Being A ___________ (Paterson)

Wednesday I went to see Paterson at the Spectrum and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I was one of about six or seven people, almost all women, in the small theater and it was blessedly silent once the movie began.

I was taken in right away by the skillful story telling. It’s clear from the start what the devices are, the repetition that will carry you from place to place in the movie. Like most good structures, it allowed for freedom and movement and surprises but never left you floundering in a mist of wondering what’s going on. The movie moves the two characters and their dog through each day, one after the other. Paterson, the main character, thrives in this world of dailiness and repetition, not because every day is exactly the same but because it allows him to be aware and take in all the small details and differences. His routine is what gives him the freedom to roll words around and to do his work.

His wife Laura, a good foil for him, lives in a world of changing focus and ideas, going from one thing to another, but she does have (within the space of the time we’re with them) stick-to-it-ness as well, doing some things in a series almost behind the scenes and striking out in other ways. She shows determination to master new things and to succeed although her ideas often start with “I’m going to be rich and famous and successful”. In one area we are shown that she has the ability to succeed and I was confident, as is her supportive husband, that she’ll succeed in whatever she chooses.

Into this life is thrown a day of the unexpected. First a small malfunction (which everyone takes to the “it could have become a fireball!” comedic end thought) and then a moment of fast reaction, the move of ordinary citizen and hero and then a moment of success (“I was a success!”) and then a tragedy. Not a death or rejection but a great and unexpected loss. How does one recover from that?

The next day, our sad hero goes out into the world, and we’re not sure what will happen. He introduces himself to a stranger as “just a bus driver” which gave me a pang. Was his life as we’d known it really over? Was the artist lost? But then the stranger becomes the catalyst, does the unexpected (apparently even surprising himself) and puts everything to right.

The visuals of the film were wonderful, at once repetitive and yet reflecting how every day brings new light to old traveled paths. The interior of their house is the canvas of the wife, ever changing and yet showing the arc of her work, continuous and connected. The work “place” and the neighborhood bar could be anywhere and yet spoke to the unique feeling that many hold, that their hometown is special and a setting for great people, artists and events. All this happens with the usual undercurrent of the drama of others, real and imagined.

Front and foremost though, the workings of an artist’s mind, shown majorly through the poet and his process and also through his multi-faceted and caring wife and hers.

Super enjoyed this and look forward to seeing it again, just because I loved the story line and especially the visuals of it so much.

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