Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Once," and again.

I'd long had a little movie kicking around in my head and when I saw "Once" last year, I felt like they had stolen it right from my cerebellum (well, the shape of the film, anyway, I know very little about Dublin street life). Still, jealousy didn't keep me from enjoying this touching little gem of an indie film.

Reportedly shot for under $200K in and around Dublin, the movie casts its eye on Guy (Glenn Hansard of Irish rock group the Frames) as a struggling singer/songwriter/busker, and Girl (Marketa Irglova) as a lonely, struggling Czech immigrant. They meet when she is drawn to his songs as he plays for quid on a downtown street corner. Soon they are working together recording a demo and find themselves sharing the joyous magic of creative musical connection, as well as feelings, inchoate dreams and finally, an enigmatic bittersweet future.

Unlike traditional musicals, the characters don't abruptly stop their lives to belt out bombastic or treacly tunes like Dublin-ite Ethel Mermins. The songs are integrated organically and given room to breath and work their way under your skin. The movie doesn't really seem like a "musical," but in its way, I suppose it is.

I love the off-the-cuff style of the dialog, the cinematography and the story arc. It's absolutely un-Hollywood at it's best, but the biggest reason this diamond shines is Hansard's delicate, emotive songs--they're the perfect hook to hang this slice-of-contemporary-Irish-life's transcendent melange of music, melancholy and hope.

(Rated R for the copious use of F-bombs. What is it with the Irish and swearing?)