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Silhouette Recommends – Paterson

February 28, 2018 | By

Silhouette members discussed and debated Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson following a private screening. The film deals with the life of an average bus driver in a small town in America. The name of the city and the driver are both Paterson. Does he represent the soul of the city? He may well be, cause he is also a poet with no big ambition. The film deals with the details of a mundane life and yet how art emanates from it. Silhouette recommends the film.

Director: Jim Jarmusch, USA / France / Germany, 118 mins

Recommended by:
Amitava Nag, Diptansu Sengupta, Doelpakhi Dasgupta, Sambaran Sarkar, Subhadeep Ghosh

Things that worked

The group agreed that like Jarmusch’s earlier films Paterson deals with a America which is distinctly different from the one Hollywood portrays to us. The characters are real, the situations mundane and yet from within these details art emanates and mesmerizes. Paterson was enamoured by life. We were enamoured by him and Paterson the film for its humble evocation of extraordinary emotions.

For Subhadeep, the characters played hide-and-seek with reality – at times they seemed very realistic yet at other times they seemed to be distant, unknown.  He was moved by the inherent lyricism in the poetic elements in the film, the poetic rhythm that engulfed the journey of the film itself.

Paterson’s wife Laura, a warm-hearted woman with big dreams and obsession for geometric patterns in black and white

Doelpakhi found the film in line with Jarmusch’s earlier works which she admires for the narrative style that is complemented by camera movements – the camera moves but the characters don’t reach any new destination as such, physically as well as metaphorically. Within the first 10 minutes, the cyclical pattern was established for her, the poetic repetition that was as much inherent in the nuances of life.  Doelpakhi pondered how we soon got sucked into the narrative cyclicality of the film which slowly became a universal story breaking the boundaries of culture and geography. Doelpakhi marveled at the apparent duality that Paterson’s wife Laura provided us with – an obsessive woman with her black-white geometric patterns, her shifting interests and yet her constant lively being. Probably she could see a bigger picture which Paterson could not or even if he could, he never reflected that. Who was the creative person among the two then – was it Paterson or Laura? In Paterson’s character Doelpakhi found an unusual quality to accept the unpredictable shocks of life. The other members also liked the bar scene and the comic undercurrents which was humorist all the way. Subhadeep pointed out how the pet dog Marvin acted as almost a second lover of Laura with his controlled possessiveness and near the end when he tore apart Paterson’s diary.

The tussle for exercising the individual’s choice, between Marvin and Paterson

Also in other scenes when Paterson took him out every evening we found how Marvin almost dragged Paterson to go to the direction he wanted him to go, yet at the end, outside the bar Marvin had to wait patiently till Paterson spent his time there over a mug of beer. For Doelpakhi Marvin was almost like a third eye, like the audience.

Sambaran liked Adam Driver’s depiction of Paterson and the fluent clarity with which the film took us through its trajectory. It was a positive journey for Sambaran who felt may be Everett was the only character who had some negative vibes. He also liked the use of Indian, Japanese and black characters in the internal and external poetic journey of Paterson. They seemed to him like punctuation marks in this journey. Subhadeep, however, felt that in the end Jarmusch deliberately put Paterson and Everett in the same plane as they met on the street in the morning (as compared to at night and in the bar where they normally got to meet). Subhadeep also liked the representation of multi-ethnic characters from Donny, of Indian origin to the Japanese poet near the end of the film.

Paterson sharing a laugh with the mysterious Japanese poet who suddenly appeared at the end of the film

Doelpakhi reflected if the Japanese character was indeed symbolic or not – where did he come from? Didn’t he breathe a new life in Paterson by providing him with a new diary to write on and Paterson just started off from where he stopped before! For her what made the film so acceptable was the presence of love and warmth in the lives of Paterson and Laura and towards each other as well. May be their exterior calmness came from their self-assurance that made them strong and gave them the courage to overcome the tragedy when the poetry diary was torn apart.

Diptansu related Paterson with the major characters of Jamrusch’s oeuvre from Dead Man, Down by Law to Broken Flowers and others and commented that Paterson is in line with the director’s recurrent themes of loneliness within a crowd and non-communication. People talked and interacted yet they failed to communicate. In this film as well Paterson and Laura spoke a lot, they appreciated each other’s wishes and dreams yet could they communicate? Wasn’t it that Laura praised whatever Paterson had written, a reason why he probably never read out his poems to her. Reversibly, Paterson also agreed and applauded her efforts from culinary to creative without probably delving deep into her actual emotions.

