The Curmudgeon


Saturday, March 03, 2018

The Lure (Córki dancingu)

Agnieszka Smoczyńska 2015

Although I have no great liking for musicals, when it comes to Polish mermaid horror musicals one must make the odd exception. The Lure ("Daughters of Dance" in the original) opens with an animated prologue by Aleksandra Waliszewska, whose paintings are the kind one might expect from a love-child of Snow White's stepmother and Roland Topor, and concludes as a demented deconstruction of Hans Christian Andersen, with an admixture of the sharp-edged Warsaw siren.

When the story begins, two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszańska) emerge from the sea during a family beach party and sing an alluring melody promising that of course nobody who joins them will be eaten. As it turns out, the family runs a Warsaw nightclub (the boss is played by Zygmunt Malanowicz, the husband from Polanski's Knife in the Water) and, once the shock of the girls' six-foot fish-tails has worn off, they quickly graduate to performing on stage. The tails handily turn into legs when dry, although certain anatomical differences remain; which causes trouble when one of the sisters starts to fall for a guitarist.

Though subject to rules much like those which afflict Andersen's mermaid, the adolescent heroines of The Lure are less lonely and more carnivorous. They make a decent living at the nightclub and dream of swimming to America; they rattle away to each other in dolphin-like clicks; they make acquaintance with a fellow immigrant, who proudly displays the scars from his amputated horns and brings them up to date on the perils of playing around with human males; and they do occasionally eat people.

Filmed in flares of neon twilight and depths of submarine murk, the story incorporates family comedy, sexual awakening and (the natural child of both) body horror. The climax twists the end of Andersen's tale, turning foamy dissolution into a far messier and funnier business than the mawkish original could possibly conceive.


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