Jim Jarmusch's Paterson: Poetry, Place, and Cinematic Form

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Book Chapter

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Department 1



A passion for poetry textures nearly all Jim Jarmusch films. Some connection to poets and poems can be seen scattered across films even when deeper connections do not exist. For example, in Down by Law (1986), Roberto (Roberto Benigni) exuberantly expresses his passion for Walt Whitman and "Bob" Frost. the film concludes with a shot that visually echos "The Road Not Taken," one of Frost's most renowned poems. In Mystery Train (1989), a pair of Japanese tourists walk down Chaucer Street in Memphis. Jarmusch creates a more intricate nod to poetry in Dead Man (1995). The film features a protagonist named William "Bill" Blake (Johnny Depp), and Jarmusch inserts language from the poet William Blake throughout the screenplay. He even allows Nobody (Gary Farmer), Bill Blake's aboriginal guide, to quote from Blake's "Proverbs from Hell." As Hugh Davis notes, these nods to Blake move beyond a mere adaptation of Blake's poetry: "The film represents a synthesis of the very different media of poetry and film into a form that transcends what either can do individually" (94). [excerpt]

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