J Keistler | Lake Jackson, Texas USA | 05/02/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this movie on VHS 'way back in the 80's when it was on VHS. Finally out on DVD!I've watched so many thousands of movies. Some are hated, some are loved, some just stab right through you. This is one of those. After watching it the first time I had to have it, bought it from the rental store. Can someone be defined as a 'loser' if they don't know or acknowledge it? The character of Polly Vandersma defines this. In today's PC environment she is might be defined as completely lacking the self-awareness we grasped in the 70's. Polly doesn't fit in, in the way we all want to. She doesn't fit in the working world at all, working as a clerical temp yet lacking the essential skills. Yet, here she is working for a small gallery selling abstract art. "A cute awareness" indeed! The woman who owns the gallery appears to possess the qualities that Polly would want to admire and emulate. She is beautiful, graceful, educated and oh, so articulate. Trouble is, Polly discovers a past lesbian relationship when a young artist appears. The larcenous collaboration between these two becomes pivotal when Polly, in her childlike honey, confronts this. Polly's hobby is photography, a form of self-expression for her, and again, she lacks the sophistication to realize the artistic value of her work. It has never appeared to her that her photos might be worth showing to others. This work appears as a revelation to her employer and her employer's lover in the end. After seeing this movie dozens of times, the kind condescending attitude of her employer has changed my attitude toward her. I've come to find her a quite sad character. She knows enough to appreciate art, yet also is aware that she hasn't the talent to create what she appreciates. There is such a shock when she sees the body of Polly's work, when Polly doesn't grasp their signficance!The character of Polly appeals to all of us in her awkwardness, in her lack of 'sophistication' by society's standards. She has an inherent honesty and goodness that are childlike, a frank admiration for her employer that is tragically destroyed. I think we all enjoy seeing the pomposity of others exposed, the 'emperor having no clothes'. I wore out three VHS copies of this, loaning it out to people. I don't watch this movie too often, though I know every scene. One has to be in the right mood for it. It is perfect on a rainy day, for someone in a dreary mood. To describe it as unique seems inadequate. There truly is nothing else like it--it's an event. I've enjoyed watching people watching this movie, seeing their reactions. The character of Polly has so many universal traits; some people will laugh awkwardly, some will nod in recognition. I am so very delighted that this movie has finally made it DVD where it will receive the permanence it deserves. There is a running commentary in the special features by Rozema that I wish I'd seen years before. Though this film is set in the late 80's it is contemporary enough that it doesn't seem dated. The performances are amazing, the casting flawless. This was Rozema's first film, and I still feel is her best. A keeper."
The best movie I ever saw by accident...
scott welles | los angeles, ca United States | 06/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I got lucky; after sitting through a truly forgettable flick at my college town's local theatre, I shrugged and elected to sit through the second half of the double-feature and take my chances. Good thing I did.
"I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" makes my short list of favorite movies (which is ironic, given that the list consists mostly of the likes of "Die Hard" and "The Terminator"...). It's clearly a microscopic budget (possibly a student film), but a great example of how to tell really good stories with no money.
Sheila McCarthy, in what is arguably my favorite female lead role ever, plays Polly, a sweet, kooky character who's deeper than she (or anyone else) imagines, basically the Canadian Walter Mitty, and she plays every scene to perfection. She was able to break my heart with a single look in the more dramatic scenes, and yet she also pulls off the best Groucho Line ever spoken by someone other than Groucho himself (she starts to say it with complete and utter naivete, then catches herself before it's too late -- priceless reaction shot!)
This is generally touted as a lesbian film, but the gender and orientation of the characters is almost arbitrary; I think it's more about the truth of artistic vision versus the appearance of sophistication -- compare and contrast Polly and the Curator, the film's yin/yang pair and you'll see what I mean.
The dream sequences are marvelously evocative, given the miniscule budget, and both the cinematography and music are as good as one could hope for. (There's a wonderful score in the coastline sequence, and again in the closing credits, that sounds as wide as a thunderclap and as deep as the heartbeat of God; I really wish there was a soundtrack album!)
Check this movie out; if you've only seen Sheila McCarthy as the blonde reporter in "Die Hard 2," this is the perfect place to see what you've been missing. (And why haven't we seen more of her since??)"
She's Not Your Everyday Girl Friday...
Mark Savary | Seattle, WA | 01/29/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Voted one of the ten best Canadian films of all time, "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" is an offbeat and gentle comedy that goes for the heart more than the funnybone. Patricia Rozema's stunning 1987 directoral debut is clever and brings a level of visionary design to the work that so many "pro" directors have long abandoned in their quest not to look too "artsy" for Hollywood."Organizationally impaired" temp secretary Polly Vandersma gives a video diary confessional about her interactions with her newest employer, a woman Polly quickly comes to worship. Polly's video frames the flashback narrative that includes Polly's daydreams. Polly's daydreams lend an air of fantasy to her somewhat bittersweet story, and elements of fantasy, such as the illuminated paintings (so beautiful they appear only as a canvas made of light), creep into the "real" segments.This is a film that will stay with you a long time. It's quirky, loveable, has an artistic flair, and the characters come alive with a surprising effectiveness and realism. Polly's observations ("Isn't life the strangest thing you've ever seen?"), further provide us with a look into her particular (and peculiar), point of view.Released in full frame on VHS about 10-15 years ago, the film has been long out of print. "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing" was also a long time in coming to DVD, so enjoy it in all of its widescreen splendor. Although rated "R" in 1987 for "strong language," the language is actually tame by today's standards.This is still one of the best foreign films out there, but not so foreign as to prevent all understanding. One viewing will have you hooked."
Brilliant exploration of art and love
B. Shulman | San Francisco, CA USA | 08/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is fantastic, and I only pray that they release it on DVD some time soon! Forget all of the "lesbian romance" clips you may see about this -- it's about love, the nature of true art, and one woman's exploration of herself and her world. This film is great for anyone who looks at contemporary art and says "but I don't GET it..." It's PERFECT for those of us who look at contemporary art and say "I don't get it, but I LIKE it." If you've ever flown in your dreams; or daydreamed while working, you'll love this sweet, tender film. See it TODAY if you can possibly find it at your local video store!"