Poland's first musical is gloriously weird
Loves: The Criterion Collection, musicals, artsy films
Likes: Cult films
Dislikes: Plot holes
Hates: Creeps, feeling lost in a story
As Córki dancingu/The Lure starts, a family of musicians enjoying a night on the beach encounter a pair of mermaids--Golden (Michalina Olszanska) and Silver (Marta Mazurek)--and quickly fall under their spell. The musicians bring the sisters to the adult nightclub they work in, where they are hired by the club owner, as a combination freak show/striptease/musical act that wows crowds. Problems start though when Silver falls for the group's guitarist (Jakub Gierszal), and is willing to forsake her mermaid status to be with him (as he can't find himself attracted to her natural form.) However, if she does, and he doesn't love her back, she will cease to exist. Oh, and the mermaids are cannibals who subsist on human hearts, and Golden still enjoys the hunt, putting her at odds with her sister. Obviously, things aren't exactly peachy in this world.
The problem is, the film is hyperambitious, trying to cram a lot of material into a scant 92 minutes, and sometimes, it just doesn't make sense. There's an entire sequence that, though filmed beautifully and interesting to watch, has no explanation that I could find, even after several viewings, involving a character that seems to have never been introduced, while having no noticeable effect on the overall plot. And it's not an inconsequential scene that passes by quickly either, as the musical number runs nearly seven minutes long. Though this is the most egregious example, there are others, as the film doesn't always feel compelled to provide connective tissue between scenes, and will drop in cutaways about secondary characters that seem to exist simply because they would look good on-screen (which, if we're being honest, is not a terrible tack, considering the results Smoczy?ska and her DP, Kuba Kijowski, get with the camera.)
Also working against this film--at least for English-speaking audiences--is the language it was shot in, as this is the first musical to emerge from Poland. Perhaps the songs in The Lure are great to those who can understand them in their native state, but in musicals songs have to serve two purposes: sound great and tell the story. Well, these songs may be wonderful in Polish (and the music, heavy with synth sounds, is absolutely great) but when translated they lose almost all the rhymes and the language becomes excessively flowery, if not nonsensical. (Anime theme songs suffer a similar fate.) You'll certainly get the gist of the story, but it doesn't have the same effect it would have in your native tongue. Fortunately, the visuals more than pick up the slack to make sure the experience is worth watching either way.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track here is most notable when it boosts the film's many musical numbers via the side and rear channels, resulting in a rich-sounding mix, with clear dialogue making a home in the front of the room and enhancements to the effects and tunes. Sound is an intrinsic part of the film, with impressively layered design that ties into the story, and combines with the unique visuals to create a really interesting experience.
There are six deleted scenes available to watch, running 17:55 in all, which include alternate opening and closing scenes (both of which reveal more detail than is necessary), as well as a cut song that's worth a look. The longest deleted scene adds a small bit of info that adds to understanding one of the film's most confusing scenes, but you're still left in the dark.
Two of Smoczy?ska's student short films are included: the 2007 drama Aria Diva (31:20) and the 2010 documentary Viva Maria! (17:08). Watching these shorts, you'd have no doubt you're seeing the early work of a true filmmaking talent, as both movies look polished and stylish, as she tackles two different genres with seeming ease, making for a pair of fascinating studies of obsession. Ignore the idea of a student film, as these are anything but amateur.
The extras conclude with the pamphlet, which includes, alongside the disc and movie details, an essay by author Angela Lovell, who overs an overview and observations on the film.
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