The most unique, colourful, and impressive film at Edinburgh International Film Festival was easily The Lure; a macabre Polish siren musical that seduces as well as it thrills. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska has put together a remarkable piece of work with a talented team of Polish artists, so look no further if splendorous audio-visual fairs are your thing.The songs are actually great too. The word musical could scare a lot of people off, but this isn’t West Side Story, shit, it isn’t even Rocky Horror, The Lure is entirely its own beast. Drawing on a whole plethora of musical influences, The Lure has something for everyone, from the opening cover of Donna Summer’s I Feel Love (sang by the wonderful Kinga Preis, channelling Jessica Lange in AHS: Freakshow) through its glam, punk, disco repertoire The Lure continually delivers catchy tunes and gorgeous visuals. The cast also compliment the feature and its musical choices perfectly. The two young sirens played by Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek, are as alluring as sirens as they are as pop stars, strutting and gyrating their way through a film seemingly crafted purely for them.
Jakub Kijowski’s cinematography and Katarzyna Lewinska’s costume design are an absolute delight too, drawing garish Western pop influences over the dark industrial heart of Cold War Poland. The violent sensual collision of the two cultural fronts gives off the same enrapturing macabre as Amer did for arthouse giallo. And yes, it really is that pretty. The camera work off-stage has an almost documentary edge to it, gliding around the nightclub like Scorsese’s did in Goodfellas. The colours are a secret weapon, pushing us away and pulling us in at all the best moments; a mysterious ballad in a red-lit backstreet is effortlessly seductive. On the other hand a macabre surgery sequence relayed in harsh grey tones has the added benefit of really highlighting the red of spilled blood and providing one of the films more overtly horrifying/fantastical sequences.
Perhaps the film’s strength lies in its tonal flexibility: The Lure often renders its musical numbers with the utmost theatricality, then dodges back into documentary realism, then shows us realistic moments with a distinctly stagey vibes. Fantasy is used in such a way to elicit surprise and shock, realism is picked up and discarded with an almost boisterous lack of interest. Characters are generally totally accepting of the supernatural once they are faced with it so the film doesn’t waste time with stupid conversations. In the end that causes some issues, the climax is perhaps not as dramatic or fulfilling as the rest of the feature, dragging on just as the fantasy collapses and reality hits hard. The lack of story doesn’t help in that fateful final act, proving that style over substance can only work for so long. Ten points for thematic consistency, but Smoczynska’s debut doesn’t end on the raucous applaud-strewn note that it deserves.
For the most part The Lure feels fresh, bold, unforgivingly self-indulgent, trashy, opulent, and beautifully macabre, it’s bound to become a cult classic and a catapult to worldwide intrigue for crew and cast alike.
Dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska
Stars: Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska, Kinga Preis, Jakub Gierszal