Paterson : A Film Review

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Paterson

Director, Jim Jarmusch, Produced by Joshua Astrachan, Carter Logan, Written by Jim Jarmusch. Cast,  Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Barry Shabaka Henley, Cliff Smith, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper, Masatoshi Nagase, Cinematography Frederick Elmes, Edited by Affonso Gonçalves. Duration, 118 minutes. Country. United States, Germany, France. Language, English. Cert.15. Poems by Ron Padget.  Music by Squire.

Adam Driver as Paterson, Golshifteh Farahani as Laura, William Jackson Harper as Everett, Chasten Harmon as Marie, Barry Shabaka Henley as Doc, Rizwan Manji as Donny, Masatoshi Nagase as Asian Man, Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman as Male Student, Method Man, Sterling Jerins.

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Stepping back

I think it was Con Houlihan who once he witnessed a match, seen a play, had watched a film felt obliged to let it settle in his mind. Go for a pint or read a paper on the daily affairs.  That great journalist, former Kerry teacher, Castleisland, took everything seriously but with an unusually precise vision having grown up with learning through experiences and reading voraciously he became a foundation stone of critical appraisal in Ireland. This film has to be separated from the usual hubris trailing a film from a renowned acclaimed Director. The sophrosyne requires laid in singular isolation away from a chorus of any type.  Better to infuse the critique from a sole perspective and learn from it.  That is typical Con.

 

 

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Disembarking the Bus

I was thinking halfway through Paterson there was a telling of the ordinariness of life in the trivialization of tedium which may explain Jim Jarmusch – whose Jim Ostenberg (Iggy)/The Stooges rockumentary was far removed from what is appreciated as a typical Jim Jarmusch film tale.  This is a unconvincing work despite the homage to New Jersey, the turnpike of a life that may delineate, polarise a Directors vision of what a heaven state, what life with little relative struggle – other people have struggles Paterson does not – his Bus Garage Manager Donny is the conveyor of troubles that inhabit, his life.  Paterson awakes each morning to the pulse of avibrating watch telling him at 6.10am its time to get up, pick up a set of clothes for work set neatly on a Lloyd loom chair in the bedroom and down a bowl of Cherrios.  While he goes through this routine, and it is quite utterly uninteresting, he hums in meter the rhythm of a poem he is in the process of composing.  Take this and multiply by five and you have a start to the day.  Monday through to Friday.  Only on a day partly through this week; I won’t spoil it otherwise you will be willing it’s arrival too early, a minor incident breaks the monotony.  Twins moderate the story telling as a sideline effort at normality = everyone is this interesting/boring.  They are in various age groups.  Even colour cast.

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Culturally bagged

The focus of Paterson is his poetry and it is release occupying him and one he is encouraged by Golshifteh Farahani as Laura (more appraisal in Home and her indoors) to open up his poetry to a wider public from the neat notebook handwritten version.  It is something he kind of agrees to while she is encouraged by him to Cary on creating with her own particular B/W fixation which takes many sometimes very funny manifestations.

The film streams the poetry in pretty notation of the spoken word as it emerges from Patersons cranium as he walks, drives his bus, or walks Marvin to the bolt hole of the Bar.  Marvin is toed to a coat hook/bolt outside as the customers inside treat drinking and hanging out as a necessary part of everyday.  Jim Jarmusch uses it as a crossover with the real world though in the bar the reality is choreographed into more groundhog similarity.  Similarity with things, the essence of familiar seeming to be another level of directors message relay.  The streets are clean the rubbish bagged and most people keep themselves to themselves and neighbourhoods are simplistically a non threatening place even at night.

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With another piece of turgid storymaking Jim Jarmusch makes race relations a complete non issue as everyone is non-racial.  He borrows early on an early cerebral marker for the local black Bar manager, (Doc, Barry Shabaka Henley) who as the opening of A Night train to Lisbon, in which Jeremy Irons, gravitas implanted in an empty flat competes with himself on a chess board, likewise the Bar manager. The bar is a frequent haunt, immediately sometimes post work, or more regularly, groundhog regularly, is the mid dog walk stop off.  Doc raises the prospect of relief from the tedium as he in true behind the bar style, is the loadstone of community advice.  He has a wall gallery of ‘escapees’ from Paterson which he attends to behind the bar.  Lou Costello of Abbot and Costello is a famous evacuee.  Along with Sam and Dave, Poet William Carlos Williams the wall gets quite full of former Paterson residents.  Lamely Jim Jarmusch introduces his aforementioned rock heroe who of course has nothing whatsoever to do with Paterson into the wall of fame. Lame fame get it! My jokes are as bad as his, so I could make it as a script writer. Michigan lays claim to that ‘hero’ and you will see the looseness of the attempted connection for yourselves.

