Vital Signs

Siren Song

I've Heard the Mermaids Singing
written and directed by Patricia
Rozema Vos Productions

Shall I part my hair behind?
Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel
trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids
singing, each to each.
I do not think that they
will sing to me.

"My theory," says Patricia Rozema, "is good art is what you like." Rozema, a down-to-earth, 28-year-old Canadian, is the writer, director, editor, and coproducer of I've Heard the Mermaids Singing. Mermaids can be hard to describe: It is both a film about independence and a Canadian ode to incompetence—about an impossibly red-haired, wildly inadequate "organizationally impaired" temporary secretary in Toronto named Polly.

Polly is the kind of person who says "Holy Moly," whose polyester sweaters and milk mustache and malapropisms belie a vivid inner life. She comes complete with bicycle and a slightly nosy love of taking black-and-white photographs. She also has a salt-of-the-earth self-sufficiency and sincerity that puts the better dressed, better educated, better spoken people she idolizes to shame. To her employer, the curator, Polly is just a "sweet imbecile," a half-life half-lived. But she is more like what the Russians...

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