ocean waves (tomomi mochizuki, 1993)

This is the seventeenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 17 is called "GKIDS Week".

For over a decade, GKIDS has been a godsend for the distribution of foreign, independent, and adult animation. Through a large line of Blu-rays and theatrical re-releases, this company has opened the door to the world of animation for those looking to cross the threshold. Recently, they obtained the rights to distribute the films of Studio Ghibli, so those are definitely on the table here, but I would suggest maybe taking a look at the many other wonderful films GKIDS has made available. Unless you haven't seen Porco Rosso. Get on that shit, a pigman flies a plane. So dope.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film distributed by GKIDS.

It was suggested that we look beyond Studio Ghibli, but Ocean Waves is a Ghibli I'd missed, so I picked it. It is an anomaly in the Ghibli universe, the first one directed by someone other than Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. It was meant to be an opportunity for some of Ghibli's younger members, but it went over budget and over schedule. The film ended up on Japanese television, and wasn't seen in the U.S. for more than 20 years. It's something of a neglected stepchild, which is unfair, but in truth, Ocean Waves is not a typical Studio Ghibli release. It tells the story of a love triangle among three high school teens, and is absent the element of fantasy we've come to expect from films like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, which predate it by a few years.

The young woman isn't as interesting as the adventurous girls that feature in Miyazaki movies. In fact, none of the three main characters are particularly interesting, and the plot is rather mundane. Ocean Waves is never less than pleasant, but it rarely rises above that. The film becomes more affecting near the end, as the characters mature, and the theme of nostalgia is more effective once we've gotten a sense of what the lives of these young people were like in high school.

Ultimately, Ocean Waves might play better for an audience unfamiliar with Studio Ghibli. Fans of the studio bring expectations that aren't really served by the movie, and it's not a classic on the level of Princess Mononoke, but that's hardly a reason not to watch it.


film fatales #104: little white lie (lacey schwartz and james adolphus, 2014)

This is the sixteenth "film" I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 16 is called "Black Women Writers/Directors Week".

A serious note to follow:

In the past year in America, racial tensions have reached a boiling point. BIPOC members of our society have suffered from social, political, and countless other forms of strife and injustice due simply to the color of their skin and the deep ceded racist ideals that exist in our society. This, of course, includes the film industry. Stories by black creators often don't get the attention or support that they deserve, especially so for women of color. I know the whole Season Challenge is created for fun, but I think it would behoove all of us to think more about the films we choose to watch and hold on high. With all that being said, let's use this opportunity to take in works by women of color, and to go forward with the idea of supporting their works in the future. Let us hear the voices that have gone criminally unheard and that offer unique experiences and perspectives. And, at the risk of sounding clichè, isn't that what cinema is all about?

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film with a black woman writer and/or director.

The story of Lacey Schwartz encourages disbelief. Because we know from the start that Schwartz is black, we are puzzled that she made it so far into her life thinking she was white. It seems obvious to us. One thing Little White Lie does well is to put us in Lacey's young life, so that we start to understand why the "lie" took hold for so long.

She was raised "white" by two Jewish parents. The family was very much involved in the Jewish tradition, and Lacey had no other signposts to suggest to her that something wasn't as it seemed. Without ever saying anything specific, Little White Lie forces us to confront the constructed nature of "race". In the manner of "if it quacks like a duck, it's a duck", Lacey's parents and extended family all treat her as white and Jewish ... she "quacks" white. If anyone questions the way Lacey looks darker than the rest of her family, reference is made to a Sicilian ancestor.

None of this is possible without the deception of Lacey's mother (and probably father). Mom had an affair with a black man, who turned out to be Lacey's biological father. Mom didn't talk about it, Dad didn't admit he knew. There was nothing to discuss. And there is nothing in the film to suggest Lacey had a bad childhood. It's only later, when she realizes that unbeknownst to Lacey, her life was a "little white lie", that Lacey feels the resentment of someone who has been lied to.

There are a few scenes of Lacey confronting her parents, to find out the truth. There isn't much discussion of whiteness and blackness ... for the most part, it's contextual. One wishes the film was a bit longer, that more time was spent on the transition phase when Lacey realized the truth. But there is no denying that the film is fascinating. And there is a sense that the truth sets Lacey free. By any standard, she has had a good life ... Harvard Law School, a documentary film maker, a husband who is now a representative in the U.S. House, twin children. Her childhood, which was also good, was shadowed by a lie; the resolution of that lie allowed Schwartz to move on.

(List of Film Fatales movies)


film fatales #102: jane eyre (susanna white, 2006)

This is the fifteenth "film" I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 15 is called "Miniseries Week".