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Paterson in Paterson New Jersey

Paterson is an analogue town in the 21st century.  Telephone cables lace the high telephone rigs in the backwaters of Paterson and the streets driven by Paterson are a mix of five storey complexes and two storey shops flat over old town footprints.  Basically it is a place in limbo in the eighties.  There is if you look closely – the eye is invited to shift as you are unlikely to miss anything up front and central – you may notice a tower (two adjoining – relevance unknown) some twelve or more storey’s and the larger modern residential blocks.  To this slow emerging environment of NJ the film is placed very much in these architectural idioms.  When Paterson leaves home every morning; their home is a raised timber clad bungalow with a basement garage, it’s a man dungeon, his writing office, he walks down the gentle slope to the garage.  It takes him through ‘the old factories’ and here I see the architecture a sense of retention.  It is retaining the embodied energy of earlier generations graft and as a tribute, Jim Jarmusch focuses our vision and mind to the undestroyed, or partially intact, as it is remaining, if memory alone, a productive sense of place possibly capable of a resurrection.  If this is a sense of an errand of his own desire it is fairly lightweight. The genus loci is visible through modifications to doors, bricked up to window cill height replacing the adjoining, as at the Market Street Bus depot. There are upper level blocked up windows and also versions of changing interior uses.  On one little encounter, when a day allows Paterson external reflection, I noticed modern cement block infill to a couple of doorways.  While admitting to being an architectural pedant, I also admit to observing the Directors subtle approach in remaining long enough in this environment in a scene to allow us should we feel it necessary or otherwise as another pointer to lost things or of us loosing things.  There is also a reading this scoping out of a scene has intentionally or not shown a drop in ‘reinstatement – infill’ standard which goes with the 21st century attitude seen everywhere disrespecting the past.

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Home and her indoors.

There is a complete homelife existance occupied by the brilliantly liberal and imaginative Golshifteh Farahani as Laura.  Her liberal self is as a free spirit alongside Paterson who only wishes he allows himself bigger scoping of his poetry by attempting to encourage its publication.  There is no enforced wishful thinking just a broadening of Patersns own perceptions of his own work and worth.  Laura is the intensive artistic multifarious sometimes subtle art.  Wall pictures are in colour in complete contrast to everything else.  The apartment as well as Laura herself becomes a black and white world – her need for clarity being overvexing.  It is a constantly increasing motif intent being carried over with a neat insert of a complete segment of yesteryear courtesy of another stroke of good fortune which befalls Laura.  Paterson is gracious and accepting of all successes and there is no contest of ego’s as inspiration or pressure.  The spotlight of home life is shared by  British bulldog Marvin (Gaye? Seldom in good humour) and he steals some of the best comedic moments.  The humour is there as mostly implied rather than directly shared jokes.  In fact Adam Driver despite his seemingly contented state is rarely if ever seen laughing.  Another purposeful direction which is neither informative or implicit.  Adam Driver is very coherent and a good projector of the everyman character he s required to inhabit.  He gives it his best shots.  His relationship is also not spirited lovemaking but platonic and carefree with touch and feel rather than intimate lovemaking which bottoms out the story again to the apparent design of the film.  Internal monologue of addressing the lovely Laura are deployed.  Laura lies showing the outline of her figure as Adam Driver talks and sometimes they exchange mild love talk as he readies to leave the bed.  These conversations, Monday, are initially incoherent with awakening breathing unadjusted.  It simply doesn’t work or is a struggle through the film with not much reward when understood.

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There is a minor natural tourist attraction in the form of a scenic waterfall vista (the Great Falls of the Passaic River) There is a Japanese visitor (Masatoshi Nagase) he engages with at this viewing spot. In the foreground is an arched iron railway bridge, with an aqueduct above it.  This is a place where poetry streams through the atmosphere moving and shaping far away themes and astranged subjects.  It’s where the words of the poetry are untrodden and allowed to flow and where similar types are drawn.

Paterson’s favourite poet is, William Carlos Williams, who wrote a book of Poetry in minutiae on the ‘spell’ Paterson himself wishes to inhabit.  Adam Drivers angular frame and tuft of hair, even the ink spots on his face, (moles) along with his nose which is like a fountain pen nib is sheer serendipity as far as casting is concerned.  Never closer to resembling a pen can an actor become.

