December 10, 2019

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These mermaids break, eat hearts

Director fashions a genre hybrid as fascinating as its heroines

Admittedly, the principal attribute of this horror-musical-romance from Poland is its flat-out strangeness.

It is, after all, about a pair of man-eating mermaids who invade Warsaw in the 1980s and become singing sensations in a disco/cabaret/strip joint.

But in a multiplex universe in which the fantastical is now commonplace, The Lure compels us to take a bite with a cinematic temptation that is refreshing, unpredictable and somewhat dangerous.

Director Agnieszka Smoczynska ambitiously fashions a genre hybrid at least as fascinating as its half-human/half-fish heroines.

Marta Mazurek, Kinga Preis and Michalina Olszanska in <em>The Lure</em>. (Janus Films)</p>

Marta Mazurek, Kinga Preis and Michalina Olszanska in The Lure. (Janus Films)

Our first sight of mermaid sisters Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska) is as they pop their heads out of the water to sing a siren song to a trio of cabaret musicians partying on the shore.

"No need to fear," they croon. "We won’t eat you."

Evidently, the musicians take the mermaids at their word because the two young women, their tails having transmogrified to legs, are soon performing with the band, becoming local stars because of their songs (imagine a weird mash-up of Kate Bush and Giorgio Moroder) and apparently their uninhibited penchant for on-stage nudity.

But trouble arises.

Silver has clearly fallen for the band’s bass player (Jakub Gierszal) while Golden has chosen to pursue her trolling for unwitting victims so she can consume their hearts, literally.

Michalina Olszanska (right) and Marta Mazurek star as Golden and Silver in Agnieszka Smoczynska's <em>The Lure</em> (Janus Films)</p>

Michalina Olszanska (right) and Marta Mazurek star as Golden and Silver in Agnieszka Smoczynska's The Lure (Janus Films)

Writer Robert Bolesto’s script lacks a cohesive through-line, with some characters popping up for no purpose other than add a little sexual provocation (Golden’s vaguely kinky run-in with a female government agent) or to pad out the running time.

But when the film is on task, it’s delightful in its playful attitude to musical norms, which owe more of a stylistic debt to Ken Russell (Tommy, Lisztomania) than, say, Vincent Minnelli.

But Smoczynska’s casting is old-school in one respect: She knows the value of fascinating faces.

Mazurek is all guileless innocence as Silver, Olszanska is attractively wicked as Golden and, as their on-land, cabaret matriarch Krysia, Kinga Preis epitomizes dissipated glamour worthy of a Roxy Music album cover.

Twitter: @FreepKing


Randall King

Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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