First discussed by Charles Baudelaire in the 1860s in Paris, and further elaborated on by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin in the 1920s. 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 contain 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’ refers to a key part of Paterson as a film, the poems.5 The transformation of Paterson’s observations into creative writing, he is shown to have the ‘power of expression’ that Baudelaire claims only few people possess.6 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 substantial 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’ similar to that of the film itself.8 This is also why music 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
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