As we move into our holiday hiatus, I wanted to try something a little different. Instead of focusing on specific holidays this year, I want you to use this week (and the weeks in between this and the return from break if need be) to tackle a miniseries. They're essentially just long movies anyway. These things can range in length, from the runtime of your average film to over a dozen hours depending on what you're looking for. So don't feel too daunted with this challenge, and enjoy the break!

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen miniseries. Try looking here or here for starters.

It's part of every adaptation of a classic. The first thing everyone wants to know is, who plays the main characters? Indeed, that's how we keep them apart in our memories. I've seen at least three Jane Eyres, and while I could distinguish them by year (1943, 2006, 2011) or director (Robert Stevenson, Susanna White, Cary Joji Fukunaga), I remember them as the one with Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles, the one with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens, and the one with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. The approach taken by the film makers matters, the use of the original text is crucial, but to some extent, this Jane Eyre, like the others, is about the casting as much as anything. And yes, there are other characters besides Jane and Rochester, but no one remembers the adaptations by the actresses who played Mrs. Fairfax (for the record, Edith Barrett, Lorraine Ashbourne, and Judi Dench).

Both Wilson and Stephens look the part in this BBC mini-series version. Jane Eyre shouldn't be too pretty, and here Ruth Wilson is presented as a plain woman (which is no reflection on Wilson, a lovely-looking woman who is made up so her looks match the character). Toby Stephens (son of Maggie Smith) is suitably brooding, and as with Wilson, he does a fine job in his part. It's Wilson's show, but Stephens keeps up throughout the four hours. Wilson's performance belies the fact that it was only her second on-screen role (the other being a supporting character in a television series).

The production gets most things right. The story is fairly faithful ... the early parts of the novel are offered in a rather hurried manner, but nothing crucial is missing. Screenwriter Sandy Welch, a mini-series veteran, earned an Emmy nomination for her work here. The film looks properly gorgeous, and while it's out of my field of expertise, the costumes were well-received.

My wife is the Jane Eyre super-fan in our house, and she proclaimed herself satisfied. This version rewards both those who have memorized the novel and those who have never read it.


furie (lê văn kiệt, 2019)

This is the fourteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 14 is called "I've been meaning to get to it..." Week

It's December. Another trip around the sun nearly complete, and movies from last year have been sitting in your watchlist for almost a whole year. Sure, you've probably checked out a lot of the major pictures, but there's always stuff that falls through the cracks. Let's rectify that a little by watching films from 2019 that we said we'd get to, but still haven't yet. Some winter cleaning, if you will.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film on your watchlist from 2019.

Holy moly! I had no idea. My original pick for this challenge was Honey Boy, but when news emerged that star Shia LaBeouf was being sued by his co-star and former girlfriend for an abusive relationship, I thought I'd change my pick. Furie was on my watchlist, but I can't even remember why. I saw it was from Vietnam, and it had an ass-kicking female lead, and that's usually good enough for me. I was happy and surprised to learn that Furie was much more than I expected.

The plot is basic, much like the Taken series: parent's child is kidnapped, parent goes on a rampage to get them back. Liam Neeson is a fine actor, an Oscar nominee who in his mid-50s became a surprise action star. He's good at it, too, but he doesn't call on too many of his acting chops in the Taken films. And this is one way Furie differs from the norm. Veronica Ngo (born Ngô Thanh Vân), who plays the title character (the original title is the actual name of her character, Hai Phuong), has had an interesting life, working as a model, a pop star, and eventually an actor. Her family put her on a boat when she was ten, and she escaped Vietnam for Norway. She returned ten years later and began her career. I didn't recognize her, but she had a small part in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as Kelly Marie Tran's sister. Just recently, she turned up in Da 5 Bloods and The Old Guard. She didn't make much of an impression on me, which made me more surprised when I saw what she could do in Furie.

I usually get impatient when action movies try to interest us in the characters' lives, but this time was different. Director Le-Van Kiet and writer Kay Nguyen made Hai Phuong interesting, and Veronica Ngo was superb. It was as if Liam Neeson had paused during his kicking ass in Taken to remind the audience he could act as well. Hai Phuong is a bad ass, to be sure, but Ngo really takes over the vengeance plotline. You do not want to get in her way.

The action scenes are well-choreographed, which I always appreciate. Everything about Furie is a little better than you expect, and the result knocks your socks off.

