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Hats off to the busker man
Indie-hit Once director John Carney talks to Tara Brady about how to make an Irish musical, while star Glen Hansard confesses he was pleasantly surprised at the film’s success.
Tara Brady, 26 Mar 2007
ithout wishing to sound like a clap-trap merchant, or – heavens forbid – an astrologer, with certain projects, sometimes all the right stars come out.
Unspecified bodies in the cosmos must surely have got aligned for Once, a delightfully bittersweet micro-budget Irish indie musical. Huh? Yes, you did just read those words in that order.
Winner of the World Cinema Audience Award at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and recipient of the inaugural audience award at the recent Dublin International Film Festival, director John Carney’s film has cheered anyone lucky enough to have caught it. “The sort of completely un-hyped, unheralded little gem you go to a festival like Sundance hoping to find and, every once in a while, do,” said The Village Voice. “A true pleasure that only the rankest cynic couldn’t enjoy,” trumpeted Cinematical. Unsurprisingly, Fox Searchlight, the distribution division behind Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine, have snapped up the rights for North America.
It’s an unlikely reception for a production that cost €100,000 and features eight full songs. Even Glen Hansard, Once’s dog-earred romantic lead, expresses surprise at how well the movie came together.
“Yeah,” nods Glen. “If anybody had said to me that some guy had made a film about a busker and a girl he meets, I would have thought, ‘rubbish’. Loads of people in Sundance came up and said – ‘You know what? I read the synopsis of your movie and thought it was shit but now I’m impressed.’ So that was lovely because I wasn’t even sure how it would go. When John (Carney) kept asking for songs I was having a great time writing them. But when he told me he was going to use all of them I just thought there was no way we’ll get an audience to sit through eight songs. I just said ‘whatever’ and figured he’d come to his senses. But he was right. It worked.”
Shot in lo-fi verité, John Carney’s singular musical takes a naturalistic approach to a generally fanciful genre. Eschewing choreography and chorus line for knackered guitars and sing-alongs, Once succeeds as a grounded gritty operetta where similarly minded ventures Romance And Cigarettes and Dancer In The Dark have stumbled.