Doodad Kind of Town

Simple Pleasures: "Once" and "Be Kind, Rewind"
February 29, 2008, 1:06 am
Filed under: Musicals

What toppped everyone’s list of favorite Oscar moments this year? The hearfelt and humble thank-yous of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova accepting the Best Song award for their ballad “Falling Slowly” from “Once.” (Igrlova’s speech was all the sweeter since she almost didn’t get to make it. Jon Stewart was gallant enough to bring her back out after the orchestra cut her off on her first attempt to speak.)

I have to admit, I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful these moments were, because… (sheepish admission coming up)…. I, um, hadn’t actually seen “Once.”

A few good movies fall through the cracks for me every year. In 2007, “Once” got away from me.

But I rectified that situation two nights later. I ordered “Once” through OnDemand. And now I know what I was missing.

A film this sweet and slight ought to be modestly charming at best. But “Once” felt near-miraculous to me. Obviously made on a slender budget, without a single cinematic trick up its sleeve, “Once” is nonetheless one of the most moving and engaging films I’ve seen in quite a while.

I’m assuming you know by now that the film centers around the brief, chaste romance of a Dublin street singer/guitarist (Hansard) and a young Czech pianist (Irglova). Actually, it’s barely even a romance – Irglova keeps Hansard at arm’s length throughout the film, and only allows him a brief kiss on her cheek late in the film. But there is a definite romance in the way these two play and sing music together, in their mutual love of musical expression.

Actually, “Once” is not so much about the love between a man and a woman as it is about the love between musicians and their music – and how that shared love binds them to other musicians. I can’t think of another movie that captures so well the dizzying communal joy of people getting together to sing and play. “August Rush” tried and almost got there a few times; “Once” nails it – and does so without much apparent effort.

The film even goes one step further and perfectly depicts what it feels like to fall in love with a song the first time you hear it. That’s what happens in one of my favorite scenes: Irglova runs out of the house in PJs and slippers to get fresh batteries for her Discman so she can listen to Hansard’s new tune. She listens, enraptured, to the song on her walk back home, improvising and singing lyrics to it as she walks. The song itself is beautiful, and Irglova’s joy in singing it and giving it words is infectious.

The simple joys of communal creativity are also at the heart of Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind, Rewind,” the single new release I saw this week.

Like other Gondry films, this one’s a quirk-fest and a little forced at times, but ultimately, it’s all rather sweet and heartwarming. (And hey, it’s got Jack Black at his manic, unhinged best – always a good thing as far as I’m concerned. So long as you realize I’m not counting “Nacho Libre” in that “Best” category.)

Danny Glover owns a struggling, crumbling little video rental store – still renting VHS tapes to a small but loyal customer base that somehow hasn’t succumbed to DVDs. Its’ a daily hangout for Mos Def and Black. Through a chain of events too weird to explain, Black’s body becomes magnetized and as he runs through the store, he erases all the tapes. He and Def then record their own hastily created versions of “Ghostbusters,” “Driving Miss Daisy” and so forth over the blank tapes. Eventually their ragtag little videos make them stars in the neighborhood and renters are lining up at the door to watch them.

To be honest, “Be Kind, Rewind” doesn’t really get up to speed until this point, when the neighborhood clientele start joining in to help create their own versions of everything from “Carrie” to “Men in Black.” And (spoiler ahead) when the government gets wind of their illegal creations and destroys the tapes, the whole neighborhood gets together to make their own original movie, a bio of Fats Waller.

It’s not all as precious as it sounds. There’s a genuine populist spirit behind “Be Kind, Rewind” – a celebration of people getting together and using their imaginations to create entertainment, for nothing more than the fun of doing it. It has a relaxed, uncritical attitude towards creativity that is sorely lacking, not only in other movies, but just about everywhere these days. In these post-awards-season days, when grander films with loftier ambitions are slowly moving out of the theaters, “Be Kind, Rewind” is a welcome little piece of tomfoolery.


5 Comments so far
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I am sooo glad you finally had a chance to see Once. And I think you captured the spirit of it perfectly, too: “…it is about the love between musicians and their music – and how that shared love binds them to other musicians.”Lovely.

Comment by Nayana Anthony

I put Once as my #1 film of 2007.

Comment by ferdyonfilms

I didn’t see those movies yet. I really enjoyed reading your reviews.I think you would like “The Waitress.”

Comment by Renegade Eye

i agree about once’s and the oscar moments being wonderful with Glen and Marketa.But honestly, i walked away from the film loving the music and it’s simplicity, but also having been a little bored.I’m glad you saw…it’s totally worthy of the 80 minute runt time.

Comment by RC

Nayana – Thanks. I think it ‘s so cool that you are actually going to see them in concert! I will be looking forward to your post on that.Marilyn – I think “Once” would have to be in my top 5 for 2007. “4 Months…” still has my top honor.Renegade Eye – thanks for stopping by. I did see “Waitress” – I thought it was sweet, although a bit derivative of “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”RC – It was certainly was a simple film, but at just over 80 minutes, I didn’t have time to get bored. Thanks for stopping by!

Comment by Pat

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