@FantasiaFest sleeper "The Love Witch"




The first thing that you notice about Anna Biller's "The Love Witch" is how strikingly beautiful a movie it is.  Shot on 35mm its look is inspired by 1960s sexploitation and Technicolor melodramas. It is sumptuous in its eye-popping photography filled with relentless color and incredibly impressive and precise costume design.

Its plot of a modern-day witch named Elaine (a very spicy hot Samantha Robinson) that relentlessly, but good-hardheartedly, concocts magical spells to get men to fall in love with her, can seem like a throwaway compared to the actual, eye-candy imagery Biller has created. You wouldn't be wrong, but what Biller is trying to create is a cinematic treatise very much akin to what Todd Haynes did with his Douglas Sirk inspired melodrama "Far From Heaven." The beautiful, luscious coilers are deceiving enough to make an audience believe that what they are seeing is total pastiche, but the underlying themes and resonances that lurk beneath tell a very different tale.

Elaine's Gothic, Victorian-inspired apartment is an over-the-top inspired treat. There are spell books and love potions being created all around the place. It makes for a hilariously messy environment, but one which subtly indicates the deranged mind of its titular character. She makes over-the-top potions, sprinkles them with absurd spells and then goes out to find the next victim in her deadly web. We never truly know if the spells actually work or if she just picks up all these hapless male souls because, well, she's quite easy on the eyes.

Most of the men Elaine meets are weak-minded fools that cannot handle the heavy, and proudly feminist image, that comes with dating this kooky witch. Her aim is to get the perfect man, but not without getting what she truly wants. She will use sex, just like Scarlett Johnanson's toxic UFO vixen all too easily did in "Under the Skin," to seduce her male partners and get to her ubiquitous goals. The sex scenes are ugly, misguided and completely awkward, purposely so, but they also end up revealing the true nature of many of its male characters. The sex brings out the hidden truths that the plasticized men she encounters have kept hidden until that very moment from her.

Newcomer Robinson is unusually impressive. She not only is perfect for the role with her provocatively good looks, but brings erotic, provocative, and never mean-spirited vibes to her character. She might be responsible for a few deaths, but Biller somehow finds a way to make Elaine likeable and not entirely responsible for the murders she has committed.

Robinson certainly looks the part with her great outfits and provocative blue eye make-up. Her performance is veers between the erotic and the outrageous.

It is no coincidence that "The Love Witch" feels like it was made in another era, in fact it is such a technical accomplishment that at times I truly thought I was watching something that was actually shot in the late 60s.  Much of the visual palette stems from the technicolor thriller genre made popular back in the late 60's early 70s. From the acting to the lighting to the compositions, Biller has pulled out quite the effort to authenticate her film and make it look, sound and feel like it was made in 1971. She even directly uses music from older Ennio Morricone's Italin giallo soundtracks such as "The Fifth Cord" and "A Lizard in a Woman's Skin."  The fact that Biller has stated that the film is supposed to be set in modern times, and we do happen to catch a few people talking in cell phones, is an accomplishment in itself because never does it feel like your in present time when 3watching the film.

And so, with all these technical accomplishments, "The Love Witch" does retain its feminist themes throughout. Biller explores female fantasy in the most diabolical of ways imaginable and gender politics are dissected in such an honest, but stinging way that it could infuriate some feminists with its truthful observations.  Biller proves to be the an auteur in the truest sense of the word: She directed, wrote, produced, edited the film and created many of the spectacular costumes and set decorations. She also, quite possibly, created a new cult classic. B
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