For Reel

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (2009)
February 15, 2012, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Damien Chazelle

A whimsical indie musical shot on 16mm black-and-white stock, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench has an exciting, youthful appeal that is clearly the work of a filmmaker who knows and loves cinema. Occupying an exciting new ground somewhere between Fred Astaire and Joe Swanberg, director Damien Chazelle uses musical tangents that are nothing sort of magic, especially a tap-dancing number that occurs inside of the restaurant in which Madeline works as a waitress. While the routine doesn’t exactly have the precision and grace that one might expect from an MGM routine, its clunkiness provides a charming, slacker energy that is wholly its own. Like Medicine for Melancholy and the films associated with the mumblecore movement, the picture takes place in the apartments of attractive twenty-somethings, here an assemblage of jazz nerds who get together to play music and dance. The filmmaking captures the energy of these parties – in one, the camera whips back and worth to capture Guy on the trumpet and the slender, fox-faced tap-dancer who accompanies the music – and Chazelle and his cinematographer stay close to the actors to enliven the material with a feeling of spontaneity. While the characters aren’t quite as well realized as Chazelle’s vision behind the camera, much is forgiven due to the delightful vivacity of the world he has invented.

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