Poetry on the screen

28 abr

Yesterday I visited the dusty part of my bookshelves and scavenged the books about Anglo-American literature, a subject I taught at Federal University of Paraiba for so long. I took out the dust and reopened the pages of William Carlos Williams, a major poet I so much admire.

The one responsible for this late and guilty visit is actually the moviemaker Jim Jarmusch, with his “Paterson” (2016), now showing at a local theatre. I am familiar with Jarmusch´s short filmography, but this movie came to me as a surprise, not to say it caught me. It is a gracious “mimetic” homage to William Carlos Williams, very well done.

Would it be possible to make a movie the same way William Carlos Williams made poetry? Jarmusch faces the challenge and comes out quite well, very well indeed.

In the same objectivist style of the poet (“Say it, no ideas but in things”), the movie tells the simple life of a bus driver in Paterson, New Jersey, and does it on seven days of the week, from Monday to Sunday. Having the same name of the city (and, don’t forget, also the same name of William Carlos Williams´ famous collection of books), the young driver leads a life without surprises, with his young wife and an English bulldog. Driving during the day, taking the dog for a walk during the evening, and having some beer at the corner bar – these are repeated actions… So repeated they remind us of the Portuguese title of an old movie by Japanese moviemaker Ozu: “Routine has its enchantment”.

The enchantment in Paterson´s routine consists of writing poetry on his secret notebook. It all begins descriptively with the vision and remembrance of a match box, and then grows on and on, to “explode in a ball of fire”. As he writes on his notebook, his handwritten words are transported to the screen, as if the screen were a page on the secret notebook.

Between Paterson and his wife, Laura, there are no conflicts. She cooks cupcakes and longs for a guitar, but this is no problem. On the bus, driving, Paterson listens to the strange conversations of the passengers; at the bar, he witnesses melodramatic scenes among the customers, but nothing does alter his routine. On Friday, the bus breaks, but this is not the end of the world. To be frank, this would be a movie completely without conflicts, if it were not for the denouement, when the family dog, assuming the villain role missing in the story, simply tears up Paterson´s poetic notebook, which makes him deeply sad.

The poetic license comes up in the shape of a Japanese gentleman visiting the city, a reader of William Carlos Williams´s poetry, who, mysteriously and providentially, gives Paterson a blank notebook, possibly for a new poetic adventure, to take place some post-screen time.

A bus driver who writes poetry? Well, when his wife says he should publish his poems, Paterson asks her if she is trying to scare him. The modest sincerity of such reaction is, however, doubted when we see, all over Paterson´s room, the amount of literature books he has – from Baudelaire to Poe, and, quite visible, William Carlos Williams´ among them.

I mentioned poetic license about the apparition of the Japanese gentleman, but, actually, the whole film is a big and delicious poetic license, in which banal things mix up with fantastic ones, to bring to the whole the lyricism the author seems to aspire. And all this without much care for verisimilitude.

On second thoughts, that teenager who recites her poem about the rain while waiting for her mother and twin sister on the sidewalk, had already something of a poetic license. The repetition, by various characters throughout the movie, of the expression “explode in a ball of fire” has this same effect, as well as the apparition of twin brothers or sisters all along Paterson´s everyday comings and goings – all motivated by a dream his wife had had.

This audio-visual procedure of mixing simple things and fantasy comes, evidently, from the poetics of William Carlos Williams, a poet who, by his turn, was deeply engaged in Paterson (I mean, the city) whose streets, buildings and landscape he eternalized in his books.

I wonder if the moviegoer who is not familiar with William Carlos Williams´ poetry – or who is not particularly fond of poetry – may lose part of the pleasure in viewing “Paterson”. I hope not. And, probably influenced by Jarmusch, I here risk the “critic license” of supposing that this moviegoer, after seeing the film, will get interested in poetry.

If, by any chance, this was your case, please come to me, and I will lend you some of my William Carlos Williams anthologies, the ones covered with dust and guilt on my bookshelves.

Uma resposta para “Poetry on the screen”

  1. Fernando Trevas abril 30, 2017 às 7:39 pm #

    It’s a wonderful life!

    It’s a wonderful film!

    Pleased to read you in English.


Deixe um comentário

Preencha os seus dados abaixo ou clique em um ícone para log in:

Logotipo do WordPress.com

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta WordPress.com. Sair /  Alterar )

Foto do Google

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta Google. Sair /  Alterar )

Imagem do Twitter

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta Twitter. Sair /  Alterar )

Foto do Facebook

Você está comentando utilizando sua conta Facebook. Sair /  Alterar )

Conectando a %s

%d blogueiros gostam disto: