DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: Once

Marketa Irglova (Girl) and Glen Hansard (Guy).

(review originally written in September)

Over the last decade or so, and especially in recent years, it seems to me that the label “independent”, whether it be through cinema or music or whatever, has lost its meaning in the majority of work released. When true independents revolutionized their labors of love in the early ’70’s, like Cassavetes and others, every inch of the arduent process was treated with the utmost care and by a select few. Now there are a handful of “independent” films being released every week, and although there are still some out there that have maintained what it truly means to go through an entire process of creating something on your own, I think most of the work has taken it for granted. It seems to now be a trend – even in cinema – like barb wire tattoos, little mini-mohawks, or luau things hanging from the rearview mirror. It just makes it harder to uncover some of the real independent pieces when they’re mixed in with hundreds of other phonies each year. That is, unless they are bright and shining standouts that cannot be missed even if you were trying.
John Carney’s Once is a revelation, a real and true and honest independent film that transcends the musical genre, creating on a small-scaled budget what American blockbusters couldn’t accomplish with their outrageous sums of money. The film’s premise is as simple as one can be as it follows a man who fixes vacuums, writes songs and plays them on the streets of Dublin, Ireland. There, one night, is where he meets a woman who just so happens to need a sweeper-fixing. Later she invites him into a music shop, where the owner allows her, a classically trained musician, to play the piano once a week. For the next few days, through nothing but songwriting, emotions held in on both ends will come tumbling out in ways rarely dealt with in cinema. There are no American ways of storytelling here, none of the insane coincidences or fairy tale-like conclusions. Once is just as real as a film can get, although it never feels like you’re watching a movie.
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova play the leads, both extremely talented musicians in real life, with such ease that it almost seems like they’re living it. Carney’s filmmaking is flawless, letting the situations and songs take deep breaths and play out in full, and even though the film hits a small 88 minutes, it is just right. I’ve never seen a film about musicians and songwriting feel this organic, like the songs are really being fleshed out and performed for the first time, right in front of your eyes. I am amazed that Amanda and I received another chance to see it with its re-release at a theater close by, and now the soundtrack, which I had been listening to a couple of weeks before seeing the movie, means a lot more to me and is one of my cherished discs in the collection. Carney’s film is a true wonder, a standout among a few very good films released this summer.
Rating: A+
R
1 hour 28 minutes
Fox Searchlight
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One Response to “DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: Once”

  1. Amanda Says:

    honey no joke, this didn’t even seem like a film to me at all. it just felt like we were watching people truley feel the beauty of what music can do for one another. this film gives me chills. i never seen anything like it. i fell in love with it. and it was amazing that we got to see it together for the first time. your review of this is beautiful.

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