Friday, August 16, 2013

In case you missed it - Once... A Popjunkie Movie AND Music review

Film ****1/2 (out of *****)
Soundtrack ****1/2 (out of *****)

I’m a cynic. I won’t even begin to hide it. I’ve been around the block so many times it’s been named after me. So naturally, when the “Hollywood Hype Machine” kicks in – I’m always skeptical.  Until proven otherwise of course.

I was happily proven otherwise when I came across the film Once - easily one of the best surprises to hit the silver screen in 2007.  How wonderful that a movie so pure and genuinely touching can get to Hollywood by way of Ireland? With so many movie ideas coming from a line of toys, old cartoons or worse, insipid remakes of films that needn’t be remade in the first place, it is amazing that a film this organic actually cut through the din to find an audience at all!

While it has a seemingly simplistic storyline, Once is a multi-layered film with equally complex characters in the lead roles played by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova; known only as “Guy” and “Girl”.  What is so captivating about our two antagonists is that they are nothing more than average people making their way in the world.  Instead of being in control, ultra-cool and witty, we have a couple who make mistakes, stumble over their words and say stupid things.  The greatest achievement of the film was in its casting of Glen and Marketa – two real-life musicians who wrote the songs for the film before the director turned to them and gave them their acting assignments. The fact that neither is a professional actor only makes them more endearing to the audience. I won’t go into further details regarding the film’s plot but trust that it is inspiring, moving and a treat to behold.  This film comes very highly recommended.           

As if things couldn’t get any better, Once boasts not only a fantastic soundtrack but a soundtrack that is easily the best album of 2007! Throughout its running time the album refuses to falter, coming across more like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation rather than a collection of new tracks. Beginning with the gorgeous (and Oscar winning) Falling Slowly, the gorgeous melodies of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova envelope the listener in melancholy, self-doubt and ultimately, hope. Song after song, every plaintive melody is delivered with such raw emotion that upbeat tracks such as Fallen From The Sky and Trying To Pull Myself Away are almost met with relief.

This is a beautiful album that grabs you form the first listen and slowly reveals more of its tortured inner being with repeated listens. It is easy to see how it won a Grammy Award and was made into a hit Broadway musical. Brilliant stuff indeed.       

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