Tag Archives: Adam Driver

Flânerie in PATERSON, a video essay by Oliver Hargreaves

CREATORS STATEMENT:-

First discussed by Charles Baudelaire in the 1860’s in Paris, and further elaborated on by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin in the 1920’s. A ‘flâneur’ (as written in Charles Baudelaire’s ‘The Painter of Modern Life’, 1863), is someone who finds ‘immense joy to set up house in the heart of multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement’[1]. In her work ‘Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson”’, with regards to Benjamin’s work on the term ‘flânerie’, Qingyang (Freya) Zhou says ‘Benjamin reconfigured the flâneur as a decipher of urban and visual texts’[2]. This addition to the term removed the geographical specificity applied by Baudelaire and allowed for more media to be viewed with the lens of ‘flânerie’.

 

With Flânerie first originating in Paris with Baudelaire, I note in the video essay that the modern flâneur can be ‘a native of any given city’. I do however highlight two films that contai elements of observational people within the city of Paris, Cleo from 5 to 7, and Frances Ha. These two clips are played with their own music to allow the separation tonally between these films to be fully recognised.

 

Paterson, released in 2016 and directed by Jim Jarmusch, follows a week in the life of a bus driver called Paterson. Paterson also lives in the town of Paterson, New Jersey. Paterson as a character, played by Adam Driver, is also a poet. Within the film we see him writing various poems as he is between driving the bus. Paterson has a girlfriend called Laura, played by Golshifteh Farahani. Laura is a stay at home girlfriend, within the film we see her passion for baking, interior redecoration and country music. This constant outward display of various passions is a contrast to the character of Paterson.

 

The film Paterson shows the character of Paterson (Adam Driver) following his daily routine, waking up early to eat a small bowl of cereal, walking to work, driving the bus, walking home, taking his and Laura’s dog (Marvin) on a walk with him to a bar, where he has one drink before coming home and getting ready for work the next day. Throughout his day he writes poems. Paterson keeps his poems in a book that he doesn’t show to anyone. These poems are often written to reflect his thoughts on what he is observing within his day to day life as a bus driver, a boyfriend, and a part of a town. These observations being made, and turned into creative writing fits the definition of the term ‘flânerie’.

 

My video essay is split into three chapters, ‘seeing double’, ‘hidden from the world’ and ‘connoisseur of detail’. These three chapters allow the video essay to adequately explore the key elements of the film that best demonstrate Paterson as a character to be a flâneur. ‘Seeing double’ dissects how paterson is consistently observing, seeing twins specifically due to a dream he is told at the start of the film. These moments within the film present Paterson as someone who has been ‘gifted the capacity of seeing’[3].

 

The second chapter, ‘hidden from the world’ views Paterson through the lens of ‘incognito’[4], with this being a necessary element of flânerie, with the title itself coming from Zhou’s essay ‘Discovering the beauty of the quotidian’.

 

‘Connoisseur of detail’[5] refers to a key part of Paterson as a film, the poems. The transformation of Paterson’s observations into creative writing, he is shown to have the ‘power of expression’[6] that Baudelaire claims only few people possess. These poems are, as Richard Brody writes, ‘imbued with the modest substance of his life’[7].

 

My aim for the video essay tonally is to match that of the film, hence why I allow sequences such as the ‘love poem’ and the first clip from the ‘hidden from the world’ chapter to play out over a substabtual length of time. Paterson as a film takes its time, and whilst still maintaining the viewer’s attention and allowing for them to learn about this theory and how it relates to the film, I wanted to present my video essay at a calming pace, to create a ‘pensive mood’[8] similar to that of the film itself. This is also why thmusic from the film plays throughout almost all of the video essay.

[1] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863.

 

[2] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

 

[3] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863

[4] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

[5] Birkerts, Sven. “Walter Benjamin, Flâneur: A Flanerie.” The Iowa Review, vol. 13, no. 3/4, University of Iowa, 1982, pp. 164–79, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20155922

 

[6] Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. Phaidon Press, 1863

[7] Brody, Richard. ‘Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and the myth of the solitary artist’, New York Times, 2016-https://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/jim-jarmuschs-paterson-and-the-myth-of-the-solitary-artist

 

[8] Zhou, Qingyang (Freya). Discovering the Beauty of the Quotidian: The Contemporary Flâneur in Jim Jarmusch’s “Paterson. Film Matters, 2020

 

 

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 329 – House of Gucci

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

A true story of love, ambition, passion, betrayal, and retribution, House of Gucci is entertaining, interesting, and beautifully played… so why isn’t it good enough? We discuss its lack of seriousness of purpose, its failure to express itself with visual flair and use the camera to show us things we really need to see, and how it would have benefitted from giving Lady Gaga’s Patrizia the unambiguous spotlight, rather than making her part of an ensemble. House of Gucci is a film that we have no problem recommending, but given everything it could have been, to come away feeling like it’s a trifle is disappointing.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 323 – The Last Duel

