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  • Once
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Many visiting Amazon will remember the film THE COMMITMENTS telling the story of an Irish soul band specializing in many of the Stax classics of the sixties. Though most of the attention was focused on the rotund lead singer, the guitarist Outspan Foster was played by a veteran 21-year-old busker by the name of Glen Hansard. He played, in fact, one of the two first members of the band, since he and the band's keyboardist asked Jimmy Rabbitte to help them form a band (though they would dispense of their tentative name, And And And, though they were also considering And And! And). Though no one at the time would have guessed it, it was Hansard more than any other member of the fictional band (though it did tour as a real band in the wake of the movie's success) who would achieve musical success. About the same time that filming for the Commitments began, Hansard had formed a band, the Frames, that would over the course of the next seventeen years develop a reputation for being one of the best live bands in the world and though their recorded output never quite matched the extraordinary live performances they would release several superb albums. Two of the Frames' albums--FITZCARRALDO and THE COST--would be nothing short of masterpieces. One of the original members of the Frames was John Carney. To complete the background story, Carney met the young Czech singer Markéta Irglová while visiting Prague and she later provided some vocals for his 2006 solo album THE SWELL SEASON.

I'm not quite sure whose idea it was to make a movie, but former-Frame Carney and Hansard, with the help of our young Czech heroine, came up with the idea to make a movie based on Carney and Hansard's experiences in Dublin. Though the Frames are not well known in the United States, there are many who regard them and not U2 as the great Irish band. Those seeing this movie are not going to have a great deal of difficulty believing that. Hansard is one of the world's great frontmen, singing with a white-hot intensity remarkably emotional and passionate songs. For those unfamiliar with his work, he will have seemed to drop out of the sky like a meteor. They will have trouble believing someone this talented is not already a household name.

The songs for the movie are culled from a number of places. The absolutely extraordinary "Say It To Me," one of Hansard's greatest songs, comes from the great 1996 Frames' album FITZCARRALDO, "Lies" and "Falling Slowly" come from Hansard's solo album THE SWELL SEASON (on which Irglová also sings), and "When Your Mind's Made Up" is one of the best songs off this year's amazing new Frames' album THE COST. Regardless of the source, the songs here are amazingly well performed, more acoustic than in their original versions. I know some audience members for the film are blown away by the music and I think part of the reason is that they don't realize that these songs represent highlights from a large and exceedingly great body of work. Even so, the great news is that Hansard has written far more great music than appears on this album.

I strongly recommend this disc for people who saw the movie and loved the music (and hey, what's not to adore?). This is simply gorgeous stuff and anyone who isn't moved by it probably is never moved by great music. So the album can act as a terminus, but it should also act as a door to the rest of Hansard's work. The two albums I would most recommend are the two I mentioned above, FITZCARRALDO and THE COST. These are filled with great songs, all songs magnificently by Hansard, who also wrote them. If those don't exhaust your interest you could also look at BURN THE MAPS as well as the aforementioned solo album THE SWELL SEASON. And as fine as this soundtrack is, the two main Frames albums I mentioned are each even better.
1212 comments491 of 501 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 12, 2007
There are movies that friends tell you about, and if those friends are forceful enough or more people make the same recommendation, you rouse yourself and buy a ticket, and if the movie turns out to be terrific, the next thing you know you're telling everyone about a film they just have to see.

This is called "buzz," and it's a very good thing indeed --- media companies hire consultants, often for impressive sums, to create that initial spark.

But "Once" starred Glen Hansard, lead singer of a terrific Irish band --- The Frames --- that's sadly unappreciated outside of Ireland. His co-star was Markéta Irglová, a 17-year-old Czech high school student who had never acted before.

And it was filmed, in 17 days, for $150,000.

For the longest time, the future of "Once" looked bleak: straight to DVD.

Then the film was invited to Sundance. It won the Audience Award. Fox Searchlight bought it. And as "Once" went out into the world, audiences took to it like a beautiful orphan --- they cherished it and made it a cause.

That's how I came to see it; many people prodded me. What they knew: I'm a sucker for emotion that feels authentic, and so I was absolutely enchanted by this little film.

And I do mean little. He's a singer. His girlfriend has left him. He'd like to make a record and get out of Dublin. Right now, he repairs vacuum cleaners and sings on the streets. Her situation's just as dim. She may dream of music, but she's in an alien culture, separated from her husband; she sells flowers and cleans houses to support her kid and mother. He and She (they are nameless) get together to make music; they become collaborators and friends, their songs propelling the plot. But the big question --- for the audience, anyway --- isn't how their demo tape will be received. It's whether they'll become lovers.

