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Cannes Day 6: Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson’ is a poetic ode to simple folks

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Adam Driver in 'Paterson'
Adam Driver in 'Paterson'

Adam Driver in ‘Paterson’

Jim Jarmusch, who has been to Cannes many times, just might have reached the apex of his career with the simple but moving “Paterson.”

It’s a poem with seven stanzas, taking us through the days of the week of a gentle bus driver named Paterson (Adam Driver) and his eccentric wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), who live in Paterson, N.J.

Each day at 6:30 a.m., Paterson wakes up, kisses his wife and prepares for the walk to the bus terminal. He carries his lunch, which often includes one of his wife’s cupcakes, which are decorated in black and white frosting. In fact, all of the home is decorated in geometric black and white patterns.

When he’s not driving his passengers around town, he’s jotting in his notebook various poems, reflecting on such mundane matters as his preference for Ohio Blue Tip matches over those made by Diamond.

He’s also an avid fan of Paterson, N.J., poet William Carlos Williams, although most people in town much prefer to honor actor/comedian and Paterson native Lou Costello.

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He walks his ornery dog every night, with a stop into a bar, where various love troubles play out among the customers. And he talks with the bartender, who’s having a few troubles at home as well. In fact, everyone he meets seems to have some sort of complaint. But Paterson just plods on, trying to find poetry in the small details of life.

The movie is full of repetition and internal rhymes, and it plays like a gentle, melancholy poem, filled with wry observations about daily routines. There’s not much action, unless you count a bus breaking down as a big moment. But that’s not what “Paterson” is about. It’s about the nobility of trying to create art, the importance of kindness and the savoring of everyday events.

With all the action and violence and screaming in many of this year’s movies at Cannes, “Paterson” is meditative and sweet. The dog, however, is another story.

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