Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Free Culture

It is Jazz Appreciation Month at the Smithsonian at the moment. My friend Shanti knows these things because her job entails wineing and dining the Government's visitors. Woo!

On Friday, she took us to the National Museum of American History. First, we picnicked outside for dinner. A variety of jazz and jazz-like songs played out of speakers hidden in artificial rocks in the garden around the museum.

When it was almost 6:30, we took our seats in an almost empty auditorium. Besides us, there were a few young couples, two old white men, a black man in the front with a note pad, a couple of black women, and a homeless man wearing a hoodie. "What is the running time of the film?", asked the homeless man. "Around 80 minutes". 

The film being shown was Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench. It is a modern musical made by a 24 year old Harvard Film School graduate, Damien Chazelle. The film has received high acclaim, as the Web site shows.

If you enjoy Cassavettes-style film-making that is poignant and whimsical, yet documentary-like and narrative driven, I suggest you see this film when it is released later this Fall. If you have a particular penchant for jazz music, then you will absolutely love this film. And if you are a lover of music but impartial to jazz because you are too young/too *insert reason here*, you may still love this film.

The reason is this: The film features all original music written by Chazelle, composed by Chazelle's old college roommate Justin Hurwitz, and performed by the Bratislava Symphony Orchestra. Considering the film is a musical, this is a very impressive feat for Harvard-educated amateurs. Listen to the music here. The songs are quite gorgeous and could very easily be mistaken for real classics.

After the film, Chazelle, who was dressed in a plaid shirt, grandpa cardigan, slim-ish jeans and boat shoes, came to the stage for Q and A. The size of the audience made for an intimate setting where we felt un-intimidated enough to ask him our questions.  Jared and I asked about the setting of the film in Boston and the reception of the film amongst his non-jazz appreciating friends, respectively. He answered Jared's question with a chatty air of artist's pride, and mine with a faint trace of disdain; "The film is about the lifestyle of a musician, which transcends the genre of jazz." I was impressed with how articulate he was.


After the film, we walked to Chinatown in the rain and talked about how terrible it is that people don't take advantage of the free cultural events that D.C. has to offer.

No comments: