Friday, October 26, 2007

Once “Not A Review”

You would think that if you saw a movie that so thrilled and captivated you, its music, characters, story touched you so deeply (even when you have a bit of a tin ear for music like I do) and you thought that it was easily the best film of the year that you had seen so far, you would talk about it right?

But not me, for some reason that I could not fathom and seems just out of reach, I did not write about it. I have gone back to this movie often in my thoughts marveling at it and hearing the songs in my head, and before the fog of time completely obscures my recall of this gem of a movie, I better talk about it. I caught this movie at the Newark film festival almost 2 months ago and it has stayed with me for a while.

Once is a delightful Irish movie and won the world cinema dramatic audience award at Sundance this year and rightly so. The movie is brilliantly directed by John Carney and is a clear testament that a really good movie even one that is a musical does not need the slick, expensive production numbers like say “Dreamgirls”. Shot mostly on the street and indoors with a few scenes of the glorious Irish coast, the power of this movie comes from the two principal characters in the movie whose names are never mentioned. The “guy” is played by Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish group “The Frames” and the “girl” by Marketa Irglova a Czech musician he has worked with in the past.

The “guy” is a street singer performing songs for spare change, in fact when we first hear him sing he seems ordinary yet earnest as he strums his guitar singing a brand of pop that is full of songs of heartbreak and stylistically more like folk. He has recently broken up with his girlfriend a fact that is elicited out of him by the “girl” who happens to chance upon him on the street. She is a recent Czech immigrant, a mom and is living with her mother in a cramped apartment and she sells flowers and cleans homes for a living. She speaks English with an accent that I found adorable especially the way she added “yeah” at the end of some of her lines that seemed like part question, part looking for affirmation, her direct nature and inquisitiveness a charming contrast to his reticent openness.

His day job is helping out in his dad’s vacuum shop and he helps her fix her vacuum and makes a half hearted pass which is rejected very bluntly, and so begins the formation of a bond between two people.

On the way to the repair shop he tells her his story and sings about being "a broken-hearted Hoover fixer sucker guy." A sucker because his girlfriend was cheating on him with another guy.

The girl is a musician too (she plays the piano) and the only chance she ever gets to play the piano is on a demo model at a music showroom. The guy comes to hear her, his guitar in tow and so enthralled with her playing that he asks her to team up with him on one of his songs. It was at this point that the movie completely captivated me. Watching them piece together the beautiful, heart tugging “Falling Slowly” is sheer magic and is a movie moment that you won’t forget.

(Here is a youtube video of the song from the movie courtesy of FoxSearchLight pictures). More videos at the movie web site too.

The camera does a great job of setting up the stage and letting the two principals work their magic thru their music and chemistry and uses the peripheral characters brilliantly (like the way the store owner notices the pair playing). There is an intimacy that is born of small, simple moments and I fell in love with these two characters at the same moment they fell in love with each other.

What makes this movie all the more impressive is that neither of the two are professional actors, which brings a welcome freshness and prevents it from being overtly sentimental. There is no big message in this movie, the high point is making of a demo tape, but it is about approaching the challenges of life with good humor, determination and desire.

The movie has great music (that is unpretentious) and songs, combined with the great cast, this is one film I will add to my permanent collection and will watch it more than once.

Yes, this is a love story but one which will end happily but not like you expect it to, and as the New York Times film critic A.O. Scott put it so eloquently in his review “Some Love Stories Have a Better Ending Than the Altar”. I just loved everything about this movie!


Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanjay!

Happy Friday! I have to say that although I was a movie buff, I never took an avid interest in the finer aspects of a movie, like the lighting, the speed of the frames, the quality of dialog etc. etc. until I started reading your movie reviews. You've made me appreciate the details of a movie that I might have ordinarily missed, so thank you!

"Once" truly sounds like a delightful movie. I absolutely love the plot-free storyline, the wonderful music and the fact that neither actor is a celebrity.

There is an intimacy that is born of small, simple moments and I fell in love with these two characters at the same moment they fell in love with each other.

Ahhh, that is so well expressed! You really make me want to see the movie and fortunately for me, zip has this movie in its collection and I have put it on my queue. Perhaps I'll even pay the extra and have them send it out to me pronto!

THanks for the fine review Sanjay!

Sanjay said...

Hey there Lotus! A happy Friday right back at you! First of all thank you for your wonderful comment! I have to say that I was like you too, but then as I started watching more interesting and diverse movies (especially in the US) and reading about them, I started to understand that I really was not immersing myself in the movies and allowing myself to think, once I started that I started viewing them in an entirely different light and truly enjoying them.

I am glad the "Not a reviews" help you in this process. :-)

You are so right, this is an absolutely delightful film and when you watch it the chemistry between the actors is just so palpable and the music really good.This movie will enchant you I think.

I am glad the movie is out on zip. They have an express delivery service? I don't think Netflix here does that, but I could be wrong. I should try to get my copy too, but this one will go to my movie collection. :)

Again thank you for your lovely comment and please have a great weekend ahead!

ML said...

With any review you do - whether it be books, movies or a recipe, I always feel like I'm right there reading or watching or tasting with ya. You have a gift with your words.

Id it is said...

You've sold me this one!

Fuzzylogic said...

I second Lotus. You really dwell so much deeper and bring out the beauty of the movie and make viewing it such a experience to look forward to Sanjay. The song was lovely and it did make me want to see this one.
I will be sure to add this on to the list.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi again, Sanjay!

Yes, Zip has an express delivery service and the charge varies depending on how new the movie is. For "Once" I would have to pay $5 to have them send me the first available copy which is fine because it still beats the Blockbuster rate for a new movie!

Diana said...

The movie sounds amazing. I love your reviews.

Sanjay said...

@Ml. :-) Thank you so much, you are very kind and generous with your praise.

@Id.Thank you, I hope you enjoy the movie.

@Fuzzylogic. Thank you so much. I did think it was a gem of a movie. I read about it first in the NYTimes, and they loved it, so when the local film festival had it, I just had to go see it.

@Diana. Thank you. If you do get a chance watch it. I hope things have settled down for you somewhat?

Sanjay said...

Hi again Lotus! Thank you for telling me about zip's express service. I believe netflix has nothing like it. But their movies do get to you in 2-3days unless they are new. In that case there is a wait. May be netflix should think about this "express service", might make them more money.

Wow and blockbuster rate charges more for a new movie? You know I used to rent from blockbuster when I was in NY more than a dozen years ago,I was so unimpressed with their collection I stopped going there.

In Connecticut near New Haven we had a wonderful video store Best video. They have an amazing collection of movies and their indie collection is the best that I have seen. And they rent by mail too. If you can't find a movie anywhere they will get if for you.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

NainaAshley said...

Hi Sanjay,
Such a neat review. I have to agree with Lotus and fuzzy and have to watch this movie sometime.

starry nights said...

Sanjay...loved this review and had got me wanting to see this movie.thanks.

moegirl said...

I will be seeing this movie!

literary safari said...

I had wanted to go see this movie when it was playing in wide release and missed it. After reading your review, it's definitely going on my Netflix. Thanks!