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3 More Film reviews… Paterson, Split and Manchester By The Sea


PATERSON is a new film by Jim Jarmusch. It follows a week (a Monday to Monday) in the life of Paterson (Adam Driver), a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, who writes poetry, is married to Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), a home-body ‘adventuring’ with artistic explorations in ‘black and white’ forays, with an English Bulldog, called Marvin (Nellie), for company.

Every day has a similar pattern of task, at variance only on the weekend. It is about the little everyday world and the ordinary intimacies of exchange between the casual acquaintances of the bus route and his nightly visit to his local bar and, mostly, with the loving husband and wife who have ambitions (maybe twins!) – small, though they seem to be. Paterson in his note book writes poetry, inspired by the surrounds and denizens of Paterson. Laura decorates the house, creates dresses and decorates cup-cakes, and learns to play a guitar. Marvin watches protectively over his domain and with his ‘jealousy’ provokes the only real drama of the story.

Mr Jarmusch with Cinematographer, Frederick Elmes and Production Designer, Mark Friedberg, create a glow of beauty on the drab surrounds of a small town. I kept recalling Thornton Wilder’s affectionate and gently profound play OUR TOWN.  Paterson, the city/town which claims, in the film, Lou Costello as a son, as well as the modern American poet William Carlos Williams (he wrote a 5 volume book of poetry about Paterson), is revealed by the settled routine of the daily life of the characters we meet in 2016. They are captured in a steady cinematic rhythm of enveloping drollness, masterfully controlled by Mr Jarmusch without any hesitation to embrace the time for us to absorb delicate, incidental detail. Mr Jarmusch reveals himself as a poet of the image, accompanied by a gentle soundtrack, mostly composed, by Mr Jarmusch himself. This is unashamedly what some would call an Art Film – and it is as idiosyncratically beautiful in its composition as other films by this Director: STRANGER THAN PARADISE (1984), DEAD MAN (1995),ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013). A consistent ‘auteur’ of the medium in his very unique remarkable artistic manners.

Adam Driver, who we have noticed more and more arrestingly on our screens (STAR WARS; THE FORCE AWAKENS – 2015; and in the up-coming SILENCE), here in his steady ease as a ‘good’ man looking at the world around him with a gentle optimism and faith that inspires his poetic bent – his personal crisis rescued with a meeting of ‘magical’ coincidence – is hypnotic in his secure demeanour of not appearing to be doing anything but living in front of us – his apparent simplicity is a great gift for the film and the audience. (Paterson’s poetry the work of Ron Podgett).  Ms Farahani provides gentle eccentricity that creates a cocoon of warmth in the domestic world that is menaced only by the devotion of Marvin.

I am a fan of the eccentricity and courage of the worlds that Jim Jarmusch creates and if you love the medium of film, loving PATERSON (and all his other work) will be no effort. Highly recommended, for all, who are not frenetic.


Oh, woe. Oh, woe, woe, woe.

This is an awful couple of hours in the cinema. I went because my ‘date’ loves the horror, ‘scary’ genre. And I thought it can’t be all ‘bad’ as it has one of the more interesting actors in the industry James McAvoy playing the lead (ATONEMENT (20007), THE LAST STATION (2009), X MEN – FIRST CLASS (2011), FILTH (2013). The temptation to play a character, Kevin, who is suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) with 23 diagnosed personalities (another one manifests during the storytelling), is too big to say NO, too. I reckon, Mr McAvoy should have been wiser because this is a shambling tale with the classic supposition that being mentally ill automatically equates as being dangerous. I understand there has been some distress in the relevant community about the depiction of this character’s disability and some protest.

I believe there should be some protest about the quality of the body of work of M. Night Shyamalan which since his first film THE SIXTH SENSE (1999), which was his artistic peak, has been on an unceasing downward spiral of ordinariness ever since. Sure his films, generally, make money, but at what cost to other artists who could benefit from studio support. Here is an example of the Hollywood business ‘numbers’ game in glaring evidence.

Not only is the screenplay ‘lame’ (superficial) and the editing leaving logic holes all over the place and with no forward propellant in the tempo of the storytelling – it is in a ‘flat-footed’ static mode – no real tension, no hold-your breath moments, the acting is, only, at best competent: Betty Buckley as Doctor Karen Fletcher; or really awful: Anya Taylor-Joy, as Casey Cookie (really Mr Shyamalan, that name is meant to be taken seriously?!) The other two kidnapped girls are shuffled off-screen very quickly, thank goodness, but only after one of them has been gratuitously stripped down to bra and undies and paraded down a hallway for our salacious delectation. Mr McAvoy, who can do, has done, better work, is mostly having, it seemed, a lot of fun dressing-up and glibly demarcating, physically, the personas he has to play – the CGI ‘Beast’ being a total joke at his expense – one could only laugh at its grossness.