Recurrent images of twins in the film – a journey between the real world and probably an alter-life

Diptansu further questioned the interrelation between the different art forms and whether they can connect in general. This film might have tried doing it, bridging the gap between poetry and cinema in the narrative and the form structure, he probed. As an extension to this he felt that Jarmusch excelled in the way he portrayed the incompleteness in Paterson’s life even if there were no apparent crises. Yet, within this incompleteness as well, Paterson had a maturity with which his quest for some meaning of life was restrained and not hungry.

Amitava found the overt usage of framed pictures of bull dogs on several walls of the home unique. He also found the frequent metaphor of twins very intriguing. Who were the twins? Did it speak of any surreal alter-life? Might be of Paterson and the poet in him?

Things that didn’t work

Subhadeep and Sambaran didn’t find anything worthwhile which they didn’t like in the film. The Japanese poet at the end seemed a bit out-of-place for Amitava. As if the director was unsure how to end the film that he required this character to handover a new creative life to Paterson, Amitava argued.

Doelpakhi would have liked a more simple and solid colour scheme for the house which could play contrast to Laura’s obsession with black-and- white geometric shapes. She demanded a different art direction and probably a more significant musical background for the film. Though there were digressions yet the daily repetitions were a bit monotonous for Diptansu. He felt as a form technique this has already been used multiple times and with great effect.

Parts of the film that will be remembered

Marvin pushing the letterbox – a ploy he did daily to irritate Paterson

Subhadeep remembered the comic scene when the audience could make out why the letter-box got slanted every day along with the last meeting between Paterson and Everett on the streets.

Sambaran and Diptansu recollected the interaction between the two poets, Paterson and the young girl as well as the comic moments with Marvin. Doelpakhi also remembered one similar event when we found a singer in a laundry, he also was, like Paterson, a self-absorbed creative person. Doelpakhi was moved by Paterson’s dialogue after his diary was torn to pieces by Marvin – “These are only words.”

The other texts (films or otherwise) which come to mind watching Paterson

Paterson looking at something – warm, intense and meaningful

Doelpakhi and Diptansu both found traits of Paterson similar to Meursault of Albert Camus’s ‘Outsider’. Like Meursault, Paterson was also an observer, we found him gaze at objects and individuals but we were unable to fathom the depths of his imaginations. Doelpakhi also drew parallels with Murakami’s lead characters in his novels that mostly are lonely and yet who continue to execute their own circles of life. Sambaran was reminded of T S Eliot’s poetry while Subhadeep remembered Jibanananda Das’s ‘Amaake Ekti Katha Dao’.

For Amitava, Paterson’s look was different, unobtrusive, simple yet deep, almost like Apu in Satyajit Ray’s Apur Sansar. In a sense he also remembered William Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Reaper’ not only because of the reference of Petrarchan sonnet in the film. In Wordsworth’s poem the poet eavesdropped and gazed on the maiden who was lost in translation, an artist herself observed by another, the poet just as Paterson reacted to the artists around him and in turn transformed his observations into lyrical poems.

Silhouette rating: 7.4/10

Content: 4.5/5
Cinematography: 3.3/5
Sound: 3.1/5
Overall Appeal: 7.6/10

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Framing Cleo In Paris

Matrix of Claustrophobia: Raise the Red Lantern

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Silhouette Film Society, formed in 2001 was a group of eventless youth who clubbed together in the placid afternoons of leisurely Calcutta Saturdays. They discussed cinema, argued with their PoVs, fought vociferously and loved the conundrum. Members joined and lost, to corporate bandwagons, to film schools and yet Silhouette sailed through with private film shows and an enviable magazine -  Silhouette to be proud of. Over time the print edition made way for a web magazine as the scope of the magazine expanded, members became busy, film shows were rare and confined to occasional festival meetings. Came 2018 the old musketeers regrouped again since they allowed enough nonsense with themselves. This film-viewing group of new friends and old sinners now plan to watch films regularly and write reports on them. The choice is deliberately arbitrary - an award winning film, an unexplored genius, a neo-avantgarde cacophony and what not. Masters will be exempted for greener pastures. Literally. The intention is not to shell out a film review in its typical gamut, rather this will be less formal and more personal. Silhouette recommends with ratings - so sit on the edge and enjoy the bang.
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