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Inspired by a poem by William Carlos William, PATERSON follows the daily routines of bus driver Paterson who lives in the town of Paterson and writes poetry in his spare time.


Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver in a small town in Paterson, New Jersey. He likes to write poetry filled with daily observations in his free time. He lives with his wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and a relaxed bulldog in a small house. The film follows their life for a week. Paterson’s life is very ordinary: the alarm rings, Paterson wakes up, goes to work, hears his colleagues complain, eavesdrops on the bus, goes home, eats dinner with Laura, takes the dog out and lets her wait outside his local bar as he drinks a beer. Laura, who doesn’t work, spends her time covering the house with black and white ornaments and designing cupcakes for the farmer’s market.
PATERSON often revolves around poet William Carlos Williams and his most popular poem “This is Just to Say” is read out by Adam Driver in the film. PATERSON is a film about modernist American literature and the influence of the province. It is also the adaptation of Williams’ epic poem called “Paterson” that also has a man who shares a name with his town. “Paterson” is the most monumental poem from one of the most anti-monumental poets of American modernism. William Carlos Williams is kind of the anti-Buddha of the big canonized heroes of modernism: fascist Ezra Pound and religious monarchist T.S. Eliot. “Paterson” the poem can be seen as an anti-“Cantos” and anti-“Wasteland.”
Williams poetry and their form orient themselves on everyday speech and deal with things he encountered in his daily life. Williams “Paterson” is a collage, just like Jarmusch’s film. There are different poetry forms in the text and it also includes letters to and from Williams and anecdotes from magazines and newspapers. It’s never clear whether Williams himself wrote them. Places and scenes in Williams “Paterson” return in Jarmusch’s PATERSON: the bus, the bar, the tales of legendary figures from Paterson. The poems that Paterson writes in the film actually come from Ron Padgett, a poet whose mundane, humble, and humorous style owes a lot to Williams.
Williams was a poet of observation and snapshots. He neither dreamt about epic battles and urbanity like Pound nor apocalypses and spiritual salvation like Eliot. It’s a very precise, friendly, smalltown, and sometimes pastoral poetry. The world that describes Jarmusch’s PATERSON is reminiscent of the small town American dream and even leads one to think about the reactionary ideology of “Make America Great Again.” But Jarmusch’s world isn’t a reactionary utopia and isn’t purely white. It’s a place where a couple on the bus dreams of anarchism and the local bar has people of color as well as white people. Laura’s manic home improvements and her cute cupcakes could hint at the fact that Paterson’s Iranian partner doesn’t have a work permit. Jarmusch develops a dystopia in the shape of a cooperative America with freely exchanged ideas, an aesthetic utopia where the sunlight on the walls of an old factory Paterson goes by every day plays as big a role as the possibility that every encounter in this world has worth. The young anarchists in Paterson’s bus are wrong: they aren’t the only ones dreaming of a life without authority.

Tom Dorow

Translation: Elinor Lewy


USA 2016, 117 min
Language: English
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Author: Jim Jarmusch
DOP: Frederick Elmes
Montage: Alfonso Gonçalves
Distributor: Weltkino Filmverleih
Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Adam Driver, Sterling Jerins, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward
Release: 17.11.2016



  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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