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Paterson / The Look of Silence

by Now Then Sheffield

dir. Jim Jarmusch, 2016

Paterson is a film about taking note.

We follow Adam Driver as the titular character for a single week as he goes about his seemingly mundane day-to-day life. As tiny fluctuations creep into his routine, a gentle beauty soon begins to emerge. For a film that is on the surface about a bus-driving poet, so much of what is important in Jim Jarmusch’s 20th film happens in between the words.

Paterson finds his joy in subtle and simple places, whether it’s the click of his lunchbox or in passing a tree at the precise moment a squirrel climbs it. Driver embodies perfectly a character who observes everything without ever intruding.

At the centre of the film is Paterson’s relationship with his creative but unfocused girlfriend Laura, played winsomely by Golshifteh Farahani. Where Paterson privately records his poetic thoughts, Laura glows as she excitedly tells of her latest artistic interest or project.

The deep understanding that exists between the two characters is played wonderfully and makes complete truth of their love. Visually, Laura’s obsession with black-and-white serves as a nice nod to their yin and yang style relationship. The only places where the film occasionally strays away from authenticity is in another visual flourish, the reoccurrence of twins throughout. This at times feels like a heavy-handed metaphor for what is otherwise a supremely believable movie, but the appearance of twinned names, twinned themes and even actual real-life twin people calls to attention that there’s more to discover here than what appears obvious.

In a society where we are all accustomed to sharing our every thought or desire online, Paterson keeps the contents of his soul private. He doesn’t own a smartphone and keeps every poem he’s ever written in a single book. It’s a timely reminder from Jarmusch that truth trumps bravado, in art and in life.

At the local bar Paterson is seen to note the sound of records switching and chess timers being reset, but he’s never showy with his realisations. He’s a listener for a parade of likeable characters who share the type of conversations that any fan of Jarmusch should feel reassuringly familiar with.

Paterson is ultimately an inspiring film. As we see what he sees and hear what he hears, we’re reminded that we each have a poet inside of us, collecting material every single day.

Brett Chapman

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dir. Joshua Oppenheimer, 2016

The Look of Silence is the follow-up to Joshua Oppenheimer’s film, The Act of Killing. Both films look at the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s, but each explores a different element. In The Act of Killing, Oppenheimer gets up close and personal to the perpetrators of the atrocities, while The Look of Silence focuses on the family of one of the victims.

Oppenheimer’s study of the mindset of the killers in The Act of Killing was a fascinating look into the Indonesian genocide of 1965, in which a million alleged communists were murdered. In coming face to face with the perpetrators of these atrocities and asking them to re-enact their killings, we were shown a twisted and hypocritical world of killers who, far from showing any remorse, took pride in what they had done.

This time Oppenheimer is not the one asking the questions. Instead we meet Adi, a middle-aged optometrist whose brother was killed in the purge two years before his birth. He visits his parents, who still today live among the killers who took the life of their first son, Ramli. Adi’s father’s eyesight has deteriorated to the point he can barely see what is in front of him. His mother, on the other hand, chooses not to look. Despite her immeasurable sadness over the death of her first child, she dares not speak out, for fear of repercussions from the same men who killed her son.

The titular silence can be attributed not just to Adi’s mother, but also to other members of the community. Adi visits his uncle, who he discovers worked as a guard at one of the camps where Ramli was held. The uncle, however, claimed no knowledge of what happened to people who were taken from these camps – how they were stripped, dragged and beaten, before their bodies were dumped in the river. Adi’s mother claims the uncle never even told her that he worked there.

As Adi’s uncle protests his innocence, it is hard not to think of a question that has often been asked of those in similar situations in Nazi Germany: could these people really have been oblivious to the suffering occurring in such camps or the deaths that they caused? Despite not playing an active role in the killings, is Adi’s uncle still to blame for his part in the genocide, for his silence at the time, but also in the years that followed?

The most striking scenes are when Adi comes face to face with those responsible for his brother’s death. As an optometrist, he pays a visit to one of the men responsible for killing Ramli. As he gives him an eye test, it is impossible not to see the obvious blindness of the man to the impact of his own actions. He accepts he killed, but he cannot see his wrongdoing.

As Adi continues his line of questioning in a patient and measured manner, the killer grows irritated and angry. He might boast about the communists he killed, but whenever deeper questions are asked about the morality of the killings, there is only silence.

The Act of Killing was a brave film to make, but that pales in comparison to the strength and determination of Adi to confront the very men who caused his family so much suffering. His mother is shocked when she finds out who he has been visiting and is concerned for her family’s safety – the murderers aren’t just living among the families of the victims, but they are in positions of power and wealth as a result of their ruthless killings.

No matter where Adi goes, no-one wants to claim responsibility. As Adi watches footage from The Act of Killing, we see a look of pain in his eyes unrivalled by anyone else in the film. And, also unlike anyone else, Adi will not be subdued into silence.

We can only hope that films like this will encourage more people to speak out about the atrocities committed and help to bring those responsible to account for their crimes, if only for the sake of families like Adi’s, who have lived in silence for far too long.

Charles MacDonald-Jones


LISTINGS

HOSTED BY SAMANTHA HOLLAND

GENDER TROUBLES: THE BUTCHES
Lisa Plourde, USA, 2016
Fri 27 Jan | 7:30pm | Café #9, S7 1RU | £5


Andro and Eve present their third film screening. Gender Troubles is a feature-length documentary which asks: where are all the butches? What portrayals of gay women are acceptable and who is erased?

Gender Troubles explores these questions in a series of interviews and testimonials with butch-identifying women, looking at the strange contrast of being hyper-visible in everyday life but invisible when it comes to media representation. Also showing is The Test Shot, a photo documentary project about transmasculine style, shown recently at Transforming Cinema.

This event is open to all women, non-binary and transmasculine folk.

wegottickets.com/event/384845


THE PAWNBROKER
Sidney Lumet, USA, 1965
Thu 26 Jan | 8pm | Showroom

Described on its release as solemn and haunting, The Pawnbroker stars Rod Steiger as a man who's suffered extraordinarily in the concentration camps of WW2, and continues to suffer in post-war New York, isolating himself and eschewing meaningful engagement with anyone. A damming indictment of life in so-called free society, events lead to change and the film underscores that the personal is also always political. Link

HAIL CAESAR
Joel & Ethan Cohen, USA, 2016
Sun 15 Jan | 7:30pm | 215 Sharrow Vale Road | £3 w/ cake and coffee

The latest Cohen brother's jaunt is characteristically bizarre, charting the Hollywood film industry of the 1950s via 'fixer' Eddie Mannix, whose job it is to keep scandal out of the press. Link

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