"Two people, a few instruments, 88 minutes and not a single false note," A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times.

And what people! At the start of the movie, Markéta Irglová seemed like her character: a young woman of modest charms and uncertain talent. By the end, I was convinced she was the most beautiful woman in the world, a great talent and a deep soul. Love? I was besotted. And Glen Hansard was the ultimate admirable guy: smart, resourceful, realistic, emotionally aware.

And what music! Hansard started strumming his guitar, and I got weepy. Then he started singing, slow as a nursery lullaby:


There are, I think, only two responses to feelings this directly expressed: cynicism and acceptance. Friends, this cynic was overcome: I blubbered. And I wasn't the only one.

You may have heard some of the soundtrack; it pops up on better radio stations. If it's considerably more "professional" than the film, there are reasons. Some of the songs were among the greater hits of the Frames. Hansard and Irglová had recorded a CD together. And the film's director, John Carney, was savvy about music --- he had once played bass in The Frames.

Though this is music like no other --- not folk, not rock, mostly just two people literally singing their hearts out --- it's not just for emotional slobs like me. You can listen to it as you work. You can play it at dinner. It's great for a quiet evening.

And, if you must, you can cry --- for happy.
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VINE VOICEon July 1, 2007
I really really enjoyed the film and though the acting and chemistry was great - it was the music that won me over.

Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova's writing and performing was understated and moving. Though many of the songs appear on their 2006 disk 'The Swell Season' most people would have missed that (myself included).

The disk would be worth it for the first two tracks alone ("Falling Slowly" , "If You Want Me"), but the rest of the disk is certainly worth a listen.

Overall, the disk has a Damien Rice feel - and that is not horribly surprising considering the Irish busker w/the harmonies coming from a talented female.

Though the songs stand alone - folks should really see the movie and how Hansard & Irglova's chemistry really makes the entire thing work.
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Unsurprisingly, John Carney's intimate 2007 boy-meets-girl musical, Once, has spawned an accompanying soundtrack disc. The nice surprise, however, is that a closer listen to the music yields even more dividends than the already rewarding movie itself. Similar to recent releases by David Gray and Damien Rice, a halting emotionalism and hopeful yearning informs many of the songs here but not at the expense of a certain pop sensibility that is both immediate and passionate. Most of the credit belongs to the film's two stars, Markéta Irglová and especially the Frames' Glen Hansard, who either jointly or individually composed all the tracks except one, Fergus O'Farrell's "Gold", a guitar-strummed jig played by the Irish band Interference and marked by a mournful violin.

One of the most accomplished songs on the album, the Beatlesque "Lies" transitions through a variety of emotions from poignant hesitation to cruel revelation with an unerring fluidity guided by Hansard's near-falsetto. For a marked change of pace, "Fallen from the Sky" provides syncopated pop fluff backed by the Frames' seamless harmonies, while "Trying to Pull Myself Away" carries a propulsive beat over a catchy, string-laden groove. True to the onscreen portrayal of a busker, the melancholic bitterness of "Leave", the more pensive "All the Way Down", and the primal desperation of "Say It to Me Now" rely solely on Hansard's searing vocal and guitar. Evoking Björk's plaintive but touching vocal style, the Czech Republic-born Irglová shines on the forlorn ballad, "The Hill", and especially on the Gallic-sounding, otherworldly "If You Want Me" backed by Hansard's aching voice.

Yet for all those choice cuts, the most magical moments aurally come when Hansard and Irglová duet, the same as in the film - the haunting title tune, the searing confessional of "When Your Mind's Made Up" punctuated by Graham Hopkins' persistent drums, and in particular, the shimmering beauty the co-stars achieve on the breakout hit, "Falling Slowly", which works off a simple sing-song structure (akin to "Frère Jacques") and then builds powerfully into its heartbreaking chorus. It's no coincidence that the song represents the film's defining moment, an emotionally transcendent scene when the characters bond musically in a piano shop. There is such an unforced beauty with the music presented here that I find the entire disc irresistible and a perfect reflection of the unbridled and sometimes pained romanticism that the movie was trying to achieve.
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VINE VOICEon June 9, 2007
Winsome love story with magnetic soundtrack draws you in and takes you for a ride. Life rarely has storybook endings and neither does "Once." The story and music draw you in and pull you under in an enchanting tale of pain and passion strained through the medium of song.

