“Lies” / Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova
I just saw the movie Once yesterday evening, a new Irish indie film that’s positively glorious. It’s about a disillusioned Dublin musician who’s playing street corners for spare change, and the Czech immigrant who turns his life around. I don’t want to give away any plot details; all I’ll tell you is that the musician’s played by Glen Hansard (front man for the Frames, who played the guitarist in The Commitments eons ago) and the Czech woman is the absolutely luminous singer-pianist Marketa Irglova. This is one of the few musical movies I’ve seen lately in which the songs are completely organic to the action (forget the staginess of Moulin Rouge), and the songs are mostly haunting and passionate -- like “Falling Slowly,” “When Your Mind’s Made Up,” and the one that’s stuck in my head tonight, “Lies.”
“Lies” is an acoustic number, guitar and piano eventually joined by cellos and a mournful Irish fiddle. You’re drawn in by its soft, tentative beginning, but don’t worry, it builds to full heart-wrenching emotion – then pulls back for a delicate ending. It’s a song about a love affair faltering on the shoals of bad communication – “I think it’s time / We give it up / And figure out / What’s stopping us / From breathing easy / And talking straight” he suggests gently in the acoustic section, though soon enough he’s blasting her in the chorus: “I can see you’re only telling lies, lies, lies / Breaking us down with your lies, lies, lies / When will you learn?”
Okay, it’s not the first song on this topic, obviously, and it doesn’t really say anything new. But it says it beautifully, especially in the bridge: “The little cracks, they escalated,” Hansard sighs, going up in a whispery sweet falsetto; “Before we knew it was too late / For making circles / And turning round and round.” The way the two voices yearn together, soaring upward on “making circles” – it’s simply magic, and I defy you to resist.
Though Hansard says his chief songwriting influences are Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen (join the club, Glen), his vocals remind me a lot of Cat Stevens. He’s got greater range, however, from that falsetto to a savage, urgent yelp, and Irglova’s pure soprano blends beautifully on back-up. This pairing was made in heaven (and apparently worked so well that Hansard and Irglova wrote more songs together than the movie required, releasing together another album, The Swell Season). I’m tempted to buy that one too, though I’m still sinking happily into the soundtrack CD (which was on sale at the movie concession stand – a no-brainer.)
I don’t know how wide the distribution for the film is at the moment; it’s only playing one art film house in New York right now, though it’s been around for at least a month. But if you see it playing anywhere near you, see it immediately. And if that’s not happening, get the soundtrack CD – you won’t be sorry.