Listen on the players above, Apple PodcastsAudible, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

Don’t believe the trailer, which gives a poor impression of what’s in store: Ridley Scott’s latest historical epic is lighter on the action than you’d expect, and, for a blockbuster, formally adventurous. Based on true events that took place in 14th century France, The Last Duel tells the story of a lifelong feud and a sexual assault… then it tells it again, and then once more. Three perspectives are brought to bear on the events, those of Jean (Matt Damon), a soldier and vassal; Marguerite (Jodie Comer), his wife and the daughter of a treacherous lord; and Jacques (Adam Driver), his oldest friend, and squire to a count – each controls a third of the film, shaping the story as they understand it. It’s an ambitious project, drawing consciously on narratives and discourses around patriarchy and sexual assault whose importance to our cultural conversation have become increasingly established in recent years – but does it work?

Richard Brody’s review of the film in the New Yorker helps to shape our discussion, and can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/the-front-row/the-last-duel-reviewed-ridley-scotts-wannabe-metoo-movie

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies:203 – Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

(Our two-part discussion on the previous Star Wars film, The Last Jedi, is available here and here.)

The Star Wars saga ends – for the third time – with The Rise of Skywalker, a return to J. J. Abrams’ whimsical ways, following Rian Johnson’s creative and dramatic work in The Last Jedi. Disney and Abrams have clearly taken the vocal response of the franchise’s self-appointed guardians seriously, overwriting everything we liked about Johnson’s film, offering us mild, defanged plot developments and characterisations, but once we accept that, we find a lot of fun in this closing chapter’s sense of adventure and melodrama.

It’s clear from five minutes in, having been told three times that Rey’s parents, revealed to be nobodies in The Last Jedi, are actually hiding a secret that makes them very important indeed, that The Rise of Skywalker intends to do away with everything that made the last film so interesting and challenging. It’s a disappointment, but in declaring its intention to simply continue the soap opera and gallivant around the galaxy, the film needs to at least do a good job of that. And it does, José remarking upon how pleasurable it is to see a film of such high production values, and Mike finding that Abrams manages here to really capture the adventurous spirit of the original trilogy that he succeeded only in imitating in The Force Awakens, those core ideas of quests and gangs and brand new planets all working smoothly here. It’s an arguably surprisingly beautiful film too, light and dark dramatically interacting in geometrically precise shots that emphasise scale and power. And that melodrama between Kylo and Rey that we so loved in The Last Jedi, returns and develops here, the bond between them creating shared, tangible, intimate spaces just for them.

On the negative side, not only does the sense of corporate damage control never go away in the film’s refusal to make anything of The Last Jedi‘s developments, but weak, insulting attempts at inclusivity and representation also rankle, a gay kiss especially conspicuous for just how momentary it is, a shot of two extras crudely implanted within the film’s celebratory denouement simply drawing attention to its own tokenism. José suggests that the return of Billy Dee Williams as Lando is a similarly insincere and lazy effort at racial representation, as his is a minor character in the original trilogy, undemanding of the send-off given here to Luke, Leia and Han, but as the only non-white character in Star Wars of any significance whatsoever, he’s brought along for the ride. And underneath it all, a real character, a big part of the gang in Episodes VII and VIII, Rose, has her role reduced to almost nothing here, an obvious response to the truly vile behaviour of the fans towards actor Kelly Marie Tran.

It’s a mixed bag overall, a film to watch with one eye earnest and one cynical, but we’re thrilled with its action, adventure and spectacle, and its central melodrama is evocative and rewarding. A good conclusion to the saga… until Episode XII, of course.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 201 – Marriage Story

A beautifully observed, intelligently written and transparently played drama, Marriage Story shows the separation of two people with deep and ongoing love for each other, and how they change under the stress of their marriage breakup. Mike argues that it’s an advert for therapy, the unread notes in which each partner describes what they love about the other, with which the film opens, returning structurally despite the descent into legal hell and gamesmanship. José remarks upon the generosity the film has towards its characters and the magic that Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver bring, and Mike picks up on the length of some scenes, scenes that move smoothly and in real time through evolving conversations.

Marriage Story is on Netflix now and worth your time.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 199 – The Report

 

Adam Driver and Annette Bening shine in writer-director Scott Z. Burns’ historical drama The Report, about Senate staffer Daniel Jones and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s work to investigate the CIA’s use of torture after 9/11. Mike’s been filling up on this stuff lately, quite by coincidence, watching old episodes of The Daily Show; José didn’t even know what the film was about, and the difference in our responses is perhaps quite telling, the film not going out of its way to help its audience into its murky waters, leaving it up to them to pick up on what it’s on about.

