OnceMarch 9, 2008 at 9:49 am | Posted in music, not yet written, wine | Leave a comment
As I noted before, I don’t like movies that are suspenseful, scary, violent, or downers. And so therefore I didn’t see many of this year’s Oscar nominated movies. Last night, however, we watched Once, which won the Oscar for original song, and whose tagline is “How often do you find the right person?” (which right there makes it my kind of movie!) Here’s what else makes it my kind of movie: it is a surprising love story in that by not being a typical love story it’s all the more poignant and heartbreaking; it’s Irish and is set in Dublin; it’s about music; and, both physically and musically, the main character is a cross between Damien Rice and Chris Martin (check and check check check). My sister and her husband (who met through their Middlebury a cappella group and who dabble in the guitar) recommended it, so after the first few minutes (a long scene of the main character busking on a Grafton Street sidewalk), Tim was skeptical (“They probably liked this only because they’re musicians…”). But I was already hooked, and soon enough, Tim was too. We have, of course, already downloaded the soundtrack.
What was most touching to me, however, was a more subtle revelation about the artists. A quick recap of my day to set the mood in which I watched the movie: I took the MPRE in the morning (and still feel like I may have failed it), and Tim immediately picked me up so we could trek to the Babies R Us in Everett to buy some childproofing stuff for our about-to-be-quite-mobile 8-month-old. I find huge stores like that enervating to begin with, and the driving rain and traffic didn’t help. In other words: not a good way to relax after a tough and important exam. So, despite a lovely bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape that we were saving for a special occasion, I still hadn’t completely unwound from my self-induced yuppie stress. Back to the movie: the story is about a musician who sings on the streets of Dublin, but lives at home in the suburbs, helping his aging father in his vacuum-repair shop and a young, Czech émigré who sells roses and cleans houses, and who ducks into a music store on her lunch hours to play their floor model pianos. She helps the singer with lyrics and harmony, and he decides to record a spec CD to take to London to get a record deal. He asks some other buskers who perform down the street from him to help out on the tracks – another guitarist, a basist, a drummer. All five of them practice in John’s tiny bedroom and spend an entire night in the studio recording. What gave me goosebumps was the transforming effect of the music. The characters were no longer a vacuum-repair guy, or a housecleaner, or street buskers. In a poignantly powerful detail, one of the guitarists even wears a tie into the recording studio. It was worth it to them to live a relatively meager quotidian existence for the chance to do their art: music was that important. And, in the movie at least, this passion was tangible and authentic.
A few years ago, in a fit of despair and clarity (the former often brings on the latter), I thought I might run off to Rome and sweep floors in a well-known yoga studio to pay for my classes there and to support myself freelancing. I’m totally serious. It sounds terribly romantic and naïve, but I felt I’d be forced to be true to myself and, by giving up material comforts, might finally become the “real” writer I’ve always wanted to be. And yet, here I am, just months away from become a big-firm attorney. It would be easy to say that materialism and things won out, but, of course, real life is more complicated: this was, after all, just a movie that I watched last night. Still, I have a deep and almost soulful admiration for true artists who put their music or their writing or their painting first and let that art sustain them more than creature comforts. After taking the MPRE yesterday I thought, almost happily, that if I failed it and couldn’t sit for the bar, I’d have a whole summer to write a novel (which would, of course become so successful that I wouldn’t have to take the bar and be a lawyer anyway). Oh, the irony.