The Lure: A genre-defying, convention-smashing Polish rock opera—with mermaids!
I remember reading an iTunes review of The Decemberists’ album Picaresque in which the reviewer lamented that here he’d found a work of art so breathtakingly brilliant: what with Meloy’s mellifluous voice and lyrical wizardry, that he both loved and loathed it conjointly.
As the album wears on, he is constantly reminded of a simple fact: he would never come close to conjuring something this good.
I think of that as I search for the words to describe Agnieszka Smoczyńska film—her debut feature, damn her!!—The Lure (Córki dancingu).
What to make of this film? Well, it’s hard to come up with a sweeping take — for example, It’s everything you want…if you didn’t like La La Land!! Think Little Mermaid, but with synth-driven rock songs!!! It’s shirking of any definitive label adds to the fun.
That’s due in large part to the two mermaid protagonists, who earn the stage names Silver and Gold in a nightclub musical act, and who just so happen to be a far cry from cute Ariel when they are out for a hunt—and hunt they do. One can set the scene: 1980’s Warsaw, the very end of Communist rule in sight. It was fascinating to run a quick search and learn how inextricably linked mermaids are in Warsaw lore. They popped up on the city’s crest as early as the Middle Ages, and are depicted in numerous statues throughout the city today.
Like the best tales, this one is not bound by its setting or place in time. The two mermaids quickly learn the ins and outs of showbiz, and how quickly one can become jaded in its thrall. Smoczyńska’s camera work—the witnessing of a lewd act performed by an older performer, through the narrow vantage point in a door; two friends steadily growing apart as they take part in the human struggle of everyday existence.
Is the film perfect? Of course not. But for a debut feature, I was stunned at how engrossed I found myself in its story—particularly the path of Michalina Olszanska, who provides my favorite moment when she tells off the nightclub owner when he tries to cop a feel. Her refusal to compromise is an ode to the irrepressible artist; her eventual disenchantment is a natural result from the path she’s chosen. But damn, did she come up with some good music along the way.