In that respect, it’s a film that requires and respects its audience’s attention and intelligence, though it could do more in dramatic terms to earn it. It’s rather a dry affair, though not without its charms – in particular those of its lead actors, who captivate every second they’re on screen. The story is told partially in flashback, depicting the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and the main plot covers the better part of a decade, shifting from initial questions to the depths of Jones’ secretive study, to the fight he and Feinstein face to get it published – and Burns structures all of this well and narrates it admirably smoothly. Unfortunately, he’s content to descend into bog-standard platitudes about the greatness of America being its desire to admit its own mistakes and rancid behaviour, without ever addressing the idea that behaving that way might be equally American.

We compare the film, as we so often do with films about institutional failure and corruption, to Spotlight, the story of the Boston Globe’s exposure of child abuse in the Catholic Church, in particular the complexity of that film’s investigation and apportioning of blame, Mike arguing that the Globe’s realisation of its own part in the cover-up is a crucial and necessary complicating factor, and not something we see here, with the goodies of the Senate and the baddies of the CIA entirely separate – there’s indictment of the people behind the programme of torture that was known to be useless was pursued, but only the barest, most superficial indictment of the culture that produced and allowed it.

Despite these issues, Mike remains a fan of the film, finding it a well-told story for the most part that does more than simply illustrate its historical context and the arguments therein, and José, who is less familiar with this stuff and has less of an interest in it, is also glad to have seen it, and our discussion was an enjoyable one. The Report is on Amazon Prime and worth a watch.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 84 – BlacKkKlansman

A lively debate on  BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee’s comic drama based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. With limited time, we dig right in. We discuss the film’s point of view on culture and cinema; John David Washington’s performance, the influences we can see in it, and whether a more charismatic star might have made the film even more powerful; our attitudes to Lee’s pamphleteering and the pros and cons of propagandistic cinema; the film’s direct address of Trump’s America and its tragic, somewhat surprising ending; and more.

We question whether the film’s comic treatment of David Duke, head of the KKK, carefully undercuts our delight in mocking him or dangerously indulges it. Duke is rendered a figure of fun in some notable and hilarious scenes, but the film ensures we recognise that he has never gone away. And Mike is particularly affected by Adam Driver’s character, a Jew in name only who, through being threatened by the KKK and confronted by Ron, is forced to reckon with his identity and the fact that it’s been easy for him to ignore it for most of his life. (The Howard Jacobson article he references is linked here: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/07/howard-jacobson-jews-know-what-antisemitism-is-and-what-it-isnt-to-invent-it-would-be-a-sacrilege)

As we acknowledge in the podcast, we unfortunately missed the first few minutes of the film, which is only one reason we want to see it again. Mike is bursting with thoughts and can’t get them all out; Jose vacillates on the film’s artistic value, though not its cultural value. There’s much, much more to consider in BlacKkKlansman than we were able to in this podcast and we shall return to it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 26 – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

the last jedi.jpg

 

I loved looking at it. I loved the action. I loved the world it created. I loved Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro in it. Adam Driver is filmed as a Byronic hero, anguishingly romantic and at his sexiest. It’s my favourite film in the series, including Star Wars V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Mike felt differently. Matt Moore, also a bit lukewarmish about the film as a whole, joins us for this discussion and points to how the film focusses on female characters and interestingly alters the focus of the series.

We discuss how the film represents a shift from an aristocratic focus on blood and destiny to a more democratic purview on social change everyone, of whatever class, race or ethnicity can engage in. Mike came out of the film gleefully playing with a light-sabre only to sit down and slash through what he saw as the film’s weaker points, though he also points out how he believes Rian Johnson is the right director for the film and how, in spite of its faults, it truly does feel like a Star Wars film. Lots of spoilers.

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or at this link

 

Matt Moore, José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Recorded on 17th December 2017.

Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh, USA, 2017)

logan lucky

Logan Lucky: a great performance from Daniel Craig, amiable ones from the rest of the starry cast (Hilary Swank, Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Seth McFarlane); every shot is something worth looking at; there are at least a trio of really interesting female characters (written by Rebecca Blunt, who it is said is a pseudonym, though it is not clear for whom), and the theme of getting one over a system that seems stacked and unfair is very well done. For a change, here’s an American film that *likes* its white, working-class rural characters. There’s a lot to praise. So why did it feel so slack and rambly to watch? This has been an interesting feature of quite a few of Soderbergh’s recent films: Haywire, Contagion, Side-Effect. And yet, there’s Behind the Candelabra when every shot is necessary and everything moves at a clip, hard to do in what is a character study, even such a flamboyant one. Odd. And I don’t think this is true of his Magic Mike films or his other more glam and streamlined caper films, except for maybe Ocean’s 13.

José Arroyo