A Disney mermaid movie “The Lure” is not. “Help us come to shore,” sing its two young mermaid sisters, Silver (Marta Mazurek) and Golden (Michalina Olszanska), in dulcet duet to three drunk revelers on the shore, and then: “We won’t eat you yet.” We shift to a techno beat and a sparkly, boozy cabaret, where those revelers are the house band. In a back room, they examine their catch. “Smooth as Barbies down there,” one of them marvels. Naturally, Silver and Golden crush it as a sister act.
So begin several obsessions in Agnieszka Smoczynska’s 2015 musical-horror-fairy tale, with screenplay by Robert Bolesto, which has garnered a slew of indy awards, including a Special Jury Prize for World Cinema at 2016’s Sundance. Gorgeously executed, conjured with stylish, savvy magical realism, “The Lure” is both a fable about identity – and the urge to change it – and a critique of a species prone to enchantment, fetishization, exploitation, and indifference. It screens at SPACE Gallery on April 12, and lovers of musicals, horror, and/or mermaids are in for some sexy, subversive fun.
These sisters are long-haired, lovely, and uncannily amused by the world on land. Innocent, strawberry-blonde Silver is susceptible to romance with humans, while Golden, darker and demonic-sexy, is just impatient to eat them. In the mixed company of dressing rooms and Playboy shoots, the sisters have the benefit of telepathy; we hear their unspoken communion accompanied by otherworldly sound design. Their tails are not slender, sparkly, or feminine, but muscular, spiny, and monstrously phallic. They have, when the occasion presents itself, very sharp teeth.
In true siren form, the sisters sing with bewitching plainness, and “The Lure” takes on its targeted tropes with tongue in cheek, but also with beguiling sincerity. We get a big rags-to-riches number in a department store; lounge acts with wigs, glitter, and bubbles; Golden’s awesomely edgy cameo at a punk rock club; a quiet bathtub love song ratcheting into a rock ballad on a light-up floor. We get erotically-charged gore, lurid scars, gritty back alleys, a pre-tryst lesbian duet about ravens pecking at nuts.
It’s all somehow at oncecampily absurd, lusciously fun, and disarmingly moving. And in its emotional force, “The Lure” remains true to the older, pre-Disney fairy tales – the ones that deal in violence, sadness, and true, devastating stakes.
The Lure | Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska | Screening at SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St. | April 12, 7:30 p.m. | $8 | www.space538.org