I’m a hopeless romantic but my rants about Hollywood rom-coms are vitriolic. For the most part I’ve been avoiding the genre altogether lately. But a few weeks ago I saw a decent subtitled French film (“Quand j’etais chanteur”, aka the Singer, with Gerard Depardieu playing a middle aged lounge singer with charm and aplomb) and during the pre-movie build-up the trailer for “Once” played. I thought it looked great, although my favorite movie-going companion noted that it looked like exactly the sort of mushy thing that gives me away as hopelessly romantic and not nearly as tough as I try to appear. This weekend “Once” opened and I dragged he-of-the-mushy-comment back to the theatre to see the film. Not only was it charming and romantic without being mushy, but the music was amazing. It sounds slightly cheesy to say, but it was as though the songs themselves were the stars of the film.
The lead “actors” are both actually musicians, not actors at all, and most of the film involves playing music. This sounds off-putting at first, perhaps, although those of us who actually like the musical genre may not find it as problematic as those who object to the “man with hands on hips and legs spread two feet apart stands at edge of stage belting out a semi-operatic ode to his unrequited love” scene. The female lead, played by Marketa Irglova, has a voice and singing style that is reminiscent of Leigh Nash. The male lead, played by Glen Hansard, is more difficult to place in terms of his vocal style, it’s so heartfelt and raw. Perhaps a little hint of Damien Rice. See the duo perform for yourself here and here.
The “how the movie got made” story is the stuff of legend, echoing the story of the Brothers McMullen in terms of the shoestring budget and resulting financial success. Not to mention the whole “Irish” angle, which was, as my movie friend noted, nearly enough to make us run to Stansted and hop a Ryanair flight to Dublin. The film’s reviews have been glowing. And of course, as with any good romantic story, the lead actors are now involved off-screen and making beautiful music together in real life.
Update: See the trailer here, conveniently with Czech subtitles!