By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Starring Michalina Olszanska, Marta Mazurek and Kinga Preis
Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska
Written by Robert Bolesto
With Guillermo del Toro’s aquatic-monster love story THE SHAPE OF WATER in the midst of a successful platform release (see our review here), and the Polish schoolyard shocker PLAYGROUND seeing U.S. exposure (review here), now is a good time to return to Agnieszka Smoczynska’s mermaid romance/horror/musical THE LURE via its Criterion Blu-ray edition that came out this fall. But then, any time is a good one to experience this unique merging of very different film forms into one fascinating whole.
One of the lures of THE LURE (originally reviewed here) is that it takes place in a world very much of its own—one unlike any we’ve seen before in movies, and certainly in reality. Yet among the surprises in Criterion’s disc extras (the movie is also available on DVD) is the revelation of a basis in the true lives of the creative principals. Director Smoczynska grew up in a restaurant with a dance floor, and screenwriter Robert Bolesto based THE LURE’s storyline (which originally featured fully human protagonists) on sisters Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, who would become the movie’s co-composers (with Marcin Macuk).
The 41-minute documentary OFF THE HOOK: THE MAKING OF “THE LURE” reveals this background and a whole lot more via interviews with those mentioned above and others, including actresses Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska, who play the central carnivorous fish-girls—the childlike Silver and the more worldly and cynical Golden respectively. Even as the fantasy element was added to their characters, the docu reveals that the filmmakers wanted to make it a coming-of-age story first and foremost, one driven by sound as much as images. Among the many other topics discussed in this excellent piece are influences (like the ’80s Polish children’s musical AKADEMIA PANA KLESKA, which I’m anxious to see based on the wild excerpt shown here), the locations, preparing the leads for their challenging, multifaceted roles and the various styles employed for the musical numbers.
The dazzling visuals, which run the gamut of lighting and color schemes—from the heightened hues of the nightclub to the deep red blood when the sisters get hungry—are captured perfectly by Criterion’s lustrous 2.39:1 picture, which is especially ravishing in the Blu-ray’s 1080p hi-def transfer. The musical numbers, which encompass an equally broad spectrum, sound great on the DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track. Further supplementing this sparkling presentation are 18 minutes of deleted material, such as extended opening and closing scenes and a new audition duet by Golden and Silver, a booklet containing a well-thought-out essay by Angela Lovell and two student films by Smoczynska. In both their accomplished, assured craft and their focus on music, these works anticipate THE LURE: VIVA MARIA! is a 17-minute documentary on Polish opera singer Maria Foltyn, and the half-hour narrative ARIA DIVA, co-written by Bolesto, focuses on a similar performer and her housewife neighbor. This one also foreshadows THE LURE’s study of duality: the singer is named Asia and the housewife is Basia, the latter has twin sons, etc. The feature they accompany, however, remains in a class by itself.