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GUY AND MADELINE ON A PARK BENCH (director/writer: Damien Chazelle; editor: Damien Chazelle/W. A. W. Parker; music: Justin Hurwitz; cast: Jason Palmer (Guy), Desiree Garcia (Madeline), Sandha Khin (Elena), Frank Garvin (Frank), Andrew Hayward (Andre), Alma Prelec (Alma), Bernard Chazelle(Paul); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Jasmine McGlade/Mihai Dinulescu; Cinema Guild; 2009)
Strongly influenced by Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Written and directed as a semi-documentary with panache by Harvard grad Damien Chazelle, in his debut feature film. It brings together in an avant-garde, aesthetic way, a mix of jazz and an active youthful city scene in Boston’s colorblind jazz community. Strongly influenced by Demy’s Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Godard’s A Woman Is A Woman (1961), Cassavetes’ Shadows (1959), and Akerman’s The Golden Eighties (1985), this blissful cinema-verite styled musical, shot with a non-professional cast, in black-and-white, with a slight elliptical narrative, comes to life with an up-and-down interracial romance between self-absorbed confident black trumpeter Guy (Jason Palmer), influenced by jazz greats such as Clifford Brown and John Coltrane, and the introverted white waitress and graduate student Madeline (Desiree Garcia). The film features the stirring original music byJustin Hurwitz, that was recorded by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra and choreographed by Kelly Kaleta.

It follows along Hollywood’s romantic conventional lines, where the fore-mentioned romantics meet on the cute at a park bench, stay together for three months, break-up and become involved with other people (he picks up, on the subway, Elena (Sandha Khin), and she travels to NYC and meets an older man (Bernard Chazelle, the director’s father) and, when Guy breaks up with Elena and she returns to Boston, they reunite after meeting accidently in the street. It concludes with the possibility that they will live together happily ever-after, or perhaps she will not forgive him for dumping her and they will go their separate ways.

There are a few scenes that stick out as inspired and though amateurish in presentation are nevertheless all the more infectious because they are so genuinely ebullient: the trumpet playing and spontaneous tap dancing at Boston’s legendary tiny jazz mecca, Wally’s Jazz Cafe, and Madeline breaking into a joyous tap dance while at work at the Summer Shack restaurant, as she learns that Guy is a free man again.

Chazelle might be part of the same mumblecore crowd at Harvard that brought us Andrew Bujalski.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”