I often rent movies and TV shows on Netflix that I have already seen, hoping that the commentary will be interesting, and I did this with the little movie from last year Once, which won the Oscar for best original song. The movie is shot on the cheap and almost has the feeling of a documentary, but the characters in the movie (who are never named and are credited as Guy and Girl) have lives that don't actually resemble the lives of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, pictured here. He isn't really a Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy. His band the Frames have made records, and one of the problems with shooting the film is that when he when out on the streets to play music, known as busking, crowds would form and folks would shout out "Hey, Glen, give us a tune!" and request songs his band plays. The scene at night at the beginning of the film where there's no one around and Guy is singing his heart out and the camera pulls back and Girl is the only one there had to be shot at 5:00 in the morning, else Hansard was likely to attract a crowd.
The writer and director of the film, John Carney, had been a bandmate of Hansard's, and wanted him to write songs for the film from the beginning of the project, but only decided to cast Hansard in the lead rather late in the day. Neither Hansard or Irglová are professional actors, and some scenes when you watch them twice show the flaws, but they are good musicians and appealing people, and it takes a person more cynical than I am not to root for the characters.
I watched the commentary on the songs by Carney, Hansard and Irglová, and it surprising that even in such a small film that there is "movie magic" going on. In the recording studio, the band is not playing behind Hansard on When You're Mind's Made Up. The tune is in 5/4, and the kid who plays the drummer never got the hang of it. Hansard's band The Frames are the musicians on that tune.
For me, the scenes in the recording studio are the ones that connect most with my own experience. I recorded many of my own tunes with The Wonders of Science, recorded a few with Padre Mickey backing me up and also went in on my own a few times. The idea that you've been listening as you record on really good speakers, so you need to make a tape and listen to it on the crap speakers in your car is a true to life scene. Also, the idea that it's 4:00 in the morning and you have to decide whether to keep going or pack it in is also a decision musicians in studios around the world have had to make.
For my money, Once holds up very well on second viewing. On the strength of the Oscar win, Hansard and Irglová have a recording contract, which means they will be able to make a follow-up to The Swell Season, a record they made a few years back. I wish them and the director all the best.