Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CANON OF FILM: "ONCE"

ONCE (2007)

Director/Screenwriter: John Carney




He (Glen Hansard), is a street guitarist/songwriter who works as a vacuum-cleaner repairman in his father’s shop in Dublin. One night, He meets She (Marketa Irglova) a young Czech pianist, who hears him playing, and she has a vacuum that needs repairing. She’s poor, and doesn’t own a piano, but She practices at the display at a local music store, and one day, He goes with her, guitar in hand…. What happens next in John Carney’s independent musical “Once,” cannot be described properly using detailed minutia. The word that keeps popping in my head to describe what happens is “magical,” and yet, that word still feels inappropriate. There is for-lack-of-a-better-term,  a spark, in this moment. He knows it. She knows it. Even the guy who runs the music store knows it. We know it. The kind of spark where suddenly one realizes that something special is happening, and that something is not only drawing these people together, but it's that feeling, where suddenly, all makes sense in the world, that one has found what one was missing, and that there's a connection then that which can’t be explained, confounded, or described in physical reality. It transcends it. What could I compare this film too? A simpleton who’s concerned about similarities might compare this film to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” only with musicians. They are similarities, but this isn’t a romance. This isn’t a dreamlike adventure. “Once,” is a simple story on paper, but on film with John Carney’s directing, it’s a poetic tale of two people with dreams and commitments that coincide and conflict each other. She, we find out is married, with a young child, and even though they’re separated at the moment, reconciliation is possible, and this puts her music career on hold. He has an on-again/off-again girlfriend in London, but doesn’t want to go back to London, without first recording a demo, which costs way more money than he has. Glen Hansard has a couple bands of his own, most notably The Frames, but he might be most well-known in this country for being in the film “The Commitments”, about a group of Irish pub-dwellers who try to put on a R&B/Soul band together, hoping for a big break. Marketa Irglova never acted before. She’s a classic Czech pianist, only a teenager when she made this film. They wrote and performed all the music from the movie, and won the Oscar for Best Song. While the soundtrack is great, the movie itself feels like an album. The songs say things that the two characters feel, and want to say to each other but can’t, not because they’re unable to, in fact they both always know what the other is thinking, but they don't, because it would be too risky and could destroy what they have now. The way the movie ends, is not the way we wish it did, but it’s correct for it to end our journey with them, and their journey with each other. The movie is called “Once,” for a reason, but that makes what does happen more special, and more poignant. We are allowed one grand gesture at the end, a symbol of their time together, and what they mean to each other. If you’ve read this and you still aren’t quite sure what I am talking about exactly, that I’ve spoken in strange metaphysical adjectives and vague descriptions and haven’t told you what the film’s about, you’re probably right. If by the twenty minute mark of the film, you still don’t understand what I’m getting at…- well, I can’t help you there. This is a movie, but its storytelling devices aren’t in the world of mise en scene, physical and visual analysis, but in the world of music, which is based purely in the emotional. I don’t know what to make of those who can’t relate to emotions, but, that sinking boat can be pointed home, and you’ve still got time.

Note: Hansard and Irglova now tour and record as “The Swell Season.”  Earlier today, a Broadway production of "Once," received 11 Tony Nominations, more than any other production this year.
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