The Love Witch
by Hope Madden
Anna Biller, everybody. Holy shit.
Wes Anderson with a Black Mass fetish and a feminist point of view, Biller wrote/directed/produced/edited/set-designed/costume-designed/music-supervised the seductive sorcery headtrip The Love Witch.
Elaine (Samantha Robinson – demented perfection) needs a change of scenery. Driving her red convertible up the seacoast highway toward a new life in northern California, her troubles – and her mysteriously dead ex-husband – are behind her. Surely, with her smart eyeshades and magic potions, she’ll find true love.
Shot in dreamy 35mm and produced in lurid Technicolor, the film achieves a retro aesthetic unparalleled in modern cinema. And yet, a mid-film cell phone and third act DNA evidence pulls you from the hip Sixties spell of burlesque shows and tea rooms – but don’t mistake this for anachronism. Instead, it fits perfectly into a narrative that sees a deranged lunatic embrace archaic gender roles with the rage of one already ruined by them.
Enough cannot be said for Biller’s imagination for detail – from the contents of a “witch bottle” to the retro look of every actor, the era-evoking flatness in line delivery to the excruciating art adorning Elaine’s walls.
The orgy of colors, textures and dessert treats signifies the sensual madness eating away at poor, narcissistic Elaine.
Biller’s casting sense is as keen. Every actor not only fully embraces the weirdness of Biller’s spell, but each looks like they just walked out of a Sears Roebuck catalog circa 1968.
Expect a loose confection of a plot, as Elaine molds herself into the ideal sex toy, winning and then tiring of her trophies. This allows Biller to simultaneously reaffirm and reverse gender roles with appropriately wicked humor.
Biller pulls thematically from her 2007 film Viva, but her epic knowledge of the sexual revolution era Black Magic Woman flicks (Oh, there are plenty: Mephisto’s Waltz, Season of the Witch, The Velvet Vampire) and her clear growth in her craft help The Love Witch exceed all expectations.