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A serendipitous meeting on the streets of Dublin between a down on his luck Irish street performer and a poor Czech immigrant sparks a bond that plays out in this hip, modern day music film. ONCE follows the two as they write, rehearse and record the songs that reveal their unique love story.
Winner of the World Audience Award at Sundance, Once starts out as a small-scale romance, like Before Sunrise, before arriving somewhere unexpected. An Irish busker (Glen Hansard, the Frames and The Commitments) meets a Czech flower seller (Markéta Irglová) while singing on the streets of Dublin. (In the credits, they're listed as Guy and Girl.) She likes what she hears and lets him know. Turns out she's a musician, too. They work on a few songs together and a friendship is forged. She lives with her widowed mother, who doesn't speak English. He lives with his widowed father, who owns a repair shop. Since he broke up with his girlfriend, the guy has been drifting, unable and unwilling to get his life in order. The girl encourages him to pursue a record deal, and the guy emerges from his funk. Then he makes a move on the girl, who rejects his advances. He's confused, but as he comes to find, there's a reason shes keeping her distance. Though Once is filled with appealing folk-pop by Hansard and Irglová (released on CD as The Swell Season), the movie isn't a traditional musical, but rather a more optimistic Brief Encounter. Filmmaker John Carney, Hansard's former bandmate, captures the real city--in all its affluence and poverty--rather than the picture postcard version. His beautifully shot film serves as a heartfelt ballad about all the underclass Guys and Girls swept aside amidst Ireland's economic miracle. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Beyond Once on DVD
Musicals on DVD
Once: The Soundtrack
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Stills from Once
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Some previous reviews noted that the additional content did not play for them on this UK release - I had no problems playing the bonus material. It is likely that the bonus material is in the PAL format used in Europe as opposed to NTSC used in the states, and if so then it is probably and issue with not all Blu-Ray players and/or HDTVs being compatible with that format.
As for price, definitely buy from one of the other sellers of NEW copies on Amazon - half the price for the same Blue-Ray.
'Once,' as in "Once upon a time," he (Glen Hansard)(generically named a guy) meets a gal (Marketa Irglova) (similarly named) on the street. He is a musician, belting out his own songs at an outdoor mall using a guitar with a gaping hole to accompany him. At the beginning we find him chasing down a robber who's stolen his guitar case with all his change. Such is his meager existence. He hasn't quit his day job, either. He works at a small, dirty vacuum repair shop when he's not making music. She stops by him one day and is impressed. (She throws in a dime, something he has the contumely to acknowledge a few times, yet he doesn't have the money to buy her magazine, either.) She asks him pointed questions that put him on the spot, but her look and smile are so lovely that he's able to overcome the awkwardness, especially since she at first suits him as being someone she can leave her vacuum with where he performs. (It's just quirky designs like this that make the movie so effective.) He gets too forward at one point later, but he softens her interest to find that she, too, lives in a dingy apartment with her daughter, Ivana, who is just a toddler and her mother. She is from the Czech Republic. He falls in love, but both find the right notes musically. She plays the piano and the keyboards, and her voice makes them a perfect match. Remarkably, the powerfully felt music translates so well, and the purposely amateurish video clips of her show the streamlined fantasy she has become. So focused is the series of home movies that (thankfully) stick out from MTV videos and makes the latter seem overwrought. The music, the videos, and the movie sort of melt together into one story and song. His passion inspires the music, but in every way she brings out the best in him. Her passion also is in the music, but her inspiration is in many ways the same and different from his.
'Once' is truly a departure from other film fare. At this point, I'll venture to wager it is one the best films of 2007. After this experience, a good movie like 'Music and Lyrics' seems like a hollow confection in comparison. (The vast majority of the songs' lyrics are credited to Glen Hansard with one by Maketa Irglova, and a few by familiar artists like Van Morrison--a perfect supplemental choice.)
But this isn't Grease or Hairspray or Les Miserables or even Sweeney Todd. It isn't THAT kind of musical. So I think the word doesn't do justice to the film. It is very watchable even for those who tend to hate musicals.
The plot, such as it is, focuses on a guy who is trying to figure out what to do with his life in the wake of a breakup. Along comes a rather chatty young woman who hangs out with him and the two hit it off. I don't want to mislead the potential viewer so let me stress that "hitting it off" is not a way of saying there is high drama and passion.
The delight of this film is that it is low-key, intentionally so (if you get the DVD be sure and watch what the director says about the film). It isn't meant to be a typical Hollywood blockbuster but more of a slice of life film.
I loved it, absolutely,totally - as did my son. He liked the music a great deal, much of it vocal music. While I appreciated that, I also enjoyed the refreshing look at two people who were helping and supporting one another as they struggled to figure out how their lives had gotten off track - and where to go from there.
I think that gives you enough of a basis to figure out if the film is worth viewing. I'd urge you to see it. If you want high drama or suspense or a mystery thriller then don't take a chance on it. If you are up for a good film, nicely done, about two people and the normal ups and downs of life (especially as musicians), you're likely to enjoy this.
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