn’t supposed to be taking this seriously, but as it’s not particularly funny, or entertaining, or in any way meaningful, I cannot fathom in which way I am meant to be taking it.

I suppose I’m just biased against Jarmusch, and his silly hair – the first film of his I saw was Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai back in my Uni days, and despite the title it did not tell the story of a vengeful basset hound spirit slicing and dicing his way to redemption, and was instead a prettily shot, dreamless outing about a hitman being targeted for death himself. I suppose, then, I should not be surprised that a bus driver driving a bus does not provide much purchase on the cliffs of drama, falling instead into the sea of politely baffled non-plussedness.

I concede there is something at least somewhat alluring about Paterson, inasmuch as despite little bar terrible poetry occurring for two hours, I don’t entirely hate it. I think its very existence confused me so much that I forgot to be bored by it.

I keep seeing reviews claiming Jarmusch as a master story-teller, but there’s not a story in the film. Apart, perhaps, from his dog eating his homework.

It’s a strange little film, that appears to have little meaning to it, and isn’t very entertaining. Aside from that, film of the year.