' ' Cinema Romantico: Once (The DVD Release)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Once (The DVD Release)

(One of the best movies of 2007 is being released today on DVD but I've already blathered about this film enough and so rather than re-posting one of my own entries I'll offer up the review of the film from the Toronto Star's Linda Barnard, who expresses the brilliance of the movie perfectly. If you haven't seen "Once", see it. Please. Get out to Blockbuster and rent it. Put it in your Netflix queue. Something, anything. Just see this movie, whatever the cost.)

While the booming cannons of the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" instalment clamour for our attention this weekend, it may be easy to overlook the brilliance of small and lovely "Once" quietly playing in the corner.

Which would be a shame. This indie musical is a bijou of a film that joins unaffected performances and a compelling soundtrack in a low-budget, documentary-style film that lets us watch two people fall in love to the mesmerizing soundtrack of the songs they create.

The winner of the audience award at this year's Sundance Film Festival, on its surface, "Once" is a simple story of a busker and a flower seller who meet in the streets of Dublin and spend a week writing and making music.

They don't even have names. Girl (Czech singer/musician Markéta Irglová in her first film role) meets Guy (Glen Hansard, the ringleted redhead guitar player from The Commitments and singer/guitarist for the Irish band the Frames) as he plays for loose change in a Dublin street.

She's drawn to his music. He's drawn to her, although he's unsettled by her directness at first.

But she has a small child and a husband back in the Czech Republic and the busker, who confesses painful loneliness since his girlfriend packed off for London, quickly realizes this is one Guy who won't get the Girl.

So they make music. Haunting and powerful songs. They play and sing in a music store where she often rehearses, unable to afford her own piano.

She sits at the keyboard and he joins her on his old guitar with a fist-sized hole smashed in the front. They sing on the street, in the back of a bus, the music fills the background as they take a motorcycle trip to the seaside. And best of all, the songs are played in their entirety – no frustrating 8-bar snippets or medleys.

As they begin to fall for each other, the intensity of their music grows, almost as a way to distract them from their feelings. The songs' lyrics match their stories, the film's shaky camera work making the scenes scan with realism.

Irglová and Hansard had already recorded together before Irish director John Carney (and former Frames bassist) put them on the screen in Once.

Their ease with each other shows. Irglová is utterly charming as the guileless young woman who sees no reason to ever accept "no" as an answer, while Hansard's hurt-spaniel eyes track her with wonder and admiration.

The music they make, especially the Frames' ballad "Falling Slowly," which builds from a whisper to heart-pounding intensity, is as Oscar-worthy as any tune coming out of theatre speakers in years.

There's no pretense and nothing is predictable (including an amusing scene where the two go for a bank loan to fund a weekend in the recording studio and find a wannabe rock star loans manager).

They finally make their demo disc with the help of other buskers and especially Girl, a woman who refuses to accept any limitations in life.

When "Once" slowly arrives at its inconclusive conclusion, you'll be grateful that Hollywood didn't get its mitts on this one, where the bittersweet, gentle finish would have been supplanted by a gargantuan concert scene with crane shots and 60-piece orchestra as the couple perform in triumph.

There's no need. "Once" is enough.

No comments: