Paterson –Return to the Poetics of the Mundane

              After his short fieldtrip to the vampire universe, to which Jim Jarmusch had gained a lot of new fans, but, at the same time, let his old ones down, I’m thrilled to see him returning to his signature domain.  Back in the 1980s young Jarmusch was one of the leaders of the modern American independent cinema. He created such a specific, impeccable style, following the footsteps of his role model John Cassavetes and mentor Wim Wenders. With a minimal budget and some lousy camera work, his prime focus was to put those little lives, those characters usually invisible and unimportant to the cinematic eye, on the spot. His heroes were you and me; they had no superpowers, their lives weren’t exciting, they were just tourists, taxi drivers, small-time gamblers, immigrants, local drunks and lowlifes. What Jarmusch wanted was to find beauty in the everyday life, and a rhythm in the routine. And with Paterson (2016), he did it, all over again.paterson_producers_interview_no_film_school_3

            Paterson is not only Jarmusch’s stylistic return to his roots, but it brings out the forgotten motives behind the emergence of the whole contemporary indie movement in the West. An aspiring poet driving a bus (Adam Driver) is exactly what the theatres need to be showing somewhere between all the Jennifer Lawrence’s and Chris Pratt’s saving of the earth/mankind/galaxy. The exact same point was made by casting Driver, who, as we all know, plays the ultimate villain in one of the most culturally significant fantasy movie sagas of our time, as a completely normal, unforgettably forgettable character, writing poems about matches. It is a dose of realism – a movie that hits so close to home, way, way to close (heck, my dog also ate my secret poetry notebook). And at the same time, it discloses just how incredibly far the universe, in which popular Hollywood movies reside, is from our own one.

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            There’s also a persistent nostalgic feel about the movie, however it’s not the collective, but the director’s nostalgia we witness. The mise-en-scène, those buildings so tightly pressed to one another, the brick walls, neon signs and millions upon millions of wires hanging above people’s heads remind us of towns depicted in Stranger than Paradise (1984) and Night on Earth (1994), while Method Man’s cameo in a winter hat is a direct reference to Giancarlo Esposito’s role of Yoyo. The only thing that was missing (though I kept hearing it in my mind while watching) was a striking Tom Waits melody in the background.

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            Paterson is not Jarmusch’s best work, it may not even be in my top 5, but it’s just so exciting to see him still pushing his old ideas, the unified glorification and critique of the everyday life, in the centre stage. The characters stuck in their routines and their small towns, with big dreams but no way to achieve them or to escape the reality they were born into, the pleasurable small talks and insignificant stories they tell each other, just feel so good to watch, because it’s their comfort zone you’re seeing, and, terrifyingly enough, it is exactly your own.

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The Singing Corpse – A New Hope

 

So 2016 is finally over, and it has taught us a few valuable lessons. Marked by numerous deaths of iconic pop cultural figures, it made us think about the time we’re living in, and the disturbing current lack of true talent in the media spotlight. The songs on the radio all sound completely the same, unsincere, with pop stars being just a herd of sheep obeying the laws of the market, and there is not a single innovative trend setting individual on sight. It was also quite a terrible year for the movies. We’ve watched so many flicks, just to be leaving the cinema totally disappointed. Forgettable and unimaginative are two key words to describe 2016 in movies.

I find the core problem to be in the way filmmakers these days see the film: let’s just make as many movies as we can, starring all the exact same faces as in the other well selling movies, stack as much CGI as you can in there, and then we’ll make a trailer with a bunch of kapow-boom-bang sound effects, so the crowd will get all excited and they will pay to see our movies. Yeah, sounds like a great plan, so, what about the plot? Fuck the plot, man, people don’t want to see anything new, just keep them in their comfort zone. Oh yeah, and also, let’s make aliens look like octopuses. Remarkable!

The lack of idea at this point is alarming. Movies are not only a medium to make money on; they are first of all and most importantly – a form of art. And not just any kind of art; it’s by far the broadest one. It has the ability to combine the visuals, sounds and all sorts of effects nowadays to make a story so vividly come to life before our very eyes. And movie makers have been taking those powerful tools in vain.

This is where Swiss Army Man (2016) comes in. Created by The Daniels, a couple of young directors mostly known for their work in music videos, it is the single most weirdest movie of the past year, and you cannot deny that, whether you loved it or hated it. I believe the movie benefits so much exactly from the directors’ music video background, because they know how to tell an upbeat, out-of-this-world story, within just 4 minutes of time. When discussing this movie, viewers focus too much on the farts and the boners, so foolishly letting themselves be blinded and not seeing the moral of the story that had just been unveiled so wonderfully before their eyes. The plot is essentially just your everyday misfit anti-hero story: an individual alienated by/from the society, painfully living out his tragedy, but suddenly finding a way to fight through it and getting back on their feet, driven by no other than the impulse of love and the need to actualize it. But it is the way the story was told that is so amazing and gives us just that glimpse of hope that maybe, just maybe, there is a new generation of film directors that will overtake the industry with their fresh and imaginative view of the cinema and the use of all its tools.cc833329

Marked with what can be described as pure adolescent humour, Swiss Army Man is a sugar-coated psychological musical drama about loneliness and, debatably, of coping with a serious mental illness. And the plot is unveiling in such a beautiful, borderline fantastical way. As suicidal Hank sees his life passing before his eyes in the form of a talking dead body, which awakes a new life force within him and giving him all the tools to escape his deserted, isolated island, viewers can’t help but wonder, what is real here and what is not, and just what the hell am I watching?! And those questions all appear because we have gotten so used to watching the same stories, the same damn recycled movies all the time. And then a fart, a boner and a singing corpse startle us! Why would anyone make such a movie?

Well, why the bloody hell not? The public has to loosen up, stop being so posh and uptight, it has to find and wake their inner child up, you know the one that they proclaimed dead and gone so long ago. And just have fun. Not everything has to make sense in movies, for it is a form of art, an expression, an idea. It’s fantasy, and so it should be nothing less than fantastic. Not everything has to be explained, reasoned, justified, and not all movies have to have a happy end.

If a movie makes you angry, makes you sad or makes you think,makes you want to discuss it, well then it’s a movie worth watching. Get used to being surprised and being uncomfortable in front of the silver screen! And so here the Daniels have given a very important lessons to the public and the film industry. Let’s just hope it will resonate among at least some of them, and the future of the movies will be looking bright.