Double Feature: Speed (1994) and Paterson (2016)

First of all, credit for highlighting the potentiality of this double feature must go to my friend Rachael Jones, who mentioned it following a screening of Speed for my podcast The Cinematologists. As soon as she said “you should watch Paterson now” something clicked. It’s a perfect double bill, not least because of the full-on exhilaration of the Jan de Bont directed, Keanu and Sandra starring action movie from 1994 being followed by the slow release exhilaration of Jim Jarmusch’s poetic meditation on life from 2016 starring Adam Driver.

The reason it struck me as so perfect is that, for me personally, the films are so meaningful as symbols of my life and cinephilia. The central motif of the bus in both films is a way of understanding myself at the pinnacle moments in my life when I first saw these films in the cinema at the time of release. A lot changed for me in the 22 intervening years between Speed and Paterson. In ways, that amount of time changes things for everyone should they be fortunate enough to live that long, and it’s undeniable how those two buses, commandeered by Keanu and driven by Driver, symbolise who I was and am.

16 years old and hurtling towards adulthood with a firm grip on who I thought I was, only to realise later that it was me just trying to keep it together to move forward at all, let alone with any purpose. I felt unstoppable, and greeted the oncoming threats of the world as gaps to be jumped, hard rights to be steered round at full speed on two wheels, bombs to be diffused with seconds to spare and me being flung to safety in the arms of a beloved to the strains of a swelling orchestral score. The propulsion of everything at 16 years old was part of the fabric of Speed and its special construction. Its dedication to the form of spectacle – aligned with the coolness of Keanu and the chemistry between him and the sublime Sandra Bullock – have meant it’s aged gracefully, its unique composition in the field of action movies preserved in amber.

39 years old and braking towards my forties, I no longer want to hurtle, but rather navigate slow, regular circuits around the life I’ve built and experience the joy and contentment of the routine, of the sometimes new but more often than not familiar faces of my communities. I want to walk the dog, spend evenings writing and listening to my loved one’s day. I want what Paterson has in Paterson. Thankfully, I have it, and can reflect upon that exhilaratingly paced period of my life with fondness and nostalgia and see myself there and relive through muscle memory the adrenaline of never knowing what was next. But give me tiny dramas and creation for the sake of it, ad infinitum. No more bombs, just love and poetry.

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