See "Once" more than once!
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on June 22, 2007
i said to a friend, before i left for the movie this evening, "i'm going to see a modern day musical set in ireland, called once." my friend made a fake-vomiting-face and said, "sounds riveting." our common understanding of musicals would dictate that "once" features one-dimensional characters who break into song for no reason, and end up living happily ever after.

not so, o jaded one.

"once" is a rare jem, an absolute heartbreaker of a masterpiece that features two real-life musicians who just happen to be able to act incredibly well. we follow these two on their serendipitous journey from flat to recording studio to hoover repair shop. it is a refreshing love story, wraught with awkwardness and things left unsaid (or said in czech). and, i say with an audible sigh of relief, no big pink bow to tie up the ends in a cute package.

i got out of the movie at around ten p.m. it's now about 1 a.m. and i'm listening to it intently, thanks to iTunes (i couldn't wait for the mail, goodness no). every track fills my heart with almost aching joy before it slices it right down the middle. glen hansgard is a visionary in his simplicity and his earnestness. i suggest you see the movie. i suggest you listen to the soundtrack, even if you don't see the movie. i suggest you rent it when it comes out on dvd. i suggest that you look in your heart and hope that there's something half as beautiful as this film and its music inside.
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on June 17, 2007
If you're into dumb neat Hollywood prepackaged cliches vacuous and lifeless with no soul because you've got the brainpower less than a gnat, this movie is not for you. If you like moving, real feeling, movies crafted with love with people who are as real as people you'd meet every day that moves you, this movie is for you. The soundtrack isn't just a companion to this wonderful movie, in a sense it is the movie, both beautiful and heartbreaking. In a rare feat of 40 years this is the first time both my favorite album is a soundtrack to a movie, but my favorite movie is a soundtrack to an album.
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2007
I love this soundtrack. Every track on this disc is good. Glen Hansard is a talented guitar player and vocalist. Marketa Irglova is also a very talented vocalist and keyboard player. The upbeat track "Trying To Pull Myself Away" is the best of the bunch. Hansard's vocals are so good on this track. His guitar playing sounds different on each track. "Fallen From The Sky" is a track with a good beat. This song is very pleasant to listen to. The other standout track is "Falling Slowly" This is a very romantic song, and I think the two stars harmonize nicely on this track. "Lies" is another pretty duet on this soundtrack. The violin playing is subtle and beautifully performed on this track. "Gold" is a very optimistic track. Hansard's guitar playing is very upbeat on this track. "Broken Hearted Hoover" is a very funny song. Marketa Irglova has such a clear and sexy voice. She sings lead vocal on the tracks on If You Want Me" and "The Hill" The piano playing on the latter track is pretty. Her voice sounds so sad and sensual on these two tracks. I really like them. "Once" is a goregous sounding song about how feelings between two people change over time in a relationship. Once is the best soundtrack of the year so far.
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on May 28, 2007
I just came back from watching this film and I can't get this movie out of my mind. I think the best way to describe this film is how I read in one review; "a visual album." I think this movie marks the beginning of the modern musical. The film is filled with one great song after another but effortlessly transitions from dialogue into song. However, this movie is more than just a great musical, it's a great love story. After seeing this film, I went on my laptop and ordered this album as quickly as I could. Since I haven't listened to the album outside of the film, I'll focus my commentary on the film itself. The leads have great chemistry and the script masterfully invites the viewer to see how their love unfolds. I must warn people interested in seeing this film that I love for this type of music is necessary to fully appreciate this film. It is along the lines of Damien Rice (the leads were the opening act on one of Damien Rice's tours). This movie is one of the most genuine films I've seen in a long time, something that means a lot amidst the Hollywood films of recent years. I highly recommend this film, but caution an interested viewer to know what there in for before they watch this film.
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on July 29, 2007
If I could give it more stars I would. Went into see this movie that my husband had picked out. He said it was described as an unusual musical. That's all I knew. I loved this movie so much. Couldn't get the tunes out of my head. Went home right after the movie and bought the CD on Amazon. Went to see it again and brought my brother-in-law and his wife to see it. They loved it. I had already bought two CD's (planned on giving them one) even before they had seen the movie. This is one of those inexpensive movies that become an incredible hit. Trust me, go and see it.
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