Once is an Irish romantic drama that had a very modest budget (and ‘approach’ if I might add) and found Oscars success at the 2008 awards season. I have great affection for this movie not only because I had just seen the protagonist – Irish music balladeer Glen Hansard in concert opening for Bob Dylan, but because this adorable understated indie movie made such great-inroads and basked in the sun of mainstream accolade.
Wikipedia: The film stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová as two struggling musicians in Dublin, Ireland. A thirty-something busker performs with his guitar on Grafton Street, a Dublin shopping district and chases a man who steals his money. Lured by his music, a young Czech flower seller talks to him about his songs. Delighted to learn that he repairs hoovers, she insists that she fix her broken hoover….. Once spent years in development with the Irish Film Board and was made for a budget of €112,000. It was a commercial success, earning substantial per-screen box office averages in the United States.
It’s very serendipitous how I see Bob Dylan in Sydney 2001 the night before he received his Oscar for Things Have Changed and then Glen Hansard in 2007 open for him and soon thereafter he wins an Oscar for Falling Slowly in Once. What are the chances of that?
Allow me to digress if you will, when I saw Dylan perform the night before he won his Oscar he was very jovial and zingy, perhaps he already had received his Oscar in the post. I remember saying to my partner at the time, ‘he’s trying to be Elvis’. It was a fantastic show and just after Dylan sung Things Have Changed and received his Oscar my old man called me. He said (or words to the effect), ‘Dylan eyes penetrated the TV screen. He didn’t sing that song, he WAS that song’. Put it down to nostalgia or what have you, but it is one of my favourite live performances of anything, ever. He unleashed this remarkable verbal tirade of aging cynicism and reasoning (no holding back) and to this Hollywood audience no-less, then he ever so graciously/meekly accepts the award and gives a wonderfully articulate speech about tranquility and goodwill.
Once‘s minimalist real-life documentary and Hollywood cliche-free approach is refreshing. It has wonderfully natural performances from the two leads. Although musicians first and actors second, they acquit themselves well in both areas. Everyone involved in this film obviously has a great passion for music, and it is very infectious. Once may loosely be classified as a musical, but it has a refreshing vérité inflection. It was conceived by director John Carney as a “video album,” but it sports a scrappy, un-embellished naturalism that is rare these days in cinema.
If you haven’t seen Once and your still undecided about if it’s your ‘thang’ then watch this video excerpt from the movie when they record ‘When Your Minds Made Up‘: