“Once” in a While, a Unique Approach

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[Once, written and directed by John Carney. Released by Fox Searchlight.]

John Carney, who has written and directed the low-budget, low-key but heartfelt musical film Once, has a special communication with his star, Glen Hansard. Carney is a former member of Hansard’s current group The Frames. Furthermore, keyboardist Marketa Irglova forms a solid triumvirate as Hansard’s immigrant love interest in this film, shot in Dublin.

Hansard, a busker (a role that suited him in Alan Parker’s The Commitments), finds the irrepressible Irglova relentless in pursuing a friendship that he tries to turn into a romance, in the course of a week. The music that they make together is so lovingly crafted and rendered with such passion on film, that the nominal story takes a back seat.

Most indies that choose amateur actors hurt the project’s believeability but Carney uses his players in a wily, run-and-gun way that emulates documentary filmmaking. That said, Hansard, should he decide to lay down his guitar and re-Frame his career for a while, certainly could hold his own with more polished film actors.

The screening, held at Harmony Gold in Hollywood, featured a Q&A and a live performance of the film’s music by Carney, Hansard and Irglova, whose musical talents are undeniable and captivating. Multimillion dollar film musicals must dazzle with greater and greater set pieces. Carney seems to have discovered that the micro-budget musical can go a long way on great songs and an utter lack of pretension.

[Critical Moment: Marvelous musical performances, simple plot, shaky cam but an authenticity that wins over audiences.]

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