Thursday, December 13, 2007

Once, a film by John Carney (2006)

I went in not knowing much about this movie. It had been on offer in Perth when I was there but I was intent upon seeing the Joe Strummer movie and, besides, the cinema worker made a very bad job of saying what the film was about, made it sound quite dire in fact.

Nothing could be further from the truth: this is a wonderful movie, for those who like small, intimate movies. I understand it was shot over 17 days for a very small amount of money. It is quite literally about a boy and a girl who meet and make beautiful music. We don't even know what their names are. He (Glen Hansard) is busking, singing heartfelt songs of his own composition. She (Markéta Irglová) asks him for whom he sings them, because there must be a she for such sorrowful songs. She discovers he fixes vacuum cleaners for his day job (with his elderly dad) so, since hers is broken, decides she will bring hers to him the following day.
He must not have believed her, as her appearance the next day threw him off. But before fixing her vacuum, they go for this sort of date - she trailing the vacuum the whole way.

Turns out she's musical too - piano, primarily: she has this deal with a music shop which lets her spend an hour each day just playing. And so they do a bit of jamming, he gets the bright idea that she will write the lyrics for his music, and then they decide that they'll spend 48 hours in a studio recording his music. I loved the way he picked his session musicians: a bunch of fellow buskers who "seemed like good guys". I also loved the financing deal: she talks this owner of a very flash studio into a cheap deal, then they go off to the bank to borrow the money. The bank guy doesn't need much persuasion; he has his own musical dream.
Yep - it is that sort of movie, where everything just goes right, even the recording session. The guy running the desk thinks he has a bunch of hoboes and doesn't take them seriously, does no mixing at all, just leaves the channels open. But the music works its magic on him as well; they end up with a fine CD.

Now of course, there's a boy and a girl, and there's all sorts of comments on the web to the effect that it is a movie of unrequited love, but I seriously don't agree. It is a movie about creation and shared passion; I'd say that they both have exactly the same feelings for each other, but they actually both have unresolved relationships, and the experience of loving each other works as a sort of catalyst to re-energise their existing relationships.

Oddly enough, neither has done much acting. He has been involved in Irish TV, she has never acted at all. Both, however, are musicians; they actually composed most of the music for the movie themselves. I'm wondering if tney were doing it in real time, as the movie itself was being shot; it has that sense of intimacy and naturalness to it that makes it entirely possible - a lot of the movie felt like these were real people just getting on with what mattered to them. Fantastic. Oh, and she's gorgeous, a complete charmer. I fell in love.



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