Monday, August 13, 2007

Once: Movie Review
Every once in a while a movie comes along that defies expectations, shows you a new way of seeing the world, and leaves an impression on you that won't go away. Last week I saw Once, and it was just such a movie.

This is the little film with the big hype. The Chicago Tribune called it the "best music film of our generation." It was a hit at Sundance. It has a 97% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. You probably won't find a better-reviewed movie this year.

The movie stars Glen Hansard, lead singer of Irish band The Frames (they are HUGE in Ireland, virtually unknown outside of it... kind of like The Tragically Hip in Canada or You Am I in Australia). You might recognize him from The Commitments -- he was the red-headed guitarist with the long hair. His co-star in the film is Marketa Irglova, a Czech singer who released a 2006 album with Hansard (she's now purportedly dating him).

The characters are never named -- they are simply a guy busking on a street who happens to work for his dad's vacuum cleaner repair shop, and a girl who does odd jobs and walks by him and chats with him one day. He plays music, writing mostly sad songs about a woman who left him, and she also plays music, also about someone who's no longer with her. Together they click, and together come to an understanding of how they can use music as a way of expressing their deepest emotions.

The music in this film is incredible. There are two songs that you'll hear throughout -- mostly the one they sing together in a music shop -- and by the end of the movie you're not tired of them, you just want to hear them again and again. There's a scene where the guy is in a studio with an engineer who'd rather be sleeping, and the band he's cobbled together doesn't appear to know what they're doing, but once he counts them in and they're about halfway through the song, the engineer suddenly realizes this isn't some loser with money who wants to buy some studio time for his cheesy pop crap. This guy is an artist. (The song is in 5/4 time, for god's sakes... anyone who's ever played music -- and I played classical piano seriously for 15 years -- knows how freakin' difficult that time signature is.) In the hands of a more heavy-handed scriptwriter, or using a song that's actually not that impressive, this scene would make even the most willing viewer roll their eyes, but we're right there with the engineer, wondering why this guy isn't huge yet.

The end of the film is just... breathtaking. Literally.

Once is a gem of a film that's not necessarily as much about romance as it is about connection, and finding that right person in your life at just the right moment. I cannot recommend this film enough. If you love music (not in the sense of "Oh yeah, I like music, I listen to pretty much anything"; more like you've spent a good part of your life breathing music), then you must see this film. It's fantastic.


Anonymous said...

given that the commitments is my favourite film of all time, i've been meaning to see this one for a while but hadn't yet got around to it ... thank you for the reminder! :)

Jonathan said...

While I look forward to seeing Once this weekend, I must advise that the best rated movie of the summer is in fact The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which has 16 reviews and a 100% rating. Have you seen the preview yet? BRILLIANT!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.