Here, she sees her daughter being kidnapped:

And here she takes on the ringleader of the kidnappers, who has already kicked her ass earlier in the film:

According to Wikipedia, Furie was the highest-grossing Vietnamese film in history.


the death & life of john f. donovan (xavier dolan, 2018)

This is the thirteenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 13 is called Northern Exposure: Xavier Dolan Week:

A type of challenge that has been in most if not all prior Seasons was the "Master of the East/West" challenge, highlighting an Eastern and Western director, respectively. This year, I figured we'd shake it up. So, I offer to you all an examination of the directing career (so far) of Canada native, Xavier Dolan. Dolan's work throughout the past decade or so has garnered a great amount of positive critical reaction, though I think its fair to say he's still not exceedingly well known. Have a look and see if his stuff is worth the hype.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by Xavier Dolan.

I had never watched a Xavier Dolan movie before. Actually, I had never heard of Xavier Dolan, and as I have said before, that's one of the best things about these challenges: you are introduced to films you might otherwise have missed. He does it all ... in John F. Donovan he is director, co-writer, co-producer, and co-editor. And he brings together an impressive cast: Kit Harington, Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay (Room), Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, Michael Gambon. Young Tremblay is a standout, Harington looks pretty, Gambon has one scene that may or may not be a dream. Dolan held my interest. I wanted to know what happened to the closeted actor John F. Donovan, even though the timeline allows us to know the answer in the very first scene. The Death & Life of John F. Donovan was OK ... it didn't change my life, but it wasn't a waste of time.

I admit I was astonished to find the film received a Metascore of 28/100, "generally unfavorable reviews", with only one review out of twelve being positive. Wikipedia summarized the response:

It currently holds an approval rating of 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 30 reviews, with an average rating of 3.55/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Death and Life of John F. Donovan finds writer-director Xavier Dolan flailing at profundity with a technically assured drama that never makes sense of its own ideas." ... IndieWire dubbed the film the "worst" of Dolan's career; they also called the screenplay "soapy" and "clumsy". The Guardian gave the film one out of five stars, deeming it a "dubious mess". NOW Magazine called the film "mediocre at best". RogerEbert.com criticized Dolan's music choices and wrote that the film has "major flaws", but praised Tremblay's performance. The Hollywood Reporter called the cast "impressive", but called the film a "half-baked, cumbersome, overlong psychodrama".

I'm here to say it wasn't all that bad. Which is damning with faint praise, but I felt like those critics were watching a different film than what I saw. The first cut was four hours long, and Jessica Chastain apparently had a sizable part which was completely cut. The fractured timeline made the film a bit choppy, but overall, I didn't feel that it was missing two hours.


geezer cinema: samson and delilah (cecil b. demille, 1949)

This is the twelfth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 12 is called And the Winner is Edith Head Week:

When people think costume design in film, there's one name that seems to be synonymous with the craft, that being the incomparable Edith Head. With close to 400 credits as costume designer under her belt (pun intended), Edith has shaped the look of some of film's most classic characters, and we're gonna take a look at the times that the Academy gave her the prize.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film for which Edith Head wins an Oscar for Best Costume Design.

I don't usually notice costumes ... well, you can't watch a movie without noticing the costumes, so better to say I don't know what makes for a Best Costume Design. I can tell you that the Oscar for Best Costume Design went to five people, only one of whom was named Edith Head (Dorothy Jeakins, Elois Jenssen, Gile Steele, Gwen Wakeling). I can also tell you that Samson and Delilah won the Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Color. Probably most important, though, was that it was a huge box-office success.

Samson and Delilah never surprises. Once you know that Cecil B. DeMille has directed another Bible extravaganza, and that Victor Mature is Samson and Hedy Lamarr is Delilah, you pretty much know what is coming, and you are correct, it is coming. Mature shows off his beefcake, Lamarr does nothing to suggest she didn't deserve to be called "The World's Most Beautiful Woman". Her beauty is distracting ... Mature's beefcake is standard issue, he's not the World's Most of anything, but Lamarr is exquisite, and given what we know about her now (she helped invent technology that led to Bluetooth, among other things), you can pass the time imagining her watching the DeMille silliness and thinking "I wonder when Bluetooth will be in wide usage". She's actually pretty good in Samson and Delilah. Granted, her competition is Victor Mature, but there have been plenty of worse performances by stunning beauties. Neither of the stars detracts from our enjoyment ... in fact, they are key reasons why the movie is entertaining.

Plenty of others turn up: George Sanders, Angela Lansbury, a young Russ Tamblyn. And the narrative is reasonably close to the Bible's ... Samson kicks a thousand men's butts using the jawbone of an ass, Delilah seduces Samson to learn the secret of his strength, she cuts off his hair, he is blinded and forced into slavery (is it a spoiler if the plot comes from more than 2500 years ago?). And then, it's a bit like watching a movie that features an earthquake. You know it's coming, you wait for it, even when you are watching something good, part of you holds back until you get to see that earthquake. In Samson and Delilah, we wait for most of two hours just to get to the big finale where Samson destroys the temple. DeMille doesn't spare the expense ... that finale is pretty damned impressive.

