Kam On Film: ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’ and Weekly Movie Picks

Kam On Film: ‘Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench’ and Weekly Movie Picks

—by , November 10, 2010

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening November 12, 2010

BIG BUDGET FILMS

Morning Glory

PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and drug references

A romantic comedy about an aspiring TV producer (Rachel McAdams) whose hopes to save a struggling news program depend on her controlling the show’s feuding co-anchors played by Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford. With Jeff Goldblum, Ty Burrell and Patrick Wilson, and cameos by 50 Cent, Chris Matthews. Lloyd Banks and Morley Safer. (In English and Ukrainian with subtitles)

Skyline

PG-13 for profanity, intense violence and brief sexuality

Sci-fi thriller about an evil extraterrestrial force which threatens to wipe all of humanity from the face of the Earth by emitting mysterious, irresistible light beams which attract people like moths to a flame. Cast includes Eric Balfour, Donald Faison and Scottie Thompson.

Unstoppable

PG-13 for profanity and scenes of peril

Action thriller about a train conductor (Chris Pine) and an engineer (Denzel Washington) in a race against time to prevent a runaway locomotive with a cargo of toxic chemicals from running off the tracks. With Rosario Dawson, Kevin Dunn and Elizabeth Mathis.

INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS

Cool It

PG for mature themes

An eco-documentary chronicling the efforts of skeptical, Danish environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg to debunk the prevailing conclusion of leading scientists that global warming trends are man-made.

Disco and Atomic War

Cold War Era mockumentary painting a humorous picture of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain for citizens of Estonia being constantly subjected to Communist propaganda. Starring Gerda Viira, Oskar Vuks and Toomas Pool.

Helena at the Wedding

Unrated

Romance drama about a newlywed couple (Lee Tergesen and Melanie Lynskey) whose New Year’s Eve party in the woods for just their closest friends is ruined when it’s crashed by an attractive model (Gilliam Jacobs) whom the groom had developed a crush on at their wedding. With Corey Stoll, Dagmar Dominczyk and Paul Fitzgerald.

Tiny Furniture

Unrated

Coming-of-age comedy about a rudderless, recent college grad (Lena Dunham) with a worthless degree in film appreciation who moves back into her mother’s (Laurie Simmons) loft in Soho where she has to settle for an unfulfilling job as a restaurant hostess. With Grace Dunham, Jemima Kirke and Alex Karpovsky.

Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench

Variance Films

Unrated

Brilliant Debut by Director Damien Chazelle Deconstructs a Failed Romance

Melancholy Madeline (Desiree Garcia) sits alone, freezing on a park bench in Boston contemplating what just happened after being dumped by her boyfriend on a chilly, wintry day. Meanwhile, her equally-wistful ex (Jason Palmer) trudges home through the snow with his trumpet slung lazily over his shoulder. Upon arriving at his apartment, in utter resignation Guy removes a picture from the wall taken of the two of them during much happier times.

This is the poignant point of departure of Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, an intriguing flashback flick deconstructing the demise of a young couple’s troubled relationship. The picture is finally finding its way into theaters after receiving rave reviews a year ago on the festival circuit. The delay might be explained by the colorblind casting featuring an African-American opposite a Latina in the title roles, both of whom by the way display an enviable versatility while turning in a pair of powerful performances.

Guy is played by Jason Palmer, an accomplished jazz trumpeter recognized as an up-and-comer amongst his peers. Triple threat Desiree Garcia proves formidable in her own right as Madeline, handling her acting, singing and dancing duties with perfect aplomb.

The movie marks the remarkable writing and directorial debut of recent Harvard grad Damien Chazelle, a gifted wunderkind to be reckoned with. With an effortlessness that’s nothing short of amazing, he exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of cinematic history here, interweaving a dizzying number of allusions to the work of his idols behind the camera; legends like John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Busby Berkeley.

As engaging as the picture’s premise is its original score by Justin Hurwitz and its shadowy cinematography coming courtesy of seductively-grainy, black & white 16mm film. The movie’s magical musical renditions, a delightful blend of jazz and show tunes, range from impromptu improvisations to catchy, carefully-choreographed song and dance numbers.

If all of the above isn’t enough to whet your curiosity, consider the plot which complicates into a compelling love triangle when Guy’s head is turned by flaky temptress Elena (Sandha Khin) while riding the subway. Like a black version of Woody Allen, Guy develops existential angst over his ensuing girl troubles, the difference being that he finds solace playing his instrument instead of kvetching about his feelings to a shrink.

Overall, the vaguely-familiar production has the retro look and feel of a casually-staged, New Wave classic from the ‘50s, except that no French is spoken—unless the evocative lyrics of a haunting ballad count. Ultimately, there’s no mistaking this impossible to pigeonhole adventure for an unearthed relic from a bygone era, given such unmistakably-modern moments as when Elena responds to a solicitous stranger’s pickup line with a resolutely-salty expletive.

A tribute befitting Boston and readily comparable to Woody Allen’s bittersweet homage to his own beloved Manhattan.

Excellent.

Running time: 82 minutes

The Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench interview with Jason Palmer: Jason’s Jam Session

Trumpeter/composer/arranger Jason Palmer is one of the most in-demand jazz musicians of his generation. He has worked with such icons as Roy Haynes, Jimmy Smith, Wynton Marsalis, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ravi Coltrane, Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen, Kenny Barron, Phil Woods, Common and Roy Hargrove. Jason took first place in the 2009 Carmine Caruso International Jazz Trumpet Solo Competition.

The June 2007 issue of Downbeat Magazine cited Palmer as one of the “Top 25 trumpeters of the Future.” His debut recording, Songbook, with Ravi Coltrane and Greg Osby, was released to rave reviews in 2008. And his second CD, Nothing to Hide, just dropped in September of this year.

Besides performing, Palmer maintains a busy schedule as an educator, actor and board member at JazzBoston. Plus, he was recently hired by Berklee College of Music as an Assistant Professor of Ensembles. Here, he talks about playing a title role in Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, a jazz-driven romance drama marking the impressive directorial debut of Damien Chazelle.

What interested you in Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench?

A little over three years ago, Damien visited Wally’s, the jazz club that I perform weekly at in Boston, in search of a lead for his film. He asked me if I was interested and I thought the project sounded really interesting. I was excited about the idea of being a part of a film that featured the musical genre at I love.

How much acting experience did you have prior to shooting this film?

I had no experience acting at all.

Which do you find more challenging, acting or play music?

I think that they both have their challenges. We live in a day and age now when musical performances are apt to end up on Youtube, so there was a time when I felt a pressure to perform beyond my expectations because if I didn’t, that particular performance might end up online for all to see and judge. With acting, it was so new to me I didn’t really feel much pressure due to the fact that I had the option of doing another take.

KW: Who are your favorite trumpeters?

How much print space do I have [laughs]? I’ll just say that I embrace every trumpeter in jazz from Louis Armstrong to Don Cherry. All musicians who play with heart and display integrity hold a special place in my heart.

Are you ever afraid?

Sure, that’s an emotion that I’m not immune to. I’m not a swimmer yet, so you can imagine how I must feel about large bodies of water.

Are you happy?

I’m happy today, I was happy yesterday and the day before, and I hope to keep that streak going!

When was the last time you had a good laugh?

Right now, I’m on a This American Life kick. There are some really funny stories on that NPR radio show that have had me rolling lately.

How do you get through the tough times?

The use of patience and action coupled with the belief that everything happens for a reason that we are meant to learn from gets me through.

What was the last book you read?

Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy by Robert Jourdain.

What are you listening to on your iPod?

On my iRiver, I currently have the music of Kurt Rosenwinkel as well as Janelle Monae’s Archandroid in heavy rotation. I hope she wins a Grammy.

If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

An end to global poverty and inequality.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

My eyes.

What is your earliest childhood memory?

Sticking a key into a socket and getting electrocuted.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Stay persistent and don’t be afraid to be told no. All it takes is one yes to get things rolling for you. My career has been on a slow steady incline for some time now and I have to take it in stride.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I do my best to pattern my life after greats such as Clifford Brown and Dizzy Gillespie. I want to be known as a person who made an important contribution to this music that we call jazz. I would like for my teaching methods to live on after I’m gone. That’s why I’m writing a book right now.

Jason Palmer’s albums Songbook and Nothing to Hide, are available now. To visit him online, go to his blog at jasonpalmerjazz.wordpress.com.

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