Monday, March 6, 2017

Disco Siren Song

Granted, it's painful, but remember life before the Bijou?

Remember what a Sunday afternoon was like before we could count on going to see a Polish synth-pop horror musical about two bloodthirsty mermaid sisters working in a cabaret in 1980s Warsaw at the Bijou?

I sort of recall, but my sunshine, lollipops and rainbows ethos prefers to concentrate instead on how incredibly fortunate we are that three film geeks are curating a near-weekly rotation of films we'd never get to see in Richmond on the big screen otherwise.

This Sunday's was a genre-defying horror-musical mashup from a first-time Polish director who clearly has things to say and budding ways to say them that include garish colors, bodies being sawed in half and disco.

Bijou co-founder Shane referred to it as the "anti-La La Land" while James warned the crowd ahead of time that what we were about to see was the closest we were going to get to Hans Christian Anderson's story "The Little Mermaid" and that's an understatement in a world of sanitized pablum and Disney cutesiness.

Like so many fairy tales, this one is incredibly dark and the filmmaker doesn't shy away from that. Mermaids have beautiful voices for one reason only: to lure men into the sea so they can eat them Polish-style, which involves attacking their throats and eating their hearts.

The two mermaid sisters in this film enter the human world when some nightclub employees are partying on a beach and the sisters decide to go back to the club with them, where they become part of the act, stripping and singing and having water poured on their legs so they sprout scaled tails in front of stunned audiences.

Problems ensue when one sister falls for the cute bass player and decides to have legs sewn on her body to replace her tail so she can live out her life as a human woman. Naturally, the director shows the surgery, which is made utterly surreal by the mermaid singing throughout it all.

But, alas, the bass player falls for another woman and the poor brokenhearted ex-mermaid is reminded by her mermaid sister that she has to kill him or be turned into sea foam.

Mermaid or human, men are always gumming up the works.

And the Bijou always seems to be screening some noteworthy film that Richmond didn't know it needed to see until they saw it.

That we watched it with sirens screeching by repeatedly (Rappahannock was on fire a block away) but always at fitting moments (mid-surgery) only added to the surreal vibe in the theater and the post-film discussion in the lobby afterward.

Just another weird and wonderful afternoon at the anti-multiplex. Thanks, Bijou.


  1. yes I do remember life before the Bijou, I attended the Westhampton, a real Richmond landmark.


  2. I was a regular, too, cw, even had a favorite front row seat in the upstairs theater. The Westhampton was my go-to for many years. So sad that even the building is gone now.

  3. I probably saw you there a few times...that block looks naked without it...


  4. Probably did. It's such a shame because of that wonderful theater architecture that they just don't build anymore.

    You should come to the Bijou this weekend, cw. There's a fascinating-sounding new documentary playing about two guys who made LSD in the '60s in hopes of saving the planet. I love stuff like that!

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