Tuesday, February 7, 2017

"The Mundane As Cosmically Exquisite"

A bloated title for a film that’s the opposite.

Here’s an interesting contradiction. 

I saw a movie the other night that I both loved and substantially slept through.

I cannot explanatorily account for this alternating sleeping and waking-and-loving-it rotation.  It wasn’t, like, “I feel tired.” “I love it!” “I feel tired.”  “I love it!” 

Nor do I believe did the cause emanate from the movie:  “Interesting part.”  “Boring part – zzzzzz.”  “Interesting part.”  “Boring part – zzzzzz.”

My inexplicable semi-somnambulism may have been fractionally due to the smallish movie theater being equipped not with standard movie-house seating but with plush, relaxation-inducing couches.  Those couches were so comfortable…

"Excuse me.  Could you say what the movie is?  I've got a life to catch here."

Okay.   I just thought I should try and explain the possible reasons I might have…

“We don’t care.”

Oh.  Okay, fine.

Based on an enthusiastic endorsement from daughter Anna, with Dr. M attending a convention of analysts In New York, stepdaughter Rachel, taking a well-earned break from her prodigious mothering of Milo (5) and Jack  (2 and ¾, whom for my amusement though not his I occasionally call “Bob”) accompanied me to see the latest Jim Jarmusch film, Paterson. 

How do I know I snoozed through substantial chunks of the movie?

Two reasons.

One, on the drive home, Rachel mentioned two sequences she had appreciated in the movie and I had no recollection of seeing either of them.  Later, speaking with Anna, she referenced a third highlight in the movie and I did not recall seeing that interlude either.

Secondly, Paterson was structured in an “A Week in the Life” format.  The opening scene displayed the subtitle:  “Monday.”  I saw that.  I also saw subsequent subtitles, “Friday”, “Saturday”, “Sunday” and the final subtitle, recycling back to “Monday.”

Although I saw at least portions of the action occurring therein, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing subtitles:  “Tuesday”, “Wednesday” and “Thursday.”   

Which was unfortunate for me.  As well as for the gentleman sitting beside me in our larger than two-person provided sofa.

“I paid thirteen-fifty for snoring?”


And sorry, stranger…

Paterson is a movie not all people are going to like, including, at least unconsciously, not even the entirety of me.  The “awake” part of me, however, was thoroughly enchanted.

I do not know if I have ever seen a Jim Jarmusch movie before.  But if Paterson is a reliable example of his approach, I am now unqualifiedly a fan.

From an outsider’s perspective – although if he’s a nitpicking perfectionist unlikely Jarmusch’s ownPaterson seems to be precisely the film the writer-director intended to make.  There is no sense of studio interference.  Although, daughter Anna astutely observed, there is also no self-indulgent, artsy “taking advantage.”

It’s just a week in the life of a seemingly contented young couple.

No life-and-death interactions.  No hyper-dramatic confrontations.  When the “bad thing” – in the context of this storyline – happens, it is taken – not obliviously – but unflamboyantly in stride. 

A more typical Paterson “crisis moment” involves the male lead character wondering, “Do you think I should change my shirt?” 

I believe he makes the decision to do so.

Through life’s inevitable vicissitudes, the couple’s reactions keep them on an admirably – almost heroically – even keel.  In contrast to the standard conflicts we are conditioned to, not just in our movies but in our personal lives as well, in Paterson, the lead characters are never unhappy and they never complain. 

There were some foreshadowing “uh-oh” moments, but they never explosively paid off.  Nobody goes nuts.  Nobody kills the dog.

It is virtually Seinfeldian – a motion picture about nothing.

Even the romance seems, less muted than naturally – although “unnaturally”, based on our movie expectations – relaxed.

What kind of a movie it that, with no emotional door-slamming or life-as-we-know-it-ending apocalypse?

A (deceptively) simple, prose poem of a movie, featuring an observant, non-rhyming bus-driver poet.  Touch, tone, tempo – everything is in sync.  That’s what makes it a poem – the words, the actions, the rhythms, moving synchronizingly as one, in a style that is, as my research described Jarmusch’s M.O., “insistently un-dramatic.”

That undramatic insistence?  It makes Paterson more compelling. 

It’s just everyday people, doing everyday things.  Which makes Paterson inordinately satisfying.  Because the material’s handled so deftly and sensitively and because other movies, inexorably programmed to “please the crowd”, unilaterally don’t go there. 

I root for people like that.  For the characters in the movie to have wonderful fictional lives.  And for filmmaker Jim Jarmusch to be successful enough at the box office to be able to make other shimmering movies like Paterson.

I’m going to see it again.

And not just the parts I slept through. 

I’m seeing the whole picture!

1 comment:

Tony said...

Mr Pomerantz,

You must next see JJ's "Mystery Train". Three stories all set around one night in a Memphis hotel run by Screaming J Hawkins and one story featuring the Japanese poet from Paterson. It may even be better than Paterson.