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Stubbornly Ready to Burst in to Flame


By Kristin Ann Rivera (Ebert Young Writers Participant)

“Without love, what reason is there for anything?”

Ohio Blue Tip Matches. The matches are the inspiration for the first poem written by Paterson, the main character in Paterson, played by Adam Driver, a new thought-provoking film directed by Jim Jarmusch. This is where the real story begins. In the morning, just before work, sitting at the kitchen table, cup of milk and cereal, Paterson holds the little blue and white matchbox. Simple. Effective. Brilliant.

Paterson takes place in the industrial city of Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson is a city packed with rich history and home to some of the nation’s oldest textile mills, Jarmusch succeeds in capturing the city’s vivid landscape, whether from Paterson’s perspective or that of Bus 23 that he drives on the weekdays.

Within the time span of a week, viewers are immersed in to Paterson’s daily life with his girlfriend, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) and the memorable English bulldog, Marvin. Every morning, we look down on them from above as they lie sleeping. We see not only their bed but also the finer details of their room. We discover Paterson’s routine as the days progress, and the humor that ensues in his every day life with the people he encounters.

As with any in-the-closet writer, there must be a book. Paterson’s “Secret Notebook”, as Laura calls it. A book containing the beautifully written poems Paterson writes in his spare time with no regard to wandering eyes or curious minds. He refuses to allow Laura in on his literary secrets until she has him promise to make copies to share with the world. Does he keep his promise?

Cinematographer Frederick Elmes does absolutely stunning work. Not only do we get beautiful landscape shots of what the city is like, but also the pleasure of close-up shots, which focuses on the sheer quality of the finer details. From the backdrop of a waterfall to the close-up of a matchbox, we feel a deeper sense of connection to the film because every aspect contributes to the bigger picture. The connection is made even stronger to the film when we see Paterson’s poems written on the big screen as he thinks to us aloud and writes it down in his secret notebook. To visually see his poems on screen helps us to grasp better the messages or themes in his poems.

As a whole, the movie touches upon a variety of themes and situations common to everyday life. But the most predominant message that will arise in the minds of its audience is this: “Do what you love, and love what you do.” We have the privilege as viewers to learn about love in its different forms in a film so eloquently put together. The film encourages pursuing passions that light a fire within us and illustrates how important it is for ourselves that we do what we love often with a sense of confidence, courage, and honesty.

As a part of our Ebert Young Writers Program for the Arts, we will be publishing the participants reviews and interviews they produce for the workshop on the official HIFF blog.

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