Saturday, August 04, 2007

And the best movie I've seen all year is...

Once is a beautiful motion picture. It left me speechless for about an hour afterwards. It's that good. Seriously. This easily passes Hot Fuzz as my favorite movie of the year. It's just so damn good, I can't stress this enough.

Once is the story of a guy (Glen Hansard) who plays a beat up guitar in the streets of Dublin. During the day, he plays tunes most folks recognize, but at night, when the crowds are scarce, he plays his own songs. Songs written out of heartbreak and despair over a woman. (Naturally). This attracts the attention of the Girl. (Marketa Irglova), a Czech immigrant who sells roses in the street. She recognizes that the songs aren't just mopey, but that this guy has some actual talent.

Girl plays piano. They go to a music store with a piano and play one of his songs together. She is in love with the music, and plays her heart out with him. She encourages him to work more on his songs. He asks for her collaboration. Together they make beautiful music together. And slowly begin to fall in love.

Sounds typical, right? Boy meets girl, they fall in love, etc. Once is far from typical, though. Like with music, it's the singer, not the song, that makes us connect with it. Writer/Director John Carney and his actors do everything they can to make this as far from typical and run of the mill as possible. Yes, the story may be simple, but there are no story contrivances, only the reality of the situations. What happens between Guy and Girl I will not divulge, for that is a journey you have to make yourself. Because you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

Try not to fall in love with Guy and Girl. Just try. It can't happen. Neither are actors (Hansard is the guitarist in the band The Frames, the members of which also appear in the film, and Irglova I've not been able to find anything about, but this is her first and only film credit) and what comes through them is so honest and true that I couldn't look away. Take aforementioned scene where they first play the song together. First off, Girl is following Guy and his musical lead, not some preconceived script notion of how to act when playing a song. (As much as I enjoyed Music and Lyrics, I never bought they knew how to play the instruments or write music that matters). The motions these go through, the feelings they share and keep inside, all are present and done in such a naturalistic way. Damn I loved this movie.

I haven't even gotten to the music yet. It's gorgeous! Not only is Once the best film I've seen all year, the soundtrack is one of the best records I've heard all year too. The music comes from a real place, a raw, emotional place, but is never precocious or obnoxious about how friggin' good it is. And it's use in the film almost qualifies it as a musical, as the songs are used to express the feelings of the characters as they sing to each other. Not stopping the diagetic nature, but creating a world where these characters would sing to each other.

And if none of these songs win the Academy Award next year, then there truly is something wrong with this world.

I was fortunate enough to bear witness to Guy and Girl performing these songs live, after the screening I attended, and to hear the words escape from their mouths is almost transcendent. Okay, maybe that's going a bit overboard, as one is wont to do, but being in a room and hearing the songs and watching them sing them with all their heart (I could've sworn Girl was staring right at me while she sang) was absolutely wonderful. The passion is not just contained to celluloid. It transcends. (See? I knew I could make it work). Many thanks to Fox Searchlight for putting the shindig together. As for how you can top this, I have no idea. This night alone was just perfect.
(Two handsome devils with red beards, enjoying some Guiness in a tiny glass, after the live performance!)

Dag, yo. the more I think about this movie, the more I believe, all hyperbole aside, that Once is a perfect movie. I'll say that again, should anyone want to pull a quote from a guy that calls himself "The Dude". ONCE IS A PERFECT MOVIE! There isn't a frame wasted, there isn't a false note in the whole thing. It's no frills, but 'tis a glorious time. I seriously have to restrain myself from going out and seeing it again right now. I'm not exaggerating, that's how much I loved this movie. I LOVED THIS MOVIE!!!

There you have it. Once. A simple, no frills movie that tells us about all kinds of love, and their place in the world and how it can be expressed through the beauty of music. So drink the Kool Aid, take the plunge, and let yourself fall in love with Once. You'll be grateful you did.

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