Saturday, December 29, 2007

Once More, With Feeling

It's a beautiful thing when a film lives up to its hype. But then again, Once is a beautiful film. Wow. About ten minutes after the film ended and I composed myself from my teary emotional outburst (quivery lips and watery eyes occurred intermittently throughout the whole thing), I went on iTunes and downloaded the soundtrack. And I'm listening to it right now. It's hauntingly gorgeous. Man, I've just been immersed in great cinema lately. This has been an awesome year.

The more the film is sinking in, the more amazed I am. It's such a simple premise - two strangers meet and make music together in Dublin - but it's really complex. This is about real people, very fragile and broken people actually, both dealing with bad relationships and trying to heal. It's so true to life. Love is amazing and beautiful, but it's also painful and difficult, and Once recognizes that. Half the credit goes to ultra-compassionate and talented writer/director John Carney.

The other half of the credit for this brilliant little gem goes to the two stars - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. They play "Guy" and "Girl" respectively, and I love that. It reminds me of one of my favorite films, Sunrise, in which the main characters are only listed as "Man," "Wife," and "Woman." Doing that makes these characters universal. Isn't love the universal language, after all? And for that matter, so is music, and so is film. But back to the genius of Hansard and Irglova - they co-wrote all of the songs for the film (and performed them, of course). And the songs are magical. What's particularly impressive is that Marketa Irglova has never been in anything before, and she's only 19. Hansard has a band, but barely any acting experience.

They convey such remarkable subtlety and humanity in their performances. The musical performances are awesome, but the acting itself is just as good. I don't think any film has ever captured the essence of music like this one does, the power and the passion of it. I fell head over heels in love with this film when the pair sings their first song together in a music store. I could watch that scene over and over. The filmmaking is also phenomenal. There's one shot that follows Irglova's character from a store all the way back to her flat while composing/singing a song. It's just one unbroken shot of her walking, and it's extraordinary.

How this film got overlooked for the Musical/Comedy category of the Golden Globes completely befuddles me. Or I guess it shouldn't, because as much as I love all the awards business and the anticipation and even the hype, I hate it just as much. It's never fair. Once isn't just the best musical of the year - it's the best musical since Chicago five years ago. It might even be better. Putting Chicago aside, you'd have to go back decades to find anything worthy of being in the same league as Once.

Rating: ***** (out of 5)

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