2009 Tribeca Film Festival - "Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench" - April 23, 2009
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench
April 23, 2009
Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench is Damien Chazelle’s very impressive debut narrative feature that made its World Premiere at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Shot in black and white 16 mm film, Guy and Madeline tells the story of Guy played by Jason Palmer, a Boston jazz trumpeter who juggles a relationship with two woman, one Madeline, a waitress with bigger aspirations to move to New York City, and the other Elena, a girl looking for more of a commitment. The simple narrative is interwoven with high-energy musical numbers and tap dancing in the old MGM musical style.
Palmer, a trumpeter not only in the film but also in real life, played a few bars from the theme before the discussion began, and had to leave early to go to a gig. After the screening, the moderator drew comparisons to Guy and Madeline to the movies of Cassavetes, Godard and MGM musicals, asking Damien what inspired him to make his film. Damien said the project began as his senior thesis in college and he knew from the beginning he wanted to do a musical, but he questioned doing it with the resources he had. He just learned how to make documentaries shooting 16mm going on the street with a camera over his shoulder. “The idea was to wed those two things together to try to make a musical that was still a full-fledged musical but paid as much attention to real life as much as possible,” he said.
Opening the floor to the audience for questions, the first question asked was aimed at the composer Justin Hurwitz, what was the process of writing the music and lyrics in the film? Was it written beforehand or in the process of making the film? Justin said the songs and music were written and recorded before, but some of the score was written concurrently with the shooting. For some of the score, he needed to know what the material was written for the scene. Chazelle added that he had asked Justin to write the music, and without Justin, the movie wouldn’t have happened.
How did Damien come up with the idea of the two woman? He wanted to do a classic archetypal musical plot…"the guy and the girl who break up for whatever reasons and they find their way back to each other,” he said. He wanted to spend as much time with both of the characters, not just making one the home wrecker, trying to flesh both of them out as much as he could. “We never met till today,” said Desiree Garcia who plays Madeline, referring to her co-star Sandha Khin, who plays Elena, since they don’t share screen time together.
A question was then thrown out to Damien asking him what his favorite scene in the movie was, and then later on everyone else from the composer to the actors were also asked which scenes they liked the most. (FYI, when I later saw Damien and company at the Narrative Filmmaker Press Meet & Greet, I too was asked what my favorite scene was.) Damien’s favorite…the first big musical number at the jazz party, partly because of how difficult it was to pull off. It was the first scene they shot and they spent so much time on it and when it came back from the lab, all of the footage was accidentally destroyed when they put the B&W film in the color vat (doh!). After a while, they decided to shoot it again, which he actually thought turned out better than the first time through (phew!). Justin…"I like the ones with the music in them" (LOL!). Desiree…liked the last scene in the film because it’s drawn out and creates tension (I won’t say what happens). Sandha...the tap dance scene because she was jealous that she didn’t get to sing or dance. And my favorite scene…I liked when Madeline was walking in the park alone, as I often like to take walks in the park by myself.