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Conclusion ###3

Far from being a story or engaging narrative even as a non-story this film while looking marvelous, enjoying the good health of a Paterson – real place – New Jersey, entering the phase of winter with the leaves yet to fall, the full pelt of nature to disturb.  This past year New Jersey did not escape the brutalities of hurricanes and coastal floods and climate change threw up many challenges for the south of New York communities of New Jersey.  Jim Jarmusch is hopeful.  He portrays a place were very few of life’s problems arise and while Paterson is unusually alone in being in an eighties cocoon where very little change affects him, his closer associates have moderate immersions in the reality.  Laura’s starts of as a supernatural artistic haven of an existence but it is perhaps true to say she eventually becomes open and positively engaged with the world we exist in – the moving changing vexing one – and is a benefactor of the engagements she makes.  Likewise peripheral characters whose challenges, mostly concerning relationships are comfortably turbulent and gratifyingly akin to kin and ones own experiences.  The trouble is are you entertained or have you just inserted yourself in a Jim Jarmusch joke where he takes you in and entrap you to the tedium and resulatant Ricky Gervais like bibliographical content of an auteurs worst nightmares.  Go see conflictingly and report your findings to a consultant.

John Graham

25 November 2016

Belfast

On at Queens Film Theatre Belfast from 25 November to 8 December 2016 inc.

for a good Poem occasionally – I make a point of making poetry challenging to anyone prepared to indulge in it – my own are here – adailypoemblog.wordpress.com

Gimme Danger : A Film Review

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Gimme Danger Cert.15 Duration 1hr 48mins.

Directed by Jim Jarmusch Produced by Carter Logan, Fernando Sulichin, Rob Wilson
Written by Jim Jarmusch, Cast Iggy Pop, Ron Asheton, Scott Asheton, James Williamson, Steve Mackay, Mike Watt, Kathy Ashton, Danny Fields
Cinematography Tom Krueger, Edited by Affonso Gonçalves, Adam Kurnitz
Cert.15
Duration. 1hr48mins

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Established

The Michigan pharmalogically challenged unhinged performer of Rock and Roll Mr Iggy Pop is the subject of this chronologically travel through the late 60’s, the formative 70’s and the drop off in subsequent decades is given a whole set of musical, storytelling, life narrative so that we can readjust our ideas of him and those times.

How he has survived is something only he can offer solutions to and in most life threatening occasions it’s probably likely he has little direct recall of.  Iggy is a mosaic, a jigsaw of American traditional culture growing out of itself.  The cultural bridge of Michigan is because of its location midway at the place in the USA people would stop on the way between New York and …  The radical center ot became through the fertility of the moving USA drawing newcomers in and their influence created a nature of the cultural America was choosing for itself.

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The film format

This really is a chronology and reconstruction of the poorly dismissed Iggy Pop history and fulcrum of pioneering influence in the rock music cannon.  From Sonic Youth through Primal Scream, Sex Pistols, The Damned, The Ramones and many rip offs of rip offs, The Adverts, The Buzzcocks, you can trace Iggy’s influence as a performer once he got of his butt and became a showman, director of performative music.  The ripped, slim, small body shape of Jim Ostenberg is all over this film as a visual clue to the make up of the man.  We see (feigned privacy greets us first in the narrative roll of the film making) the surroundings.  His own large painting of (himself?) it a primary childlike oil painted strokes of him in a full face startled state, which I think is his default for me anyway, with a carton of Marlboro, creeping in to the screen as drug of choice, fits the 4×3 screen ratio (most of the film is in this ratio as a knock back to the timeshift) as the talking and brilliantly detailed storytelling is like a live musical autopsy those books nor much else could replicate. In documentary terms it has numerous holes.  We get plenty of revisited footagecofvstagecperformances, band member recollections and still frame reminders of who is being spoken of Warhol, Pattie Smith, Elvis, Nico, etc.

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Pieces missing

What is missing is footage of backstage or even dressing room insights (more an undressing room in Iggy’s case.) or road footage, the type of thing frequently found with various performers, from Sex Pistools, Amy Winehouse, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and interestingly and definitively offering many specs of the wordsmith, writer performer Bob Dylan of course alonsodeceven The Band narrative.  Another one would be Neil Young and his entry to the Woodstock inner world.  This maybe was a choice made early on and necessary for a survivor.

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Codes of Visual art performance.

As a performer he was stripped and able to burn his energy in acrobatic crawling gyrating and body flipping movements which and a photo fleetingly shows (or was I imagining) the balletic figure of Nico and him capture the Rudolf Nureyev of his psyche.  I’m obviously not suggesting for a moment there is any pretensions of ballet within his performance but the essence of the dynamic the body provides was another instrument to his band which he undoubtedly savoured and exploited within his confines. His bare torso is in homage to the projection of pharoehs and one of Nureyev’s favourite Russian ballets which I saw him perform in a very large tent in a London, and also at the Coliseum was The Rite of Spring, he also performed The Firebird.  I find it a small step to connect these artists.  Another aspect of performance is Iggy’s compulsion to crowd surf. Did he invent it?  Probably!  This is in my view his commune with the audience.  Once he’s in the audience he can act, can respond to what’s on stage like a political act.  It portrays his political statement, his being one with the audience or democracising the engagement of audience and artist.  So close to these influences – the bisexual Isadora Duncan was another American he must have  seen as aspiring to new art and he has invented the interaction many try and replicate.  Theatrical work alongside the tenors of the music penetrating the people.