This film has made money, I read.  It has, too, had some positive critical response but it could only be because this film is a bit better than Mr Shyamalan’s past stuff. Give it a miss. It is so ridiculous on so many levels that only fanatical fans could ‘buy’ it. When one thinks of this genre I have Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960), Jack Clayton’s THE INNOCENTS (1961), or Polanski’s ROSEMARY S BABY (1968) as benchmarks of suspense and mounting horror. It is cheaper to buy those movies online or at your DVD store and view at home than to buy a ticket at the cinema to see SPLIT at your local cinema.


MANCHESTER BY THE SEA is a film Written and Directed by Kenneth Lonergan. Kenneth Lonergan has written some wonderful plays: THIS IS OUR YOUTH (1996), THE WAVERLEY GALLERY (2000) – Pulitzer Prize winner – and LOBBY HERO (2001).and wrote and directed his first film the remarkable YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (2000) with Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo, and followed it up with a modern social epic called MARGARET, with Anna Paquin and a legion of great New York character actors. MARGARET was made in 2005 but was not released until 2011 after a ‘terrible’ disagreement and battle between the producers, studio and Mr Lonergan. There are two versions of the film a two and a half hour cinema edit and the three hour eighteen minute version on DVD. The latter the preferred Directorial ‘cut’. It has, subsequently, been ranked by a BBC Poll as one of the great films of the twenty first century – number 31. (Lonergan had, as well, worked on the script of Scorcese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK.)

Mr Lonergan has a view of the world informed by a close study of the human, influenced, perhaps, by a Freudian education from his family – both of his parents (mother and step father) being psychiatrists and analysts.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA concerns Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) whose brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) suddenly dies and he  finds himself designated as the ‘guardian’ of his teenage nephew, Patrick (Lucas Hedges). He has been drawn back to Manchester, reluctantly, and, we, via the flash-backs to an earlier time, come to see a tragedy that Lee has never ‘moved on’ from. What he does in the present time is acutely affected by his past life. In a very interesting article in the November 7th, 2016 The New Yorker by Rebecca Mead, Lonergan is quoted with an alternative observation of the different ways we may respond to trauma, and in the case of Lee, it neither kills him nor makes him stronger but simply, permanently, maims him. There is not any happy ending here. It is a registering of a truth of some lives, where the trauma is not to be worn away.

And this is what we watch in Casey Affleck’s cauterising performance where his actor’s choices makes every piece of dialogue formidably packed with complicated content and fathoms deep of emotional complexity and pain-filled truths. The many moments of silent communication that Mr Lonergan takes in close-up of Mr Affleck, during the film’s length, are full of a knowing of grief that we as an audience have the space to endow, that makes the film a moving devastation of participation for the attentive audience – we experience the tragedy of Lee, personally, and we come to a shared realisation of the burden of a bottomless grief.

There is not a false note in any of the other performances either. For instance, Lucas Hedges, as teenage Patrick, who plumbs the ‘giddiness’ of what it is to be young and trying to respond truthfully without loss-of-face to the world he is growing-up in, in the blast of tragic loss and emotional destabilising fissures. He is achingly ‘young’.

Mr Lonergan’s script illustrates the peculiar juxtaposition of the great strokes of tragedy sitting without much of a dividing line beside comedy. The comedy of non-sequiturs, the comedy of real life, where the need to seriously critique Star Trek is as demanding in the hours of that insufferable psychic pain, in the tradition of the Chekhovian heritage we have been given. The film is enriched by its perfectly observed ‘humour’. The two masks of drama: Comedy and Tragedy sit well together in this film.

Too, one should mention Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler who make transformational impact in their supporting scenes. (One does need to remark on the sheer physical ‘beauty’ – sexiness – of Mr Lonergan’s casting, and note it alongside the geographical beauty he sets his film in, to see his ‘trick’ to seduce us to an easier acceptance of the real pain and ‘horror’ of this story of human despair and pain – the beauty of the ‘flower’ and the ‘serpent’ beneath it.)

Mr Lonergan with his cinematographer, Jody Lee Lipes, capture the scenic beauty of this Massachusetts’s fishing village, covered in snow and reflected harbour stillness – the glory of nature in stark contrast to the turmoil of the people living in it, on it. The strife of the human condition in placid, passive nature. The blues of the sky and the sea blurred into the ether, masking, hiding the demarcating horizon. The sea and the universe one – a vast collective unconscious.

Lesley Parker in charge of the Music reflects the classic Tarkovsky/Malick manipulation of choosing sacred music to support and elevate the banality of pain – shifting real life into an ethereal motif of universal dignity (ANDREI RUBELEV (1966)/THE NEW WORLD (2005), and effortlessly takes us there.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, is a film from a perceptive human being that examines, fearlessly, aspects of what it is to be human in the twenty first century (all his writing is redolent with this vision) with an artist’s control of deliberate aesthetic to keep us engaged. It is subtly manipulative but its power subsumes any cynicism that one may have while watching.

Two American films crammed with great acting and artistic integrity: MOONLIGHT and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, are not to be missed experiences in the communal cinema space.

It has been a good year, so far, to go to the cinema to see some great films, movies, pictures, flicks.