Interview: Jim Jarmusch Talks “Paterson” and “The Ohio Blue Tip” matches

Director Jim Jarmusch . Credit: Sara Driver / Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street.
Director Jim Jarmusch . Credit: Sara Driver / Amazon Studios & Bleecker Street.

Jim Jarmusch`s Paterson is all about little details and nuances that makes this film completely work. For instance, when the film begins with Paterson, we find him as an observant person. He looks around the stuff he has at home and begins writing about them. The Ohio Blue Tip matches inspired him enough to be able to find right words and rhytm to describe his feelings to a daily life and the  love of his life – his wife.

Paterson is a bus driver and a poet, whose daily route, as well as a daily routine life has not changed, most likely for ages. Paterson is inspired by everything around that makes him to write a poem – a daily life that some of us fails to recognize as a form of art.

To watch Paterson is almost watching like your own life – in the most beautiful way. For that, the gratitude should go to a writer and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who makes the life even more profound than it is through Paterson.

During the Toronto International Film Festival in 2016, as part of a roundtable interview, I sat down with Jim Jarmusch to discuss Paterson.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about “The Ohio Blue Tip matches” and the choice of making … the bus driver?

Jim Jarmusch: The “Blue tip matches” is a poem that existed before the film by Ron Padgett. All the poems written in the film are by Ron. He’s a poet I like very much and is part of what’s now called The New York School of Poets. He and David Shapiro, when they were quite young, published an of New York Poets in 1970 that became the bible of this school of poets.

Why a bus driver? I wanted the character to have kind of a working-class job and be an artist or a poet. I love the idea of floating through the city and receiving images and bits of conversation. No poet has ever been in it for the movie; it’s not a lucrative job. So many famous poets have other jobs William Carlos William was a paediatrician. He delivered over two thousand babies. Wallace Stevens worked for a large insurance company. Franco, one of the greatest poets of New York School was the curator of the Museum of Modern Arts and wrote poems on his lunch break etc. etc. So, bus driver seemed like a beautiful way to float visually through the city.

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the flow of the film which is not a traditional narrative?

Jim Jarmusch: Yeah, I think music is very important to me and films are always very closely related to music unlike painting or reading a novel because they pass in front of you with their own time. This film I think has a little bit more of a poetic structure than musical. The seven days of the week is like the stanzas of a poem; the idea of variations within each day is different from the next and yet there are repetitions of course both time in details to watch the twins, the things he sees but also the three worlds of the film, of the home, of the bus and also the bar. This kind of patterns that he has are helpful to him so that he can float and think and be a poet as well.

MOVIEMOVESME: You had this idea twenty years ago, so what made you revisit it?

Jim Jarmusch: I think it’s mysterious to think things just happen when they’re supposed to and you don’t really know why. I actually wrote the script before I made “Only Lovers Left Alive”. I’d also started “Gimme Danger” before I wrote Patterson. But it’s more like they tell me more than I tell them; it’s hard to explain. I doubt I’m very good at preparing myself, my plans aren’t really that good, establishing what I’m gonna do next. I wait for them to tell me so it’s not a very good answer but it’s most honest.

MOVIEMOVESME: Would it have been different had you made it twenty years ago?

Jim Jarmusch: Yes, it would be different. I’d have casted different people, I’d probably have had different inspiration but again there are not things I can qualify exactly because I can’t say how. I did an interview in Japan with a very intellectual film critic writer and he asked me an extremely long question in Japanese and the translator said, “Oh, he would like to know if your film were to change, how would it be different?” I said somewhat facetiously, “It would be longer.” And she responded with a very long answer!

MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about how your filmmaking style has changed over the years?

Jim Jarmusch: I’m not analytic about it so I cannot almost answer that. It’s like certain people talk in a certain rhythm, maybe slow, that’s my rhythm and it just comes to me that way and when I’m making a film I’m definitely not conscious of what kind of rhythm does it want, it just has it. I know that if you have a lot of children, they all have similar genetic material but they’re all different people. So my films are different but they have similar genetic material of course. It’s sort of mysterious you know and I’m very adamantly not analytical because whatever strength I have is based on intuition and not thinking through too much about why would I do that or what does it mean. I feel like that would diminish my strength. Adam Driver never sees a film that he is in; he’s not seen Paris and will never see it. His gift, he knows, is a reactive one. Adam Driver’s worst nightmare would be to see himself act out the meaning of a scene. He would commit hara-kiri because he knows what he wants to do and he has a gift, which is to be reactive. I know my gift is intuitive and it’s not analyzing why or what. So, I protect it at all costs.

MOVIEMOVESME: In your movie there are so many beautiful poetic moments that are found in daily life. Can you share what’s based his poetry occupy in your daily life?

Jim Jarmusch: I don’t know; I like poetry, I like poets, it’s not like a daily ritual you know. My daily life, I don’t have a plan. I don’t read poetry at nine forty-five or ten fifteen! I loved poets since I was a teenager; I realized poets weren’t in it for the money and they really rebellious in a way and they were brave, sensitive and so they were for me like a Rockstar.

MOVIEMOVESME: Adam’s (Adam Driver) character is about preserving what he perceives to be the art of is gift. Do you see elements of yourself in Adam’s character?

Jim Jarmusch: I don’t even know if that’s true. I think he is not so self-reflective. I think he knows he enjoys writing poetry and he writes some good ones based on the details of daily life and he just wants to keep doing that.

MOVIEMOVESME: But it’s for him and not necessarily for the world.

Jim Jarmusch: Yeah, and I think that’s also the tenet of the New York school poet. He’s a little bit self conscious and intimidated, so he just keeps writing them and he’s good at it. It’s something important to him but it’s not the recognition for it that’s important for him. For all my life, I’ve tried to follow that when we make films we’re making it for ourselves. As soon as you start thinking what does the world want, then you’re into marketing, graphics and that’s another world. But that’s not my job, it’s somebody else’s.

MOVIEMOVESME: Do you ever feel like visiting your characters and see what they’re doing right now?

Jim Jarmusch: No, I kinda like to leave them alive though. I don’t like to draw a curtain at the end of the film. I like to think they’re out in the world still but once I finish a film I kinda don’t want to look at it again and I’ve never had the idea of bringing one back except in one case, Dead Man, where the character was killed in the end and I was heartbroken to kill him and so I brought him back in another century in Ghostdog just so he could come back again! That was purely because I regretted him being gone. We do have a proposal of a TV series based on Ghostdog but it doesn’t bring back the character except possibly as a ghost. It has a different writer and we’re proposing it as a pilot of a new series. I might direct the pilot, I’m definitely an executive producer but I don’t know if anyone would go for it.

MOVIEMOVESME: Laura has Persian roots. How was it for you to get into a different culture including the music which hasn’t been heard before in your films?

Jim Jarmusch: Any actor who becomes a character, their job and my job is to suppress certain parts of their own character that are not part of the character they’re playing and to accentuate parts of themselves that are about the character. I always ask their permission and discuss it with them. I like to take something from themselves and put it in their character. Laura is of Persian blood, so I have this music and reference to Persian-Farsi calligraphy, black and white painting, a little bit of a photograph that refers to her Persian roots. Adam Driver was a marine, so I have only two references, one little photograph you see and the way he takes someone down in the bar, which is a military move. I didn’t want the film to say how they met or what he had to do with the military or the middle-east. I told them if you want to have a back story do not tell me, we start on Monday and I wanna be in that moment, so don’t tell me. The actors aren’t playing themselves but with their permission I let some parts of themselves in the characters. I had fun doing that.


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