It started with the name. Something inviting, something bringing me closer and closer to the film before I have ever even watched it. It continued with a free trial of FilmStruck (which I was not too happy with-seriously, constant issues. I’d love to hear thoughts on this) I was looking for hidden Criterion gems and I saw the haunting, the beautiful, siren of a cover for The Lure. The description promised a genre-defying film dubbed as a Polish/Musical/Horror/Comedy – I was hooked. I looked at my wife, and we were in. I started the film up and wouldn’t you know it, I had audio issues, consistent and terrible audio issues. Much like when Hulu’s audio gets screwed up and is a minute ahead. Ultimately, we decided that given the circumstances, the film was unwatchable. Luckily/Unluckily for me, Criterion launched a flash sale the next day and, as I told my wife, I accidentally bought two movies. Flash forward to 5-7 business days later, and I am holding The Lure Criterion release in my hands and I have no idea what’s in store for me. What I have found out before watching the film is that it is a loose however somewhat more accurate homage to Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”. Much like the Disney version, we are in for some rather memorable songs, a mermaid loses her voice, and a film that will stay with you for many years to come. Unlike the Disney Version, There are two mermaids, no stereotyped crabs, much more nudity, and King Triton sings in a death metal band.
Our story follows Srebrna (Silver) and Zlota (Golden) two sirens whom by any other definition would be classified as mermaids. They happen upon the shore one night and meet a family cabaret band by the name of Figs and Dates, and decide to join them performing at a nightclub. The would-be sirens enjoy their newfound lives as cabaret singers but soon it is not enough and Silver starts to sink her teeth, pardon the pun, into the young bassist Mietek. Her sea sister Golden despises her decision and has a voice of her own, feasting on the local population. It soon becomes a race to see whose decisions will have the most detrimental and yes musical ramifications.
I feel I must say just how unconventional this film is from scene one. This is no children’s tale. The actresses portraying Silver and Golden do so perfectly and have faces that seem familiar without being too seasoned. This film has done well to separate itself from the fluff as there has been more than a few adaptations of the story over the years and this one may be my favorite yet, yes, even as good as The Little Mermaid may be. This is also full of fun moments that lead the way into cinematic gemstones. However mysterious the young sirens may be, there is no mystery on why this film made its way to the Criterion Collection as number 896 amongst its ranks.
The Film 4/5
This film is beautiful. Not many other words would be well suited to describe the melancholic surreal moments that populate this ever-moving dream sequence. This film is meant to be a sirens song of beautiful scenes and camera tricks. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska creates a magical and enchanting experience with the help of cinematographer Jakub Kijowski they accomplish more than many, much, more experienced filmmakers have managed to do in the lifetime of their careers. I found that, with no surprise, the quality was impeccable. Not only was it clear, and without picture issues but the transfer is just simply wonderful completely let the viewer dive deep into the oceans of this tale.
Picture Quality 5/5
We get a high-quality audio track in Polish with Standard English subtitles included. The transfer for the Criterion release was supervised by Director of Photography with the utmost care and is spot on. The music in the film, although at times hard to follow with the translation issues, for the most part still helps ease the viewer into the rapidly changing story around them. The original songs are, and even the unoriginal ones, are performed in such exciting and unique ways that it really does everything it can to set the tone for the genre-bending title. The transfer and audio are impeccable and I found no issues from start to finish once I had the actual disc.
Audio Quality 5/5
This time around we get the standard Scanavo case clear and sturdy as ever. I have already raved about the cover image as it was inviting enough to peak my interest to stream it, then get frustrated enough to go ahead and buy it. Simple beauty and minimalism are what The Criterion Collection has become known for especially with recent releases like Election, Silence of the Lambs, and The Breakfast Club. It feels like the Criterion Collection is in for many more titles featuring sensational artwork. On the inside, we get a single disc with Suitable artwork for the film featuring the Criterion “C” and the title of the film. Our insert features a rather interesting essay written by Angela Lovell. All-in-all the packaging is half of the reason to spend the extra dough on Criterion. The high-quality Scanavo (seriously why isn’t this the standard instead of Amaray) and original artwork just makes it feel as if you are buying pieces of history instead just your average release.
The Packaging 5/5
If there is nothing else that Criterion is known for it is their extras. One of the few select companies that go out and get new content for their releases. The Lure is no exception it is packed with new and old extras and they are all designed to add to the experience. The Special Features included are as follows:
- Off the Hook
- Director Agnieszka Smoczynska tells how the film came to be made, as it very much intent on telling the story her young adult life, and that of two sisters whom her producer knew. The sisters were instrumental in the telling of the tale. Assisting giving the film a very real feel when it came to growing up in that environment.
- Deleted Scenes
- Aria Diva
- A short film directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska in 2007 that tells the tale of a housewife who falls for her new upstairs neighbor an opera diva.
- Viva Maria!
- Another short film by Agnieszka Smoczynska showcasing opera singer Maria Foltyn
The Lure is a surprising and wonderful addition to the Criterion Collection. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed the film and how likely I am to watch this again and soon. I found that not only was it strange and funny, but it had substance and much to offer the real filmgoer. This truly is as genre-defying as promised, as I could not pin down one for you if I had a gun to my head. Even with the translation oddities the film just works and is plain enjoyable. It is easy to see why it made the cut for the list, it is beautiful and eery and a true mastery of practical effects, and cinematographer. You can purchase the film HERE.