Chronology as a history lesson

If you think of the Rock family tree books with their graphics and pages of chronology of the Bands and their personnel transformations then you will find this film is on the same lines structurally.  The beginnings of the bands Iggy Pop belonged too are a cocktail of fledgling teenage musicians.  Jim Ostenberg (Iggy) the drummer was a keynote figure in all the first bands and he carried along with him – Jim Williamson is one – and it is something of a similar middle American youth attitude – spawning an original direction.  They all railed against the sentimental and the commercial bombardment of Americana.  The black music first encountered by Iggy was on the demise of College band hopes and his 1969/1970 introduction to back music where the vibe and sound pulsates through the rough cut and sharp cut rhythms of flesh on bone of Soul and a kind of spiritual transcendence music was capable of, allowing a trip without the drugs if it reached the heights.  Miles Davis obviously the pioneer of new black jazz venturing out as small an instrument as a trumpet.  Iggy made a few dollars playing as a club drummer.  He became aware of others such as The Velvet Underground and everyone’s influence, including Any Warhol.  Nico.  After a turbulent few years of finding what made them, their music tick it became obvious the band needs a formative disposition rather than being a cast and crew of hangers on to other bands and influences.  The MC5 were their saviours.

Distinctions

It is noted by Iggy as a composition of the refusing to accept the given.  Extraordinarily he points out the Peace and Love era in which the band he was and is most associated with, The Stooges, were at their lucurative beginning.  Outside Detroit and in middle America such freedoms were seen by some, Iggy included with cynicism which gives us a clue to the historical memory and the form of real America.  Take the film Selma and its portrayal of Black activism then it is also a fact the rejection of the peace – of junked up sexual freedoms, TV, contraception and monetised youth of the backdraft of post war advancement of their parents.  So strategic to Iggy’s development were his parents who got his creative needs – he managed to drum insessently and loud in their long yellow trailer.  His father was an ex-WW2 veteran along with what were to become his band associates.

Back to his roots.

His father had a large Cadillac while his needs were simple and Iggy presents his family situation as loving and one were he was able to connect with his parents which is classic the traditional inclination.  It was not a case of his parents not developing alongside him as people aware of how America was shaping.  It is somehow realistic and cynical given the hogwash of the impact media and cultural politically structural art forms.  Buying into the fashionable Velvet Underground – Andy Warhola projects, the iconography of the neatness of all visual Nuances.  Typefaces, photographic primary art and freedom of speak – it had its Marilyn Manson and crazy criminal immigtrants, Italian, Irish – to be a cultural resilient pathway for all musicians cinema and artist, newsmakers all buddies.  The Jack Kennedy trust in peace was of course a misnomer.  His hands in arming anti-communist Vietnam factions in the early sixties,  presaged the L.B. Johnson war paced intervention.  This is allied to the Johnson tactic of giving democratic access to the Black community in order that they could be drafted into the Vietnam war.  We of course hadcthexlilexof Cassius Clay – a man who fought so no others need to -bridged racial divisions.  Iggy discovered for himself he was no songwriter or storyteller of the Bob Dylan kind.  Jim has a neat way of describing the difference.  He was no great thinker and mused on the preachy types he was amongst.  Thecpeaceniks, the social reformers, the activists and he displays a realism or shortcomings in a) his own ideas of values were not fully formed and besides he pharmisiced his mind to deconstruct humanity. b) the basis of active participants.  Bob Dylan has been a soundtrack along with the Beatles to the generations filling the machinations of industrial technological America.  Iggy stood apart from the industry ‘Stooges’ of corporate America.

Conclusion ###3

I have reservations recommending it as a four/five top rating due to the feel of an Official Biography going down as they say.  It is however a brilliant dialogue insiping film for all music lovers and anyone dipping into past eras especially the New YORK, Chicago shapes of the Seventies and Eighties and Iggy is a product as most of the Stooges were from Ana Arbor in Michigan, the radical state.  It follows the chronology related to many genres but particularly Punk and I have my views on the origins of the whole lot as I’ve tried to explore above. There is a good viewing well worth taking in and very interesting take on the good and evil sides of music.

 

John Graham

14 November 2016

Belfast