Writer/director Damien Chazelle combines the cinematic sensibilities of Cassavetes and Godard in a gritty, 16mm, MGM-style musical. Backed by an alternately rollicking and melancholy score by Justin Hurwitz, Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench tracks a pair of young lovers after they meet by chance in a Boston park and bond over a passion for old-timey music. But like his constantly searching camera, Chazelle doesn't linger too long in any one place in the story. Soon Guy (Jason Palmer) and Madeline (Desiree Garcia) are separated and searching for new romance on city streets and in smoke-filled jazz clubs. Guy has an electrifying chance encounter with the lovely Elena (Sandha Khin), and Madeline entertains new suitors along with her own dreams of escaping to New York, but love may ultimately lead them back to one another.
The song-and-dance numbers in this youthful and original take on the musical come as a natural overflow of the lovelorn characters' emotions, allowing shy, doe-eyed Madeline to express what she can't always say in plain talk. Guy, meanwhile, lets his trumpet (yes, that's really pro trumpeter Palmer playing) speak for his heart, proving once again that artistic talent is exponentially related to sex appeal.
Damien Chazelle (b. 1985) grew up in Paris and Princeton, New Jersey, where he devoted himself to jazz drumming, playing everywhere from Berlin jazz clubs to New York street corners and subway stops. In 2003, he won for best solo drums at America's Best High School Jazz Competition and outstanding rhythm section soloist at the Dunellen Invitational Jazz Festival. Guy and Madeline began as a short for Damien's senior thesis when he was an undergraduate at Harvard University. He eventually left school to expand the film into his first feature and worked on it for three years, shooting off and on as money came in.