So yeah, it's junk, but it's good junk. It's worth at least one watch, if not repeated viewings.


the dirties (matt johnson, 2013)

This is the eleventh film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 11 is called YMS Recommendations Week:

Adam Johnston, AKA YourMovieSucks on YouTube, is a big factor in my appreciation of films. However you feel about his work, it can't be denied that YMS recommends a large amount of obscure and foreign cinema from the past couple decades. As my small tribute to him, this week we're taking a look at the films on his Top 10 lists, though they're usually somewhere in the 20s or 30s. If you aren't familiar, check out some of his videos (including the Top 10s) here.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film recommended in one of YMS' Top 10 videos. You can find lists of these films here.

Can't say I've ever heard of Adam Johnston, but his lists were interesting. Can't say I'd heard of The Dirties, either, and it was also interesting. The primary force behind the film is Matt Johnson, who directed, wrote, and starred. The Dirties is filled with clever touches, made on the cheap and not hiding the fact. Johnston stars as Matt, who with his friend Owen (Owen Williams), is making a low-budget movie. Matt and Owen are in high school, and they share a love of movies. They are also both victims of school bullies, and the movie they are making (yes, it's called The Dirties) is about two high school guys being bullied. It's all quite circular, and for an hour or so, it's hard to take seriously ... in fact, Johnson doesn't seem very serious himself, and it's a low-key affair with just enough entertainment to keep us involved. The movie then takes a dark turn that felt a bit abrupt to me. Johnson suddenly gets very serious, and I think we're supposed to believe this darkness makes something more of The Dirties than just a low-budget romp. It accomplishes this, but The Dirties is never a great movie. I don't think it can hold all of the suggestive meaning Johnson wants to offer.

The film uses a found-footage format which is OK if you don't think about it too much (it's unclear how much we are meant to believe in the format, since at the least there is an unmentioned cameraperson at work). Like I say, it's clever ... the character of Matt would like this movie, and not just because he is the star. It's effectively nerdy, and it carries an anti-bullying message, although that message goes awry about the time Matt starts reading up on Columbine.

Among the other choices people made for the Challenge were 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and Caché. I couldn't pick them since they don't qualify as "previously unseen", but in the end, I probably would have better spent my time rewatching 4 Months.


3-iron (kim ki-duk, 2004)

This is the tenth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 10 is called Korean Cinema Homework Week:

Following Parasite's incredible hot streak and the pleasant surprise of it winning Best Picture at the Oscar's, a lot of people were curious as to where start when looking into more South Korean cinema. Thankfully, Katie Rife, senior writer at The A.V. Club, offered up some recommendations for those looking for some guidance. Take a look!

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film from Katie Rife's Korean Cinema Homework list.

I had seen about half of the movies on the list, and was happy to check out 3-Iron from Kim Ki-duk, who directed Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring, which I watched a few months ago. I said of that movie, "Nothing is 'real' at all on some level, but it doesn't play as fantasy", and that holds to some extent for 3-Iron. 3-Iron seems more 'real' at first, but as the movie goes on, it feels more fantastic. The plot, as established at the beginning, has young Tae-suk (Jae Hee) as someone who breaks into people's houses when they aren't at home, settling in, fixing things, doing laundry, eating, then leaving before they return. It seems rather ingenious, and when he is caught by Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), an abused wife, she comes with him and joins on his sprees. This is clever, and if a bit like a tall tale, Kim presents it in a relatively realistic way. But Sun-hwa's husband wants revenge, the police are corrupt, and gradually Tae-suk demonstrates skills that are at least a little magical. None of this is hard to follow, but the magic sneaks up on you, and to be honest, by the end of the film, I wasn't quite sure if I'd actually seen any fantasy at all.

The two main characters never talk, leaving the actors to work via facial expressions ... it's fine, especially since the two are gorgeous to look at. Kim has little interest in the mainstream, and from what I've seen, the mainstream probably has little interest in his work. But at least based on the two films I've seen, he mostly avoids the abstract, even as he walks a line between real and fantasy. #573 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. Among the movies chosen to meet this challenge were Oldboy, Memories of Murder, Mother, The Host, The Handmaiden, Snowpiercer, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, and Burning.


by request: aparajito (satyajit ray, 1956)

This is the ninth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 9 is called Ray, Ray, Ray, or Wray Week:

One of my favorite running bits, this challenge is a superficial as it seems. There's little that ties these films together, except for the inclusion of folks with similar names. If for nothing else, it allows for a nice range of selection, so finding something you're interested in watching shouldn't be too hard.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by and/or starring Nicholas RaySatyajit RayRay Winstone, or Fay Wray.

