Page 5


PLASTICS The free advice you get at a cocktail party is usually worth about what you paid for it. At Futura, the advice is free, but the results can be invaluable. Our friendly account representatives are trained to help you through the toughest print job and they’re backed by years of experienced, professional service. Call us at 442-7836 for a prompt quote on your next project. ee Owned and Managed COMMUNICATIONS, INC. AUSTIN, TEXAS 1714 S. Congress 442-7836 Data Processing Typesetting Printing Mailing Life Insurance and Annuities Martin Elfant, CLU 4223 Richmond, Suite 213, Houston, TX 77027 o Staille Bob is after her again \(the film is nothing more. It takes a bit of clumsy brutality on the part of the boyfriend, and Rita’s miscarriage, to reunite the unlikely trio in Bob’s house, and Bob’s bed, but hardly under Bob’s control, a realization that dawns with sudden clarity first on Bob and then on us. This is the story of Rita and Sue Bob, and all his ilk, are only an afterthought. THE WHOLE THING IS gloriously farcical, but with a hard edge of skeptical realism, and a straightforward look at a slice of modern British life reminiscent of My Beautiful Laundrette and Letter to Brezhnev, other British independents which have enjoyed much recent success. There is a lumpen realism brewing in English film that is as bracing as real ale; it is in stark contrast to the sort of pasteurized and foamy star vehicles or television crossovers that are currently being turned out by the joblot in Hollywood. The most delightful of recent releases is Canadian, Patricia Rozema’s I Heard the Mermaids Singing, starring the inimitable and winsome Sheila McCarthy. I have not been so taken with this sort of character since I first saw Giuletta Massina as the “artichoke head” of La Strada; indeed it appears that McCarthy may have used the same hairdresser as that hapless and endearing little clown. Her Polly Vandersma is priceless, an “unsuccessful careerwoman” who lives quietly alone, working as a temporary “person-Friday” with an eager incompetence that earns her the judgment, from one former employer, of being “organizationally impaired.” But she has a secret and winning passion for photography, taking unremarkable snapshots of “things that I like” and papering her dingy apartment walls with the results. In her darkroom perusing her photographs, she drifts into reveries, comic-marvelous images of flight and swan-like grace, and in her dreaming ears is the music of the spheres, those “mermaids” of the title. \(The film is one of the most telling ripostes to T. S. Eliot’s Prufrockian snobbery ever conceived; Rozema has revealed the hidden and potential glory in one small life of the sort the Good Gray Modernist would have dismissed “special effects” are strictly lowbudget, but McCarthy’s/Polly’s face is really all she needs: we watch Polly’s daydreams transform her from plain and baffled Jane to ecstatic and visionary angel. Heretofore content to be a selfdescribed “girl on the go,” wistful but self-contained, Polly is stunned into painful self-consciousness by a job in an art gallery, whose curator, Gabrielle effortlessly pretentious in a way that simply dazzles the ingenuous Polly. She finds herself in worshipful love with the awesome “Curator,” although Gabrielle is herself involved with a young woman artist, and in any case is thoughtlessly condescending to Polly as a matter of course. \(One nice touch of the film is the matter-of-fact way in which Rozema hard to learn from her new mentor how to see, how to eat \(there is a painfully funny scene in a Japanese phrases but she is as inept at these as she is at typing, “not her strong suit.” Before she met the intimidating Gabrielle she was unaware of her ineptness, at least at anything that was really important to her, like her photos; and she finally makes the inevitable and terrible mistake of submitting the photos, under a “pseudo-name,” to the Curator’s imperious judgment. The result is heart-rending; Gabrielle dismisses them as trash, “the trite made flesh,” and the heartbroken Polly goes home to destroy the things she loves best. It is only when she learns, by drunken accident, that Gabrielle is herself a frustrated and failed artist, and worse, a hypocrite, that the suddenly leonine Polly can reject the icy stare of “the Curator” and the dishonest .and grimly elitist pseudo-art world she represents. This is not a hard-bitten or cynical film; Rozema is as forgiving as Polly of her characters’ foibles and defenses. But it is clear that she has a partly serious axe to grind about the class-based and classbound notions of art that so dominate modern aesthetics and by the way, for which Eliot and his ilk are so much to blame, pace Hilton Kramer’s New Criterion. There may also be at least a hint of anti-patriarchal allegory in the names of the characters \(“Gabrielle St 18 DECEMBER 4, 1987