Wednesday, December 19, 2007

MINI REVIEW: ONCE

ONCE (****), John Carney's small, modest masterpiece, is the musical for people who don't like traditional musicals. I saw the film this past summer but never got around to reviewing it; after watching it for the second time last night on dvd, I was immediately reminded of its many charms. A sleeper hit on the art-house box office circuit, ONCE is the sort of film that will find a massive second-life on dvd and cable; it's a super low-budget effort that sits along side THE COMMITMENTS as one of the best working-class musical dramas of all time. There is spoken dialogue throughout the film, but much of the story is told through song. The actors, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, were friends for a long time before they shot the movie, and are musicians first and foremost. The story is simple: boy meets girl, boy wants girl, girl sort-of wants boy, boy impresses girl, girl warms up to boy, and then....well...I'm not spoiling. What I will tell you is that each and every musical sequence is divine, especially when the two actors collaborate in the back of a music shop. It's one of the best single scenes of the year. The emotion, joy, and love that the characters develop for each other, and that they share over the power of music, is enough to lift you out of your seat and make you cheer. And the ending of the story is just about perfect; I couldn't have imagined a better way to cap this lovely film. By the end of the film's swift 86 minute run-time, you'll be wishing that there was one more song to be heard. Carney, who played in a band years ago with Hansard, takes a natural stylistic approach to his story, employing a hand-held digital camera shooting style that adds to the realism of the story. Much of the film, which took 17 days to shoot on a $150,000 budget, was shot by the cameramen from a distance, thus relaxing the actors and allowing them to be spontaneous with their performances. Honestly, the less I hype this movie up the better. It's a true gem, one that I look forward to re-watching over and over again. Seek this film out, you won't be disappointed.

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