Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cinematic Harmony

I've been listening to the CD soundtrack from the movie Once in my car since I picked it up last Friday and I just have to mention it here because it's great and makes me happy.

But first a little about the film.
Once is an independent film released last year about a Guy in Dublin with a newly dented heart (courtesy of ex-girlfriend) who fixes vacuums in his father's business but whose real passion is music. Every day he goes and sings on Grafton Street as a street musician, his playlist made up of the songs that attract the tourists and their money, but he breaks out his own material at night. He meets an Eastern European Girl who passes out flowers on Grafton Street. She approaches him while he's playing one night and sings (pun intended) his praises. They bond. They make music - literally. She inspires and encourages him to record a demo and helps him secure a bank loan to do so. He rustles up some street musician friends to be the band and they record said demo so that he can go to London, make up with soon-to-be-not-ex-girlfriend, and we are left to believe that success lies around the corner for him as he conquers the music business with his singer/songwriter tunes.

I thought the movie was lovely, but I can't laud it without caveats. It's a little slow and is basically a series of songs linked together by a nice little script, which makes it great if you're a fan of music but not so great if you're looking for a more traditional movie. It's has a typical independent film feel with a little shaky camera work and lots of use of authentic locations, which include the wonderful treat of seeing different parts of Dublin. Movies like this one often makes me wonder whether the people in the background are extras hired for the scenes or just regular people going about their day. I love the ambiguity of that. This guerilla style film making is most obvious when filming our street musician performing on Grafton Street in Dublin while hoards of shoppers and tourist flow naturally around him.

It's such a sweet story of a thirty-something man with a dented heart still seeking his dreams, playing his music when he can while fixing vacuums with his newly widowed father. He clicks with this woman who plays piano in the back of a piano shop on her lunch hour b/c she can't afford one for herself. In a very short time, these people have an enormous effect on each other, their lives subtly reinvigorated from their time together. They're never given names - simply listed as Guy and Girl in the credits - and I for one never noticed the lack till the end. And for a film marketed as a romance, there's very little overt romance in the film. They're just two people who click with together and fill a need in each other's lives long enough to get to the next step in their journey.

And then there's the music. I've been listening to it nearly nonstop since I bought the CD. I really like it; for some reason, the songs are still spinning around in my car and in my head. They're written (with the exception of two Van Morrison covers) and sung by Glen Hansard a singer/songwriter who is the former front man for The Frames and who plays Guy. I'd never heard of him before, but he's very talented and he sings every song on the CD accompanied on many by Marketa Irglova (Girl), also a singer/songwriter who contributes material as well. They're musicians, not actors, which makes me think that they were probably playing themselves for the most part in the movie, but it works, so no worries.

Really, it's the music that resonates with me more so than the movie. One scene that sticks with me where the music and movie function inextricably - one unable to exist without the other in order to create the desired effect - is when Guy takes Girl to a large dinner party where it's loud and boisterous with everyone having a good time eating and talking and then the instruments come out and there was music. I watched this scene and thought "this would be a perfect evening for me" and that's true because that is indeed what I would consider a perfect evening; good friends, great food and conversation, and then music and singing and joy.

I listen to track 14 on the soundtrack "And the Healing Has Begun" where Glen Hansard sings a cover of Van Morrison's great song with such passion and commitment...

we're gonna make sweet music under the stars/
we're gonna play to the violin and the two guitars/
and we'll sit down and play for hours and hours and hours and hours/
when the healing has begun

...and I think of that scene and the times I've sat around with people and music and just sang (something that hasn't happened in a long time) and had joy . I still find myself driving along listening to this track, thinking on this scene and smiling. Sweetly, sadly, but smiling.

Track #2 is another favorite where a very different emotion is evoked when Marketa sings:

are you really here or am I dreaming?/
I can't tell dreams from truth/
it's been so long since I have seen you/
I can hardly remember your face anymore/
when I get real lonely/
and the distance causes our silence/
I think of you smiling/
with pride in your eyes/
a lover that sighs/
if you want me/
satisfy me

It's so haunting, so aching with loneliness and desire, and yet so beautiful. I get out of the car and that song just stays with me, floating around in my head all day. Cinematic harmony.

So go rent the movie for a lovely film about two people at a crossroads who, for a short time, find kindred spirits in one another and are able to move to their next stage of life because of that brief relationship. Then get the CD and dive into the music. If you like acoustic guitar heavy, singer/songwriter music like Dave Wilcox, early Cademon's Call, or the great Van the Man, then give this a listen. And the healing may begin.

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