Agnieszka Smoczynska’s The Lure demands praise as one of the year’s most unique, unexpected treats; a fanciful feast of cannibalistic Eurotrash ultra-sweetness. Believe in this female-directed debut about playful sirens who pack disco-drenched nightclubs. Dive headfirst into musical mayhem spawned from pixie-punks with gigantic eel tails. Have your minds blown by a foreign-romantic-musical-thriller about murderous sea seductresses who’d dominate the next Eurovision competition. You are not ready for The Lure, and nor should you be – Smoczynska’s unconventional creation is pure sonic seduction.
Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska star as the film’s young muses, Srebrna (Silver) and Zlota (Golden). The two mermaid sisters emerge from blackened waters, captivated by a Polish nightlife band known as Figs ‘N Dates. Before long, they become part of a Warsaw cabaret act that incorporates their mermaid forms (hey, kink sells). Silver and Golden unleash their voices, splash a little water on their legs and poof – two entertainers are transformed into half female/half mer-eels who still sing a most sultry tune. All the easier for Golden to hunt male victims, or for Silver to win the heart of bassist Mietek (Jakub Gierszal).
Maybe you’re worried that The Lure runs thin with gimmick-only glitz. It’s a fair concern that critics appear to be voicing. Smoczynska’s imported showstopper beats its own drum passionately, so look elsewhere if choreographed shopping sprees don’t win you over. You get 100% of what you paid for, from fangs-out feeding sequences to sister sea-creatures splashing inside a giant, on-stage martini glass. Innocence juxtaposed against a crowd of thrusting, arm-flailing fans painted with neon lasers, so representative of sugar-coated midnight exploitation. Colors are gaudy, tones are synth-laced and most plotted shifts are conveyed through song – if that doesn’t strike your fancy, consider yourself warned.
Of course, those very aspects of The Lure hooked me like a powerless guppy. From the moment Silver and Golden sing “we won’t eat you my dear,” Smoczynska unspools her zany sense of self-aware humor (scripted by Robert Bolesto). It’s a dark, pitch-black coming of age story about girls who only have “slits” on their scaly, slimy tails (Barbie Dolls otherwise). As Silver seeks love, Golden tears into men for a quick midnight bite. Golden worries about her starry-eyed sister, because mermaids who fall in love turn into foam if their prince marries another human. A wedge is shoved between the two fantastical sisters, as they drift apart once Silver becomes tangled in Mietek’s earthly charms.
The Lure pushes creative boundaries as musical numbers blare bravado, starting early with a girl-power pop ditty about luxury, status and living big. Golden’s song about cravings not being wholesome literally stops time (freeze-frame music video), as her sultry saunter chills with rhythmic rebellion. At minute 38, a she-screaming war cry has the two mermaids bouncing energetically, proclaiming how “bitter tastes can be delicious” with indulgent perversion. Konopka’s interpretive dance to Bill Chase’s “Cronus,” Marcin Kowalczyk’s punk anarchist warehouse band, romantic keytar usage – musicians Ballady i Romanse crescendo an ever-changing soundtrack that evolves with storied sophistication.
Smoczynska does navigate some choppy plotted waters, lost in musical connections that briefly jump between major tonal shifts without much warning. Particularly, Perkusista’s face-punch escapade or Mietek’s surprise wedding – two major events that develop mid-chorus. Lyrics paint a well-enough picture of scene-by-scene continuity, but Smoczynska’s bigger universe doesn’t always favor smooth transitions. A musical that goes all-in on music? I promise there are worse things in life.
Dotted lines aside, The Lure is powerful enough to cast an obsessive spell on anyone watching (Polish-speaking or not). Funkified grooves are understood universally, as is showmanship, energy and man-eating charisma. These are the qualities that Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska use to woo audiences, much like Kinga Preis’s dumbfounded-to-amazed reactions and Warsaw’s vodka-soaked party landscape. Sexuality plays into trance-like control, as slippery mermaid tails become phallic and infatuated companions writhe in pleasure. Love warps into idealism, selfishness into pain and musical highs into self-destructive lows. Agnieszka Smoczynska’s ambitious debut is a most striking, vibrant declaration of talent, accepting the challenge of musical structures with enthusiastic brilliance. Eat your heart out, Hans Christian Andersen – this is my kind of “The Little Mermaid” adaptation.
The Lure is the Polish romantic musical thriller about killer mermaids and Eurotrash pop you never knew you needed.