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I've Heard the Mermaids Singing [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: Sheila McCarthy, Paule Baillargeon, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Richard Monette, John Evans
  • Directors: Patricia Rozema
  • Writers: Patricia Rozema
  • Producers: Patricia Rozema, Alexandra Raffe, Don Haig
  • Format: NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Nelson Entertainment
  • VHS Release Date: December 20, 1990
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6300983781
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,215 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Lensed on a smile and a shoeshine on 16 millimeter, I've Heard the Mermaids Singing effectively shifts from black and white to color and back again to make its artistic statement. Sheila McCarthy stars as a self-effacing amateur photographer who goes to work for yuppie art-curator Paule Baillargeon. Ms. McCarthy expresses her admiration for Ms. Baillargeon by secretly submitting the latter's paintings to some appreciative critics. Baillargeon responds by behaving atrociously towards McCarthy. This shakes up McCarthy to the point that she realizes she'll never succeed as an artist on her own terms long as she hides behind the accomplishments of others. This apparently autobiographical first film by director Patricia Rozema (we say "apparently" because Sheila McCarthy's character name is rhythmically and ethnically close to Rozema's) won the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes Film Festival. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 36 customer reviews
Finally out on DVD!
She ends up working at an art gallery with a hyper social artist who is the complete opposite to this simple, good if somewhat quirky soul.
Teresa Rune
And it was a message of taking joy in life, of finding the humor in all the little things that happen every day.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By JK on May 2, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By scott welles on June 5, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
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??)
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By G N Redwood on March 19, 2004
Format: DVD
I have waited years for this to come out on DVD. One of my favourite films of all time (if not my favourite), I've only had a very poor copy I taped from the television years ago. When it was first shown at the Cannes film festival, the critics gave it a standing ovation (totally unheard of). A beautiful story, wonderfully acted and filmed. A truly magical experience, so why did we have to wait for so long? - second hand tapes have been changing hands for quite large sums, so its obvious there was a demand for it.
Slightly mysterious, but very grounded, the story is touching in many ways. The basics are spelt out in the other reviews below, so I won't repeat them. But I will repeat my praises for it- this is a MUST HAVE independant Canadian film, rarely seen at the Cinema anywhere, and surely one of the best films missed by most people.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Mark Savary on January 28, 2004
Format: DVD
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.
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