DIRECTED AND WRITTEN: JOHN CARNEY
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Tim Fleming
MUSIC: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
CAST: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, Hugh Walsh, Gerald Hendrick, Alaistair Foley
Musical film is not the same thing as a film with music. This is not a Hollywood pastiche with colorful backgrounds and an imaginary sense that you are supposed to believe in and accept as an escape to the fact your reality is not cutting it. No drug was ever that good!
It's been said, that the difference for musicians/music as an art is defined by one of two ways ... one plays the notes. The other has less to do with the notes than it 0does with the person.
You and I know that history only remembers the different ones that changed music and gave us something of value to listen to.
It's not fair to say that "Once" is one of the best of the "musical films" ever made. I still think that "Purple Rain" (Let It Be would be the best if someone was interested in the artists at work instead of personal squabbles, money and shit!) has that merit with its special camera mechanics and very detailed attention to the artists and persons involved in it. So it is with rock music ... but if the theme and story itself does not shake you ... you're not into music, or those that create it. You just like a song or two.
"Once" is close ... it starts innocent enough with a guy simply wanting to do his song, and trying to make a living. He's not bad, and appears to have started defining some of the music and lyrics he will be playing later. But he has not "made it" ... and it shows. As much as he is good, he has not developed himself to take it a new step further up the "business scale" (let's say) of the music world. And then ... it takes a turn. He meets someone that is capable of adding a third dimension to the tunes he has. And she can sing.
At this point the film starts rocking, as it is said. The same song you heard 30 minutes ago ... ohh my gosh ... that is nice! is really all you can say.
While the story in the film has a ... hmmm ... so what ending ... (for me) ... it really is more about the meaninglessness of it all, eventually, than it is the music that ended up inspiring us ... sort of like who wants to see Mozart sweat at Salieri's hands, and just enjoy the music instead. The girl goes back to her situation (she never left) and he sends her a piano for Christmas .. but the story is not over by a long shot ... towards the end, she is looking out the window, probably wondering what if ... instead of the life that she has fallen into and is now stuck to with a child. Really typical of the many people that did not make it and live to regret not having given it a chance when they could, before it got too late in their life to have the energy to do it with!
Although some are portraying this as a romantic story and film, it is not. The lyrics may seem to be pointing to a relationship he wants and does not have ... but in the end it is a film where one can really appreciate the ability of two diverse people and cultures actually come together and do something artistic. It is, for all intents and purposes - and probably not intentional - something that happens a lot in European music ... a lot of different cultural mixes since they are all there ... but the results are quite often extraordinary ... for example, it's hard to imagine the Bulgarian Women's voices mixed up with rap ... but you can find that there, and not in America. It's a juxtaposition that just doesn't seem right ... yet it comes off fine.
And the same goes for the music in this film. She adds to what he has that he did not have, maybe with a little more classical training and ear that he did not have ... and this helps him take it a step further. She becomes the musical help and inspiration (dont confuse this with romantic) to get him going ... the rest is all not important ... just another day in the life ... of an artist? Yes, he does wish to have some romantic involvement with her, but in the end one can see (always some damned symbolic back story!) that it would not have worked he has a family too! (typical movie that way) and to me, that is the only thing that brings down the film ... the end. But then, you and I very easily end up feeling empty at the end of an exhilarating evening of seeing music or a special performer do we not?
Very nice performances by the two people that sing and play ... Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova ... perhaps not so much on the acting part as it is the musical part, as it is pretty obvious that they are not "actors" just throwing chops at the screen a la Meryl Streep. And it is that subtlety that makes the film good ... let them play the music and work it ... is really what this is about. And while this may be boring for some, in the end, it is the very process that gives you the most satisfaction ... there is beauty in that ... and the film maker knows that.
Enjoy that part and forget the rest.
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