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THE LURE Is a Wickedly Weird Mermaid Musical Head Trip (Review)

THE LURE Is a Wickedly Weird Mermaid Musical Head Trip (Review)

Personally, I had never thought of the early 1980s’ Eastern European discothèque underworld as the perfect setting for revisiting Hans Christian Anderson’s mermaid mythology. But after seeing The Lure, the harmony of this union seems all too obvious. It didn’t take long for Polish director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s feature debut to prove just how dutiful a benefactor the pulpy, purple-tinted rave scene would serve for her reinvention of the classic mermaid story. Immediately upon dropping two young seafaring sisters, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), into the clutches of a lecherous nightclub owner (Zygmunt Malanowicz) and his headlining band (Kinga Preis, Andrzej Konopka, and Jakub Gierszal), The Lure asserts an ether so thick that even just thinking back on the film lodges the timbers of “I Feel Love” right square in my auditory cortex.

Though simple enough in story—the aforementioned mermaid sisters test the waters of life on land, Silver motivated by her newfound love for a human musician, and Golden hungry for human flesh—The Lure is thick and bodacious in mood. Every slow skulk down the fluid-stained corridors of its nightclub setting drags us further into its unsettling but intoxicating little world. Around any given corner is an original musical number, a trippy vignette that plays with the parameters of life and death, or another insight into the psychology and physiology of the independent ‘80s mermaid.000069.26559.16196_thelure_still1_michalinaolszanska__byrobertpalka_-_h_2016

How Smoczynska plays with familiar mer-lore is a good heft of the fun found in The Lure. Silver plays the innocent Ariel proxy, yearning for a human life at the expense of her fins and voice, whereas Golden’s disregard for the human realm feels less reminiscent of Walt Disney than it does of the much grimmer 19th century fairy tale. Disparities in their outlooks and motivations aside, the girls’ deep friendship supplies the heart of the movie. Whether they’re communicating by way of bone-chilling echolocation or sharing a poppy duet about their new lives in the mall-laden Polish ‘burbs, Silver and Golden make for a surprisingly heartrending pair, thanks in large part to the lively chemistry between doe-eyed Mazurek and winningly sour Olszanska.

The empathy in the girls’ camaraderie and the majesty of the film’s hazy ambiance and grim design—the overlong and grotesque tails appended to Silver and Golden are the stuff of your favorite nightmares—keep The Lure from sinking altogether through some of its slower middle segments. During these periods, the closest thing The Lure has to a central story (Silver’s yearning for a human love life) seems all but forgotten. Perhaps too committed to its wily and weird nature, The Lure fills its second act with disconnected vignettes that serve primarily to vex and freak out viewers, and not in the same purposeful way that the rest of the movie seems to.

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Even the more narratively inclined elements of the oddball movie seem filtered through a sinister fugue state, though stay afloat thanks to a much clearer forward directive. In these chapters, Smoczynska delivers some inspiringly original and effective work. With a brilliant costarring dynamic, some delightfully catchy musical numbers, and a world so deeply steeped in the most magnetic, macabre aura, The Lure becomes something wholly worth watching, listening to, and living in.

Rating: 4 out of 5

4-burritos

Images: Kino Świat


Michael Arbeiter is the East Coast Editor of Nerdist. Find Michael on Twitter at @MichaelArbeiter.

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