Each week, Richard Brody picks a classic film, a modern film, an independent film, a foreign film, and a documentary for online viewing.
“Paterson” Photograph by Mary Cybulski / Bleecker Street Media / Everett
With “Let the Sunshine In,” Claire Denis’s film about a fictitious artist (played by Juliette Binoche), and “Boom for Real” (a documentary about Jean-Michel Basquiat) playing in theatres, attention turns to classics of the genre—movies about visual artists. Jim Jarmusch’s lyrical 2016 drama, “Paterson,” comes at the matter obliquely but decisively—its title refers both to the city in New Jersey where the movie is set and to the name of the protagonist (played by Adam Driver), a city-bus driver who is also a prolific, devoted, but unpublished poet. Paterson’s wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), is the visual artist. Her elaborate and exquisite sense of domestic design provides the movie with its sense of style, one that’s as pervasive and as eye-catching as the stylization of a film by Wes Anderson. Yet Laura, a haphazard and accidental interior designer, seems even more enthusiastic about attempting a musical career, and is as focussed on making her stage outfits as on mastering an instrument. Meanwhile, she also harbors designs on founding a local high-style cupcake empire. In short, Laura is an artist without an art, without an obsession other than the drive for creation itself, and with the original and lively imagination to render anything she touches distinctive. Paterson, by contrast, is a monomaniac, who’s devoted not to art or creation in general but to one form and one craft, poetry, to the exclusion of all others (including, to some extent, of life itself). Their contrasting characters invite grand philosophical ideas—what is art, and what is an artist?—that Jarmusch brings lightly to the fore with a graceful, tender comedic touch.
“Daisy Kenyon” Photograph by 20th Century Fox / Everett
Though already a star in the nineteen-twenties, in silent films, Joan Crawford was at her steely best in the nineteen-forties and fifties—in part, because she was then working with her best directors, such as Otto Preminger, in the 1947 melodrama “Daisy Kenyon.” In the title role, Crawford gives one of her most passionate and troubling performances, as a commercial illustrator