Once Blu-ray Review
I had no idea what I was in for when I popped in ONCE. I’d never heard of it nor have I heard of any single person associated with it. Little did I know I’d be watching one of the most uniquely shot musical films of this era. Sure we’ve all heard of or seen MOULIN ROUGE!, HIGH SCHOOL THE MUSICAL and SWEENEY TODD, but ONCE is one that truly comes from the heart of the artists featured in it.
Our movie begins with a Lad (Hansard), a scruffy faced street musician, who also works with his dad repairing household items. He performs soothing toe tapping songs during the day, but at night he bellows out soulful songs that feel a bit forlorn. Music literally is his emotional outlet. Whilst performing one day, he’s approached by a Girl who seems entranced by his playing. And yes, our two leads have no names. She eagerly tells him she plays the piano and they quickly find a music store where they appear to be so in tune that she quickly catches on and plays along to one of his folksy bittersweet song. Is that love in the air?
ONCE is very ambiguous with the relationship between the two. At times it’s plutonic and she even shoots down his advances. So many times we watch them simply pal around or approach others as two budding musicians, but once the songs start, a flirty atmosphere begins to fill the air the lyrics seem to be the only way they can communicate something deeper to one another. Without deeply involved backstories, or even names for that matter, the Guy and Girl feel like they’re more than just people. Separately and together they seem to stand more as that moment between two people when something extraordinary happens. So many times they’re in busy streets full of merchants and chatty passersby, but when together, nothing else is happening.
Hansard plays his character with such a passion that if you were to pick up this movie somewhere in the middle without being told what it is, you might actually believe you’re watching the camera catching an authentic slice of life. Irglova is fantastic and just like most times when men pine for another woman, she has such a misleading quality about her smiles and just when you think fireworks are about to go off, she casually flips on a dime and expels her characters true feelings.
At times it’s shot like the replica of an intimate documentary while other times it feels more like a hidden piece of urban footage. In one scene in particular, it’s a long tracking shot featuring the pivotal emotional point for one of our characters that feels inspired from other a melodic American films. The director, Carney, shot this movie on a shoestring budget which is quite impressive since it seems like he had a massive crew constantly catching every possible angle so that nothing, but the prime cuts would be featured since every shot seems like the perfect fit.
ONCE is a movie you don’t simply watch, but you experience. Just like the characters, we encounter something that doesn’t follow a movie’s rules, but instead seems to abide by the facts of life. Their adventure isn’t a predictable one, but by the end feels truer than what you think would happen. Instead of giving us a dry, by the books story, we’re instead spun a beautiful film about the splendor of meeting others and what we do in those brief, but everlasting moments. If you’re looking for something deeper, listen to the lyrics and music, and simply get lost in the splendor of ONCE.
ONCE BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 1:85:1) I would wager that this movie was not shot in high definition. While this is professional shot, the quality feels amateurish, but that’s part of it’s beauty. So I won’t deduct points for something that was purposely done.
Audio: (English 2.0 DTS-HDMA) For a movie that constantly feels like a covert operation of documenting this one moment, the audio mixing is fantastic. The transition from regular conversation pieces to musical driven scenes is flawless.
Commentary with Writer/Director John Carney and Actor/Musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova: This is not a very long movie, so they’re really able to pack in all the little interesting tidbits that I wondered about during the movie. It’s great when the most important people attached to the project are able to articulate their thoughts. It also features a great explanation behind what the movie title means in the context of the movie.
Musical Commentary with Writer/Director John Carney and Actor/Musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (36:37): This is like bonus commentary, but not as good as I was hoping it might be. This is commentary over the film’s musical moments and while it’s interesting, it wasn’t as fulfilling as the movie’s regular commentary. You can play it all as one long clip or separate by each song.
Making a Modern Day Musical (12:43): This feature focuses on the way they were able to create this movie. It’s interesting that they incorporated long lenses so that people on the street wouldn’t know they were making a movie. Also interesting to see the leads bounce ideas off other musicians. This is almost everything I’d look for in a behind the scenes piece.
More Guy, More Girl (9:39): This is a focus on the relationship between the guy and the girl in this movie. Solidified a lot of the ideas I had about the movie, but watching these three discuss on location what the scenes should be are entertaining.
Webisodes: Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy (0:56): This is a weird storyboarded video played over one of the songs in the movie. I guess it has an indie charm, but overall, unnecessary.