Deliberately weird and whimsical, Polish musical movie “The Lure” is destined to be a cult film. While it provides several lively musical sequences to delight you, it is also a dark horror melodrama about two beautiful but lethal mermaids, and there are a number of unpleasant moments which will definitely make you cringe for good reasons. Although it unfortunately loses its narrative momentum during its incoherent second half, it surely leaves considerable impression on you with its distinctive style and excellent soundtrack, and I sort of admired its quirky genre experiment even though I came to observe it from the distance.
After the main title presented via sketchy animation style, the movie introduces us to its two mermaid heroines: Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszańska). When a female nightclub singer, played by Kinga Preis, and her two male band players, are having a drinking time near the river in Warsaw, Silver and Golden approach to them from the river while singing the first song of the movie, and the guys are certainly transfixed by the mermaids’ seductive singing even though there is also a certain degree of danger behind their alluring sensuality.
Not long after this accidental encounter, Silver and Golden are taken to a posh nightclub where the singer and her band players work. It is around the 1980s, so the singer and her band players perform a song which further accentuates the period background of the movie, and Cinematographer Jakub Kijowski’s camera fluidly moves around here and there along with the house manger as he tries to trace something literally fishy in the nightclub.
He eventually comes upon Silver and Golden, and they willingly show him their true appearance. As long as they remain dry, they just look like two young beautiful girls, but their seemingly human appearance has a certain anatomical defect, and they are transformed back to their true appearance whenever they are watered. Surprisingly, the house manager is not so shocked by this, and Silver and Golden instantly get hired for showing themselves as well as their singing talent.
As our mermaid heroines are excited by their encounter with the human world, we are served with a fabulous musical sequence involved with their shopping spree in Warsaw. I must say that a department store in Warsaw during the 1980s does not look as good as Macy’s, but it looks lovely at least as extras are cheerfully dancing around the main performers, and the bouncy spirit of this sequence is as infectious as “La La Land” (2016).
Right from their first performance in the nightclub, Golden and Silver quickly become popular. They are initially the accompanying performers for the singer, but it does not take much time for them to take the main stage instead of the singer, who is certainly not so pleased about this change but accepts it anyway. Like Preis, Mazurek and Olszańska perform the songs in the film for themselves, and I enjoyed how these three actresses’ solid singing performances ably carry several key musical scenes of the movie.
In the meantime, we come to see the hidden nature of our mermaid heroines. While Silver wants to repress their nature mainly because she becomes infatuated with the singer’s bass player, Golden has a different thought. At one point, she seduces a guy and then goes to a spot near the river along with him. What happens next is not very pleasant to say the least, and we later get a wry musical scene involved with a tough female cop who knows what Golden did but cannot help but be attracted to her.
While the first half of the movie constantly amuses us with many bizarre moments like that, the second half frequently suffers from clunky narrative and thin characterization. Although it continues to provide good musical scenes, we can clearly sense that the movie is spinning its wheels during this part, and that only makes us more aware of how contrived its plot is – and how thin its main characters are. The movie later attempts some melodrama as evoking that famous fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, but its characters do not have enough depth to support that, and it eventually comes to trudge down to its expected finale without much dramatic effect. As a matter of fact, I was so bored by its lagging plot progress that I wanted to shout like this during my viewing: “Okay, It’s over! Bite! Please!”
Despite my considerable dissatisfaction, I still appreciate its good elements including its commendable soundtrack, which I checked right after watching the movie. Hopping from one musical style to another, the soundtrack is pretty entertaining although most of its songs are performed in Polish, and I am actually listening to it right now as writing this review. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska, who received the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival early in last year, did a competent job in technical aspects, and the overall result is a flawed but curious exercise in style and music.
In my mind, “The Lure” is compared to Brian De Palma’s “Phantom of the Paradise” (1974), a deranged horror musical film which goes as wild as it can with its many insanely outrageous moments. I wish “The Lure” were as crazy as that movie, but it ultimately falters and fizzles to my disappointment, so I give it only 2.5 stars although I enjoyed its good parts. Now I am listening to its soundtrack again, but I doubt whether I will soon watch the film again.