Nothing to about
IGuy and Madeline on a Park Bench, musicaldramatic homage, not rated, CCA Cinematheque, 1 chile Guy and Madeline: Where have we met them before? Mais, bien sûr, in Les parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), Jacques Demy’s 1964 film about lovers sorting out to whom they should be romantically and emotionally attached, a film notable for its continuously sung score that turns it into a sort of cinematic opera. Guy and Madeleine (as Demy spelled it, using the standard French orthography) end up happily married, it seems, having traveled along a path of considerable character development, both singly and as a couple, all to the accompaniment of enchanting, through-composed music by Michel Legrand.
Viewers are advised not to revisit Les parapluies de Cherbourg before they see Damien Chazelle’s Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench, which can only disappoint in comparison. They should similarly steer clear of all other French New Wave auteurs: no Truffaut, no Godard, no Rohmer. No Cassavetes, either — he who exposed the momentous revelations encapsulated in the intimacy of the quotidian. They all render Chazelle’s new film unnecessary and highlight its desperate weaknesses.
One is not surprised to learn that Guy and Madeline began as a thesis at Harvard. Many student filmmakers are captivated by the essential auteurs, as well they should be. It’s good to learn from classic models, but a young filmmaker who crafts a work of such overt tribute as Chazelle does here might consider whether much homage is truly conveyed by a thin layer of mimicry sprayed over something that is at heart insubstantial.