Once [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - Korea - S&M Korea
Review written by and copyright: Stevie McCleary & Noor Razzak (29th March 2011).
The Film

Don’t you just hate it when you sit down to write a review of something that used language, through normal speech and song, far better than you know you’re about to? "Once," the title is in regards to its tagline; how often do you find the right person? Coincidently this title also relates to how many times you will be able to watch a film like this one. It’s sad there aren’t more like it and for that, this film has to be celebrated.

The Guy (Glen Hansard) is busking on the streets of Dublin, only singing his own songs at night as he attempts to get over his girlfriend leaving him. The Girl (Markéta Irglová) is an Eastern European immigrant starting a new life. It all begins one night when she hears him playing, and from there she gets him to fix her vacuum cleaner (the Guy’s day job) and shows him the piano she’d love to buy. Over the next few days they bond over their mutual love of music.

You know when people just have *that* quality? You know the one…the one where you just need to keep watching what they, listening to what they say, hang on their every move… welcome to your main cast. Whenever people talk about perfect casting, "Once" has to be mentioned. There are a lot of abilities that need to be juggled on a film like this and they perform flawlessly. We’re talking about a film that uses a single camera style and, at times, so closely resembles a home movie in it’s execution that you have to remind yourself that they’re acting.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make before anything else. The loose and nuanced performances of the whole cast completely own the room. You find yourself searching in their performance for the truth of the moment, rather than waiting for cues from the dialogue. This makes the script the delightful addition to the reality that you already understand. Any acting coach will (or should, if they’re worth a damn) tell you that you should be able to work out the meaning of a scene from its body/facial language rather than the dialogue. That’s what acting is. Sadly, in a lot of Hollywood ventures, the actors tend to rely on the script to convey everything. This is a real shame, as a lot of those scripts are so hackneyed and cliché-ridden anyway. But not so here, as you watch the action and then enjoy the brilliant dialogue as well. There are simply not enough films that make you believe in that truth in the moment. But here we have charming leads and supports in conjunction with a killer script that show you can have believable characters. Hollywood; wake up, man up, and take notes. This is a low key, low budget film that blows most of yours right out the window for simply offering us some heartfelt reality.

So, did I mention this is also a ‘musical’? Albeit the most organic one you will ever see. So if you don’t normally like musicals, don’t be put off in this case. If you like ‘music’ in general then you will be just fine. It is never intrusive in this case and always serves the plot. No unrealistic ‘breaking into song’ shenanigans…just a film that happens to feature a lot of music in it. Trust me on this; it’ll be the best ‘musical’ you’ll probably ever see. Once earned its Academy Award for Best Original Song, and then some. You’ll want to own the Soundtrack instantly. Or at least settle for watching the film a couple more times to get you by.

This is the perfect film to watch with your partner, or someone you wish was. "Once" is unexpected and utterly charming. I’ve never said this in a review before, but here it is: please watch this film because you are missing out. It deserves to be remembered.

Video

Presented in the film's original widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 mastered in HD 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. The film was natively shot on standard definition digital video, so this 1080p bump is just that, a bump in resolution, looking no better than upscaling your DVD copy in your Blu-ray player. There are inherent flaws stemming from the film's low budget digital shoot, some shots appear lacking some detail, blacks can be a bit crushed and inconsistent as can contrast ratios shift. The film takes on a voyeuristic approach in the nature it was shot, so there's lots of hand held photography and shots that utilize low light situations or natural light situations. For the most part the footage looks good, colors hold up well, skin tones appear natural. Overall it's an ok transfer, probably the best we're likely to get but only a marginal improvement over the standard DVD release.

Audio

There's a single audio track here, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo, this DTS-HD track marks a noticeable improvement over the standard Dolby stereo track from the DVD. However much like the image it's only a gradual improvement. The film's sound mix is really broken up into two elements - dialogue and music. The dialogue is clear and distortion free (that is if you can get through the Irish accents). While that's solid, it's the music where this track shines, the music sequences breath well throughout the limited sound space, production limitations dictated the audio format in this case and it's unfortunate that a full 5.1 mix wasn't on the cards. However, in saying that it's still a decent effort.
Optional subtitles are included in both English and Korean.

Extras

The Korean edition includes two audio commentaries, two featurettes, a music video, webisode and the film's theatrical trailer. A second disc is the film's original soundtrack CD. Below is a closer look at these supplements.

DISC ONE: BLU-RAY

First up we've got a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director John Carney, and actors Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. In this track the participants talk about the film's genesis and developing the story and characters, he also comments on shooting on such a low budget and how that allowed him more freedom to do what he wanted. The actors talk of their involvement in the film, writing the music and performing onscreen, the director liked to place cameras away from the actors to try and get a natural performance from them, which appears to have worked. Overall it's a very interesting track to listen to.

Next up is a musical audio commentary by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. In this track the two actors are given the chance to comment on the film's music and the songs in which they wrote and performed. However, this track was very boring and had lots of silent gaps. It felt like the two were either under-prepared for the recording of the track or had nothing much to say. They do make some comments on the songs which are good but this overall track could have been edited down into a scene specific track with the comments played over a few scenes. The film's director also comes into the recording of this track and offers some insight.

Following that is "Making a Modern Day Musical" featurette that runs for 12 minutes 36 seconds and takes a look at the film's production. Shot during the production it features a look at the film, the cast and the director as they make a low budget film. It's great to see their working relationship as the director really wanted to make the film feel as natural as possible and the many steps he took to ensure that was the case.

Also featured is "More Girl, More Guy" a featurette that runs for 9 minutes 32 seconds and takes a look at the cast and basically interviews them about the roles and their involvement in the film. It's not as informative as the previous clip but certainly worth a look.

"Falling Slowly" is a music video by audio commentary by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová which runs for 4 minutes 15 seconds.

A throwaway wedisode is also featured, entitled "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy" and runs for a brief 57 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is the film's original theatrical trailer that runs for 1 minute 59 seconds.

DISC TWO: CD

This is the original soundtrack CD for the film and features the following tracks:

- "Falling Slowly" runs for 4 minutes 4 seconds.
- "If You Want Me" runs for 3 minutes 48 seconds.
- "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy" runs for 53 seconds.
- "When You're Mind's Made Up" runs for 3 minutes 41 seconds.
- "Lies" runs for 3 minutes 59 seconds.
- "Gold" runs for 3 minutes 59 seconds.
- "The Hill" runs for 4 minutes 35 seconds.
- "Fallen From The Sky" runs for 3 minutes 25 seconds.
- "Leave" runs for 2 minutes 46 seconds.
- "Trying To Pull Myself Away" runs for 3 minutes 36 seconds.
- "All The Way Down" runs for 2 minutes 39 seconds.
- "Once" runs for 3 minutes 39 seconds.
- "Say It To Me Know" runs for 2 minutes 35 seconds.

Packaging

This set is packaged in a 2-disc Blu-ray case housed in a cardboard slip-case.

Overall

The Film: A+ Video: C Audio: B Extras: B+ Overall: B-

 


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