This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up—the bold debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczy?ska—follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit world of Smoczy?ska’s imagining. The director gives fierce teeth to her viscerally sensual, darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which the girls’ bond is tested and their survival threatened after one sister falls for a human. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lureexplores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality.
If I were to tell you there was a movie that involved mermaids, organ eating, burlesque, and disco musical numbers - you probably wouldn't believe me. I'm hear to tell you that this movie exists and it's called The Lure. Not only does it exist, but it's an amazing movie that must be seen to be believed. It has been nominated for 8 prestigious film awards and in fact won all 8 of them. Filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska had only made short films before The Lure, making this her first feature film. Since the success of this movie, she has been busy working on future projects that are sure to bend our minds for years to come. What Smoczynska does so well here is that she takes the absurd and makes it genuine, realistic, and most of all - fun. She is completely aware of the subject she is tackling and can make mermaid problems relatable to all of us, better than The Little Mermaid ever could.
The Lure takes place during the 1980s in Poland and centers on a couple of women. Well, women isn't the exact right term to use, but rather mermaids who end up on land and decide to take up a human life. The mermaids are Srebrna and Zlota, who both look like humans, but there is something fishy about them, especially when they can reveal their scaly mermaid tails at a moment's notice. The two mermaids meet a few humans in a band and decide to make a go of things in the music world of the the 80s.
Soon enough, Srebrna and Zlota are tempted at every turn into the seedy world of humans. Some of these things entice the mermaids, but with grave consequences. There is falling in love, learning what type of things to eat, and even running into former mermaids turned punk rockers who try and tell the truth to Srebrna and Zlota along the way about passion and the rules to living on land. All of this is set to excellent and spunky music numbers throughout the film. It's a lot to process for sure, but there is nothing like this film out there right now.
With the horrors of being mermaids on land in Poland, along with singing in a band, Smoczynska finds a way to connect us to the simple emotions that binds us all. While some may think this is silly, if you really look at it deeply, you see it's really a story of love and family, with some great music behind it. Not many people can mix genres up like this, but Smoczynska has proved that she can and we should all look forward to what she has up her sleeves next.
The Lure isn't for everyone, but those wanting something different with a wonderful story, authentic performances, and down-to-earth characters that we easily can relate to, then this is the film for you, which you won't soon forget.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
The Lure comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet that is fully illustrated, which includes cast and crew information, tech specs, an essay by Angela Lovell. This comes with Spine #896. The disc and booklet are housed in a hard, clear plastic case.
The Lure comes with a 1080p HD transfer and is presented in 2.39:1 aspect ratio from Criterion. According to the Criterion booklet, the film was shot in 3.2K digitally and was color corrected in 2K resolution. The picture has a ton of detail and a great color palette in certain scenes. When at the cabaret and night clubs, the uptick in bright colors comes full force with luscious red dresses and different shades of blues and silvers that shine brightly in the stage lights. The glistening of the red sequins look particularly good here. Other shots in well-lit exteriors bring out certain primary colors as well, but it's not as bright as a Pixar film.
A lot of the film is filtered through grimy and dirty lighting with pale yellows, greens, and blues all around to give a sense of an underwater theme that parallels with a seedy underbelly of a big city. It's quite brilliant, really. The detail is also outstanding here with every piece of intricate sequins standing out in the cabaret dresses and great textures in the mermaid tails. Other close-ups really show wrinkles, makeup effects, and individual hairs nicely throughout. Black levels are always deep and inky and the skin tones are natural when in good lighting. There are no issues with banding, aliasing, or video noise to speak of either.
This release comes with a Polish DTS-HD 5.1 mix with optional English subtitles. According to the Criterion booklet, this is a fully digital soundtrack and was mastered at 24-bit from the original audio master. It's a great audio track for sure, but it's not the best I've heard. The bigger sound elements come with the musical numbers that pack bass and heft with every instrument and vocal. This is where the soundtrack really shines.
There are a few other thrilling moments in the heavier action sequences where sound effects are more robust with good directionality, but it doesn't happen often. Instead, this is more of a front heavy mix with some sporadic ambient noises that come with reverb in certain locales. Dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with the subtitles, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, and shrills.
Off the Hook (HD, 42 Mins.) - The key actors, filmmaker, and crew members talk about making the film that focuses on the production, the themes, characters, music, and editing. It's a great behind-the-scenes look at how these people came together to make this good, yet odd film.
Aria Diva (HD, 32 Mins.) - This is Agnieszka Smoczynska's first short film that she made while she was attending University that follows a woman who crosses paths with a singer.
Viva Maria! (HD, 18 Mins.) - This is another short film from Agnieszka Smoczynska that is a documentary about a famous opera singer.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 19 Mins.) - There are six deleted scenes, two of which are alternate openings and endings. There are some cool scenes here for sure, so be sure to check them out.
Trailer (HD, 3 Mins.) - Original trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - An illustrated booklet that features cast and crew information, technical specs on the film, and an essay by Angela Lovell on the movie.
The Lure is just crazy enough to work. With mermaids, human organs, a cabaret, and disco-musical numbers, you might be tempted to stay away from all the wacky genres mixed in, but Agnieszka Smoczynska perfectly blends in every genuine moment to give this film a human side where you connect and care about everyone. It's rare that movies do this, especially one such as this. You can see why Criterion chose this to be part of its special collection, because it's deep on many levels, weird, and not to be forgotten. The video and audio presentations are both good and the extras give great information about the making of the movie, as well as show us how Agnieszka Smoczynska got to where she is now with her short films. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!