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Thursday, April 28, 2011

G.F.E.M. - Once (2006)

Once is a strange film as it has an indefinable quality to it: a charm and a sort of peace and sincerity that make it seem entirely real. Occasionally, a film will come along, skip over audiences and will eventually grow a fan base via word-of-mouth, home video, and, in the case of Once, music. Once is not a musical per se, as the music is not exactly the showcase. Instead, it is part of the characters’ lives, and by extension becomes a character itself. Each scene where a song is played you feel the emotion of that character and you can feel how they feel. Once is a supreme cinematic achievement.

Once opens with quiet, and then fades into a soulful and saddened voice covering Van Morrison’s And the Healing Has Begun. His rustic acoustic guitar is tinny and contrasts nicely with its player’s rough and beaten voice. We see a street musician, standing in front of a store window, he then collects his tips with thanks. Later that evening, he is singing a wonderful song called Say It To Me Now. His acoustic performance is filled with pain, and when a strange woman approaches him and asks him who the song is about, she calls him on his lie that it is about no one. A brief meeting introduces us and then they two are brought together by, of all things, a broken vacuum cleaner.

At this point the two characters (who remain unnamed throughout the film; they are credited as Guy and Girl) begin to develop a relationship through music. In a music store the two begin to play together, Guy on the guitar, Girl on the piano. As a duet they play a song called Falling Slowly and they discover they have great musical chemistry, and they begin to further their relationship with each other on this foundation. The guy’s advances are met with resistance, however, and he discovers that the girl has a family back home. From here the two record with several other musicians they meet in a tavern and they the film ends the way it began.

Once’s male lead, Glen Hansard is the front man of an Irish band called the Frames, and he recorded along with the female lead, Marketa Irglova in a group called the Swell Season. The Frames’ former bassist, John Carney wrote and directed this terrific film and the love for music of all involved is apparent. Once is a different type of music film. It moves and feels like a documentary, as if we are voyeuristically following these two strange people around, examining their interactions. It is a very intimate and unique way of examining the characters in this sort of story. It has a distinctly indie feel, pushing the camera aggressively close to the characters giving it a claustrophobic feel. However, this is perfect for this sort of story. This deeply personal narrative is done great justice by this artistic choice.

Once is very unique. At first glimpse it may look like any film that popped out of Sundance but it is more than that. The deep examination and love for the characters, the way the music fills in the emotions of each scene, the way these two characters are never meant to be “together” but still seem perfect for each other, it’s all just so excellent. I recommend this movie a lot, and if you’re looking for a Friday night date flick, or a movie that is both entertaining and a little relaxing, this is a must-see. Hey! It IS one of the Greatest Films Ever Made.

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