P.S. I know Satyajit's is technically pronounced like "rye", but just shhhjustgowithitshhh.

Yes, it takes me forever to get to requests. I keep a list ... it's pretty long ... and eventually I'll get to them all. Aparajito wasn't really a request. It dates back to when Phil Dellio, Jeff Pike, and I did a Fifty Favorite Films project on Facebook. At the time, I told myself I was going to watch all of the movies I hadn't seen that were on Phil or Jeff's list. I've done pretty well over the years ... I only have two more to go on each list. In Phil's case, that's really 1 1/3 to go, because one of his 50 was the Apu Trilogy. A few years after the project, I finally saw the first film in the trilogy, Pather Panchali, and now, more than four years later, I've seen the second. At this rate, I'll get to the third film in 2024.

I said about Pather Panchali, "It falls into the category of 'admired more than loved'. Maybe the languid pace gave me too much time to think, but I wasn’t as drawn in emotionally as I expected." The first part of Aparajito, which picks up soon after the first film, has a similar feel. After the father dies, there is some new tension, as the mother needs to figure out how to continue the lives of her and her son. When Smaran Ghosal takes over the part of Apu from Pinaki Sen Gupta when Apu reaches adolescence, the film changes more than just the actors. Apu goes to school, which begins a separation from his mother, and later goes to Kolkata to further his studies, leaving his mother to live alone. Karuna Banerjee brings a soulfulness to the mother ... her sad eyes tell an infinite story on their own. And Ray isn't afraid to milk the emotion, which means I was finally drawn in to that side of the tale. Aparajito is a big story about tradition and progress, told on an intimate level as the story of a mother and her son. Ray doesn't exactly pick a side ... you can't stop progress. But we feel the mother's sadness as equal to the pleasures Apu finds in a larger world.

Ray uses long takes, but the scenes are often short, as if we were learning the story of these people in a piecemeal way. In the second half of the movie, I finally started understanding why the films have such a high reputation. #581 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.

Among the movies people chose to meet the challenge were Johnny Guitar (N. Ray), The Music Room (S. Ray), Sexy Beast (Ray W.), and King Kong (F. Wray).


film fatales #96: the lure (agnieszka smoczynska, 2015)

This is the eighth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 8 is called Women Directed Horror Week:

When people think horror creators, a lot of the big names tend to be men. Carpenter, Hooper, Romero, Craven, Argento, etc. And sure, these men have created some fantastic works, but it often leaves horror films directed by women underappreciated. In an effort to combat this, let's round out October by observing the greatness that female-driven horror has to offer.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen horror film directed by a woman.

Well, this is an odd one. In the end, it's delightful, in a gory sort of way, but I admit for much of the film, I thought it was just plain loony. After seeing it, I felt positive, and thinking about it made my impression even more so.

I assumed it was a horror film ... that's the challenge, after all. The front of the Blu-ray box gives little hint of what is coming, although I see now that the mysterious, vague character is a mermaid. Reading the back of the box only prepared me for what seemed impossible:

This genre-defying horror-musical mash-up ... 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 ... [a] darkly feminist twist on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid".

It might be that last part that got me ... how could Disney fit into this? The answer is that he can't, because Agnieszka Smocznska, in her debut feature, is up to things that would never enter the Disney world.

Horror-musical ... I wasn't encouraged. But in fact, it works. Part of it is that while the mermaid sisters do cast a bit of a spell on people, no one treats them as anything other than beings with a special talent. There is no hatred of the other ... once it is learned they can sing, they get a job in a nightclub, and if their legs sometimes transform into a tail, well, all the more interesting.

In its fantastic way, The Lure tells a simpler tale than the above would suggest. One of the mermaids wants to become human, and both of the sisters are regularly confronted with the restrictions placed on young women who want to decide their lives for themselves. Yes, as mermaids they are accepted, but a mermaid who wants to be human is not.

Often a movie will be described as "Like X, only Y", so a movie like Midnight Special is "Like Close Encounters, only dark". I don't know how to make that work with The Lure. It's like Near Dark, only the story takes off from The Little Mermaid, and there's sex like in The Hunger, and oh yeah, its audaciousness is kinda funny at times. I often complain about movies that require multiple viewings to "get them". In the case of The Lure, I look forward to another viewing, just to take in its wonderful oddness.