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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 2.39:1 Widescreen
  • Polish DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New program about the making of the film, featuring interviews with director Agnieszka Smoczy?ska, actors Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olsza?ska, screenwriter Robert Bolesto, Kijowski, composers Barbara Wronski and Zuzanna Wronski, sound designer Marcin Lenarczyk, and choreographer Kaya Ko?odziejczyk
  • Deleted scenes
  • Aria Diva (2007) and Viva Maria! (2010), two short films directed by Smoczynska
  • An essay by writer Angela Lovell

The Lure

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Agnieszka Smoczynska
2015 | 92 Minutes | Licensor: Wytwornia Filmow Dokumentainych i Fabularnych

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #896
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: October 10, 2017
Review Date: November 1, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up—the bold debut of Polish director Agnieszka Smoczy?ska—follows a pair of carnivorous mermaid sisters drawn ashore to explore life on land in an alternate 1980s Poland. Their tantalizing siren songs and otherworldly auras make them overnight sensations as nightclub singers in the half-glam, half-decrepit world of Smoczy?ska’s imagining. The director gives fierce teeth to her viscerally sensual, darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” in which the girls’ bond is tested and their survival threatened after one sister falls for a human. A coming-of-age fairy tale with a catchy synth-fueled soundtrack, outrageous song-and-dance numbers, and lavishly grimy sets, The Lure explores its themes of emerging female sexuality, exploitation, and the compromises of adulthood with savage energy and originality.


PICTURE

Agnieszka Smoczynska’s odd little take on The Little Mermaid, The Lure, receives a Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc. The film is presented here in 1080p/24hz.

The film was shot digitally so I was expecting some minor little hiccups but much to my surprise they never really showed up. It’s a dark film so I was expecting issues with lighting and the blacks but other than maybe some blacks leaning a bit milky this was rarely an issue. Black levels are pretty deep and inky on the whole, even keeping the shadow details (most of the time) and lending the image a nice bit of depth throughout. Thanks to the night club setting the film is also quite colourful with lots of bright greens, blues, pinks, and so on, and they’re all rendered beautifully. Normal daylight scenes also look bright and wonderful, and skin tones remain natural looking.

Details are wonderfully sharp, even some of the CGI work looking pretty good. And since this comes from a digital source there are no “print flaws” to speak of, and I also can’t say any digital anomalies stuck out. In all it looks quite good and it has been nicely carried over to this release.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film being a bit of a musical and taking place primarily in a night club the Polish DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track has plenty of leeway to show off and it most certainly does. The musical numbers and night club sequences wonderfully fill the environment, moving music and sound effects distinctly between the speakers. Some sequences can be fairly loud with some strong bass but the mix doesn’t drown out any notable or important dialogue (though English speaking audiences will more than likely need subtitles anyways). Other sequences outside of the club and aggressive in their sound design, like an underwater bit, also presents some great immersive moments, all with superb fidelity, clarity, and range.

9/10

SUPPLEMENTS

I wasn’t expecting much for a newer film like this one but Criterion has put in a surprising amount of effort into this one. First is a surprisingly thorough making-of documentary called Off the Hook, featuring interviews with Smoczynska, actors Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska, screenwriter Robert Bolesto, composers Barbara and Zuzanna Wronskie, sound designer Marcin Lenarczyk, and choreographer Kaya Kolodziejczyk. What most surprised me about this film is that Smoczynska’s original intention was nothing like the end product, her initial ideas seeming to suggest a more straightforward coming-of-age story based on her own experiences growing up around her mother's nightclub. Mermaids weren’t even part of the picture, let alone carnivorous ones. But here we get details how the film morphed and how Smoczynska and screenwriter Bolesto used their two fantasy characters in creative ways to tell this coming-of-age story. But on top of that we also get backstory and details about the inspirations for certain facets of the film, details about the effects like the mermaid tails, as well as the presentation of 80s Poland (which apparently received some criticism in the film’s native country) and the use of music. The 41-minute documentary ends up being a unexpectedly enlightening feature all on its own, as the backstory behind the film proves to be enthralling and the details about the writing and the twists to the Little Mermaid may actually increase one’s appreciation and understanding of the film. It’s a really solid documentary.

The disc next features 4 deleted scenes along with an alternate opening and an alternate ending. The alternate opening has a very different tone from what was used while the alternate ending suggests a different fate for one of the characters. One scene features another musical sequence and then another scene also relates to a quick moment in the alternate ending. The changes were, in the end, probably the right call though the sequences on their own are interesting to view.

Criterion then includes two of Smoczynska’s student short films from her years at the Wajda School in Warsaw, 2007’s Aria Diva and 2010’s Viva Maria, both of which relate directly to music, making the musical aspect of The Lure less surprising. The latter is a short 17-minute documentary about Polish opera singer Maria Foltyn, featuring footage of the singer mentoring a young newcomer with such advice along the lines of (based on the translation) “more expression and more tits” to convey the feelings of a character which is then mixed with interviews with her recalling her younger days, sharing stories like “Igor, the Cuban Admiral.” I admit I’m not familiar with Foltyn and had to look her up, but even missing some context it’s an amusing and engaging documentary.

The first film, Aria Diva, is a fictional one, focusing around a housewife who questions her choices after she becomes fixated on a singer that has moved into the apartment upstairs, the two eventually meeting and forming a bond. It’s not at all surprising where the film ultimately goes but it’s an assured one that doesn’t have that “student” feel to it.

The disc then closes with the film’s North American theatrical trailer and the included essay presents an excellent essay on the film’s production and the metaphors found within the finished product, written by Angela Lovell.

It’s newer so I’m not surprised this isn’t a jampacked release, but it’s still a solid set of features offering an excellent introduction to Smoczynska while also managing to bolster the film a bit.

7/10

CLOSING

This release proved to be a very pleasant surprise. The film gets a rather great audio/video presentation and some wonderful and insightful supplementary features. Really strong edition overall.


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