Last night I watched a 1987 Canadian movie written and produced by Patricia Rozema and starring totally winsome and loveable Sheila McCarthy called "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing." 1987 was a very transitional year for me personally, one filled with pain and joy, which all came flooding back after the film was over. This movie serendipitiously opened a Pandora's box but I'm ready to put what came out back in.
On the box of the DVD this question is asked, "Isn't life the strangest thing you've ever seen?" And I give a resounding shout "Right on." McCarthy plays awkward, shy, frighteningly natural, and funny Polly Vandersma, an organizationally impaired temporary assistant to a pretentious, French art gallery owner. This film is considered one of Canada's 10 best films ever. It's avant garde, but I loved it like I have long loved "Being John Malkovich."
But, seeing the characters quirkily interact, the clothing, hairstyles, cultural beliefs and euphemisms for that period of time 20 years ago really did trigger memories. Their exaggerated personality characteristics, the flash backs in McCarthy's life, her report of it on camera kind of like the YouTube we know now, the transitions from color to black and white, her romantic longing, and the music made me soar, laugh and wince especially when I recognized my own self doubts and pretentiousness.
I did take myself very seriously in those days. In 1987 I had been separated 3 years and my divorce after 27 years of marriage became final. I was three years into my "dream job" in downtown L.A. and because I bypassed alimony, I was making enough money to support myself. I sold the family home and began the search for the digs to herald my "new life." I alternated between my taste of freedom and choice and utter despair of making mistakes without a man. I no sooner bought my new townhouse in Redondo Beach when I lost my job. This was tantamount to disaster for someone who always feared being a bag lady deep down inside. I survived working temporary jobs until a full-time one in Santa Monica presented itself. I wrote my case to request a Catholic annulment for my deceased marriage, gut-wrenching and unnecessary in retrospect. I ended a one year rebound relationship that was going nowhere and another clandestine one that had begun to drive me nuts with its unpredictableness, which was also part of its lure. I contracted a bad kidney infection and ended up in the hospital for a week--and I went on vacation to Mammoth for a week with my girlfriend where we both spent time hiking, writing, laughing, and marveling at life being the strangest thing we'd ever observed. Did I say my first grandchild was born that year?
So, that's what happened and what I remembered when I watched "I've Heard the Mermaids Singing." Each week I take an exploratory visit to my local libraries where I glom onto movies that seem to leap Intuitively into my basket. It's always an adventure and this one was utter delight. Yet to come this week are "Born Into Brothels," and "Bukowski Reads at Bellevue."