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And like an earlier Paterson resident, physician-poet William Carlos Williams , he writes poetry in his spare time. During coffee and lunch breaks, and in the moments before he begins his route, Paterson writes poems inspired by everyday things. For example, a box of Ohio Blue Tip matches sparks a meditation on the pure, quiet love he feels for his wife, Laura Golshifteh Farahani , a charming, stay-at-home DIY dynamo.
Jarmusch, too, loves poetry. Jarmusch has drawn on that love, and more, to make a picture that shows how art—maybe even especially art made in the margins—can fill up everyday life. Did you set out to make a film specifically about poets and poetry? Jim Jarmusch: I went on a day trip to Paterson 20, 25 years ago. I was drawn there by William Carlos Williams, a doctor and a poet whose work I liked.
I went to the falls there, and I walked around and saw the industrial parts of it. But at the beginning of it, a man is a metaphor for the city of Paterson, and vice-versa. So I had that little one- treatment in a drawer for years. I kept remembering it, but I never really got to it until now. TIME: You make Paterson, the city, look so beautiful in the film—like a place that may have fallen on hard times but still looks really vibrant.
Our Paterson is admittedly an imaginary Paterson. There are a lot of working people there, and a lot of poor people there. The movie was never intended to be a social document, but I also wanted to weave [parts of the city] into the movie, and shoot some of it there, of course. Mark kept taking pictures of these juxtapositions. So we wanted to have a little of that, to mix those things in, not in a really heavy-handed way, but just to let them exist.
Downtown Paterson is very vibrant in that way. I love that. I just loved riding for a week, shooting on the bus—just the point of view of looking slightly down on the sidewalks, and all those little shops and things. I saw him in an episode of Girls. I saw him do a lovely little thing in Inside Llewyn Davis.
He was in Frances Ha. I just loved his face, and his kind of quietness. And then I heard some interviews with him. I just wanted to meet the guy. There are other actors who are like that—Robert Mitchum would never see anything he was in. Other actors love it and they learn from it. But Adam, no. He wants it to be believable. TIME: In general, you seem to know how to bring out the best in your actors.
How do you make it work, over and over again? Your own life experience and emotions. So if actors get upset, or they act childlike, or childish, or anything, I am totally sympathetic with them. Look what they have to do, you know? Film actors especially.
Then the editor and the director or whomever can take any part that they want. They give something, and then they give it over. I sympathize with them. TIME: Paterson weighs the virtues of writing, or of making art, just for yourself versus putting it out in the world. Everyone is so busy pushing themselves out there on social media. You only have your own intuition. When I was very young I was on a TV show in Holland with Bernardo Bertolucci, whom I deeply admire, a fantastic contributor to the history and the beauty of cinema.
But he got mad at me. There are all kinds of ways to make films or art or poetry. I would feel incredibly embarrassed if I thought I was trying to announce my feelings to the world. Could you give me a mini reading list of poets or works that you particularly love? I would start with Dante. I would start with the knowledge that Dante wrote in vernacular. He was writing in street language, so he was the equivalent, almost, of hip-hop. He was in the street. So Dante is one of the most exquisite. Then I would say, read Arthur Rimbaud, the teenage poet, who stopped writing at the age of 19, who wanted to use language in a way that could completely turn around your idea of what your senses receive.
A really revolutionary poet, artist, whatever—what a strange child poet he was! His poems are exuberant and funny and have a lot of exclamation points. I carry those guys, always, in my heart. at letters time. Jim Jarmusch, on May 16, in Cannes, France. By Stephanie Zacharek.
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