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Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (NR)

Cinema Guild

Writer-director Damien Chazelle's grainy, black-and-white feature debut is a buoyantly melancholy modern jazz musical. Short on plot but long on breezy musicianship, it's about the minor-key vicissitudes of urban romance — the saunter and drift of attraction and separation between a self-absorbed but courtly jazz trumpeter and a listless, introverted waitress. There's a sort of mumblecorean tension-building conceit, that even articulate people somehow just can't manage to voice their feelings in conversation, but to avoid lapsing into a pose of inscrutable indie minimalism, Chazelle instead has them burst into song. The handheld camera plays an active role and the cozy mood gets reinforcement from Justin Hurwitz's score. Chazelle handles occasional false notes like a practiced improviser rescuing a blown solo, by taking ownership. — Jonathan Kiefer

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The Illusionist (PG)

Sony Pictures Classics

Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to his brilliant 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville comes from an unproduced screenplay by French comedy legend Jacques Tati. The Illusionist follows a shabby yet unmistakably Tati-esque magician as he drags himself from one lousy backwater gig to the next. His life of silent solitude is shaken up and given new significance when an orphan girl working at a Scottish island resort becomes entranced by the illusionist's cheap tricks, and follows him to the big city. Chomet slaves to reproduce Tati's wistfulness, but without much of his inspired comic combobulation, so The Illusionist mostly succeeds in assuming Tati's worst tendencies (especially the doddering-old-fool's-eye-view take on his female characters). But there is enough melancholy poetry in Chomet's visuals and genuine affection for Tati to appease adult animation fans. — Daniel Barnes

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Bunny and the Bull (NR)

IFC Films

Some people still don't get British comedy and, thusly, hate it, and I'm starting to understand why. While I worship Benny Hill, something has happened to the art-form that has made it unlikable and largely unwatchable. Sure, there's some good stuff out there like The IT Crowd, but The Mighty Boosh? It's a twee rip-off of the worst aspects of Monty Python by rejects from a one-hit-wonder shoegazer band. The makers of Boosh have taken that precious irritancy one step farther with Bunny and the Bull, the ultimate manifesto of style over substance. It's a less cosmic road-trip version of Boosh with two unlikable characters taking a train across a heavily designed children's book version of Europe. They get into all types of utterly forced predicaments that desperately want to be whimsical. Give me Benny's ribald rhymes any day over this pretentious twaddle. — Louis Fowler

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