The poetic 2006 street-music indie Once works magically in its rough-hewn moment---a moment, it should be added, that occurred five years ago. Glen Hansard and Markta Irglov were then an attractive duo; their Oscar win for Best Original Song hid some behind-the-scenes tensions deriving from an aborted romance. All of this is supposed to feel like breaking news in the documentary The Swell Season, often composed of affecting backstage intimacy but ultimately deflated by its lateness to the game. If you can trick yourself into a state of amnesia, this double profile might resonate with you.
The movie looks beautiful, its sublime b&w cinematography signaling a fading dream. And there are touching moments here that you rarely see in docs about professional musicians or celebrities in general: Hansard's mother, beaming with pride, places a tiny knit cap on her son's Academy Award, as if to keep it warm. Yet semiprivate scenes between the central duo, deployed in oblique waves, don't supply enough tension to keep the narrative flame burning; he's the seasoned vet ready for some fame, while she's spooked by it. You can tell they're getting tired of the fights---frankly, we could have used some more of those.
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