Don't let the trailers fool you. Once, a movie from Ireland, casts a cinematic glimpse at the passion and art of music making. It refreshes the concept of the musical cinema while weaving multiple stories about separation—the enigma and engine of all art and drama (to restate a maxim first stated by the British art critique John Berger.)
Once mixes music and movement ("movie" = a little thing capturing movement) to appeal to the intelligence of its viewers. It "is," and "is not," simply a wonderful musical. It "is" because it is a movie with music and about music. It "is not" because it defies the Hollywood tradition of the musical containing large amounts of dance although it fills the space with simple movements of everyday life.
If you like music, play an instrument, have been separated from instruments or people you love, or have made music with others, you shouldn't miss it. For more comments about the movie, see here. Other sources include: an NPR interview. It is also worth reading the official Once press kit to see how this John Carney movie came together.
Once: Winner of 2007 Sundance Film Festival, World Cinema Audience Award, Dramatic. Excellent piece of work. "R" rating for some use of four-letter words but no sex and no violence. A great story, very creative composition and magnificent music presented in a simple space.
Other sources and reviews: Washington Post (w/ three songs for listening), About.com, Washington Post, again, ("For 'Once,' A Musical Strikes the Right Cord" and "Breaking into Song, Bursting with Ideas"), Associated Press ("'Once' deconstructs and reinvents the movie musical intimately, brilliantly"), International Herald Tribune, ...
"I kept thinking, 'How do you make a modern musical?' " Carney said. "Then it became clear that I could do it just like a small indie art-house movie, very naturalistically. I could create a world where it's O.K. to break into song, without an orchestra coming up out of nowhere."
The film was completed in 17 days for $150,000, most of which was paid for by the Irish Film Board. The title originally referred to a planned scene in which the two characters made love, but just once. After the actors objected to Carney's idea ("So predictable," Irglova said), the scene wasn't filmed. Now the title, Carney says, refers to fellow Irishmen and women he would encounter in bars: "They say, 'Once I do this, then it'll be great.' But they never do it. It's a great Irish tradition of vacillating."
At Sundance the film was bought for a modest $500,000 by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which in some ways is hoping to repeat the success of "Garden State," a film the company bought at that festival in 2004. Like that film "Once" is a modest, low-key movie that incorporates haunting indie rock. Hansard's ache-in-heart ballads are comparable to the songs of the Shins, the indie band whose songs played a prominent role in "Garden State."
Carney hopes that the ambiguous relationship at the core of the film will also resonate with viewers. "It's the ones who are gone who haunt you for the rest of your life," he said. "Instead of saying, 'I love you' or 'I miss you,' they just disappear."
Here's a TV review:
A video recording of a full interview with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: