Thursday, June 21, 2007

Adam falls hard for ONCE

I hate musicals, by and large.
Musicals, unlike opera, tend to stop the story, bring things to a halt, have a musical number, then continue with the narrative. This is why I refuse to consider West Side Story (still not a fan, but so what?) or Moulin Rouge (which I adore) musicals. They're closer to opera, where the songs tell the story. They just have some spoken dialogue in-between.
Strangely, I adore Singin' In the Rain, which exists purely for the joy of the songs.
I'm weird that way.
Needless to say, I hate musicals.
I was still knocked on my ass by Once, the brilliant little Irish film that's finally found its way to the states. It's deceptively simple, incredibly heartfelt and sweet, and meticulously crafted on a miniscule budget.
Glen Hansard from the band The Frames and Markéta Irglová (with whom Hansard released The Swell Season last year) are Guy and Girl (they have names, but they don't really matter). He's a street musician who also works in his father's vacuum cleaner repair shop. She's an immigrant from the Czech Republic who's working odd jobs to support her mom and daughter.
They come together by the simplest of coincidences, all for the love of music. It's a love story, to be sure. But it's as much about the love of music and the need to have their voice heard than it is about two people falling for one another.
Like 2005's Hustle and Flow, Once is very much a movie about desperation. However, where Craig Brewer's film wallows in the hopelessness of the lead's situation, John Carney's Once clothes itself in the joy of music itself. The characters sing because they have love in their hearts. For their lost loves and perhaps for each other. Occasionally that love brings pain, but it's better to have loved and lost, eh?
The relationship between the guy and girl is awkward (he's nearly 2 decades older than her, neither of them is really over their exes, etc), but remarkably honest. Not a moment of the movie feels forced, even the one Hollywood moment in the entire film (a swooping crane shot at the end). Shot hand-held, cinéma vérité style, the film feels lifelike. The ending defies Hollywood logic and still feels satisfying.
Have I mentioned the songs? Fantastic. Simply fantastic. I'm gonna track down the soundtrack...and if I can, the album that Hansard and Irglová did together. I'm still humming the tunes hours later, and I can see wanting them in my music library for years to come.
Hansard's voice has an earnest everyman quality. The emotion he pours out in his songs is palapable and very, very real. I've not listened to The Frames before, but I'll be listening now. And Irglová, at the ripe old age of 17 when she did the soundtrack has all the experience and pipes of someone like Kirsty McColl. As a backup or a lead vocalist, she's a treat to listen to, and she raises the bar for the rest of the performers.
Get your asses to the theater and check this one out. It's wonderful to the nth degree.

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