Lure, The (2015)

Review #1,509

Director:  Agnieszka Smoczynska
Cast:   Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, Jakub Gierszal
Plot:  In Warsaw, a pair of mermaid sisters are adopted into a cabaret.  While one seeks love with humans the other hungers to dine on the human population of the city.

Genre:  Comedy / Drama / Musical
Awards:  Won Special Jury Prize for World Cinema - Dramatic (Sundance)
Runtime:  92 mins
Rating:  R21 for sexual scenes and nudity
International Sales:  WFDiF

Apparently this is the first musical to come out of Poland.  I wonder if that is really true because I find it hard to believe that a hundred years of Polish cinema never produced a single film that included some kind of song-and-dance number.  The Lure, the first feature by Agnieszka Smoczynska, one of the new female voices of European cinema, is hard to contain in a single genre.  It traverses the realms of horror, comedy, romance and melodrama.  

The genre-mashing is fascinating but tone-deaf, a kind of double-edged sword where the film works under the pretext that it offers a wild, phantasmagorical experience, but ultimately feels too uneven to satisfy wholeheartedly.  I must, however, applaud the effort.

Golden and Silver are two sister mermaids with a carnivorous appetite.  They emerge ashore, finding themselves in 1980s Warsaw.  They find work in a cabaret, adopted by a family running the business.  When one of them falls in love, things begin to unfold in absurd fashion and with potential serious consequences.  

In Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska, Smoczynska finds two talented women who not just possess the chemistry, but enough charm to seduce viewers to like their characters even though they have a fetish for human meat.  Giving strangely alluring performances, the duo also have to work with copious nudity that is desired of them as their characters become show-stoppers in the cabaret.

A warped take on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”, The Lure is energetic and colourful, most notably during its musical sequences, which features an assortment of routines.  Not all the songs and choreography work effectively, and one might even feel that some are superfluous or don’t quite advance the narrative or character development.  The pacing of the film is also suspect at some parts, in particular a woeful, cringe-worthy sequence following the aftermath of a family squabble.  

Smoczynska is a good director, but a poor executioner.  Her vision of a coming-of-age tale told in an off-kilter style is clear, but her grasp of tone and storytelling rhythm leaves much to be desired.  Granted, this is one of those films that you either enjoy or don’t—there’s no middle ground.

Verdict:  Certainly an energetic and colourful debut feature executed in an off-kilter style, but its genre-mashing is uneven and doesn’t always work.





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