The Love Witch (2016)

Anna Biller must have been one very busy woman. Not only did she direct her film The Love Witch, she produced, wrote, composed for, designed (art, set, costume and production) and edited it as well…so I think it’s fair to say that it’s a film that she must have poured a lot of herself into.

The film opens as Elaine, a beautiful young witch, arrives in a small town in California to start her life anew following the death of her husband. There, she sets herself up as a force to be reckoned with, single-mindedly pursuing her goal of finding a man to love and adore for the rest of her life. However, it soon becomes apparent that despite all her witchy seductive powers, the men she meets are inevitably letdowns, which in turn gradually adds to the trail of bodies she leaves in her wake.

The Love Witch is a gorgeous film. Shot with an entirely 60s aesthetic in mind, it manages to evoke the likes of Hammer and giallo, yet subverts the tropes that such films established. At first glance, Elaine is the cliched femme fatale, using her feminine wiles to beguile men; yet despite this, the stunning Samantha Robinson plays her character with such a wide-eyed naivete, she seems completely clueless as to the damage she’s doing on her quest for her perfect man. There’s an odd dichotomy at the heart of Elaine, between what we see on the surface and what’s going on underneath, which I think is something true of the film as a whole. You’d be forgiven for casting it aside as a pastiche of camp 60s sexploitation, but there’s a lot more to the film than that. After all, this is a film in which the classic male archetypes are reduced to nothing but emotional wrecks after being “drowned in estrogen”, to paraphrase Gian Keys’ gruff cop Griff. Anna Billers clearly had a strong feminist vision in mind when creating The Love Witch, and it shows.

Special mention must be given to the love and authenticity with which Biller has recreated the era; despite the film unequivocally being set in the present day, everything from the costumes to the sets to the makeup harken back to bygone days; so much so that it threw me off when a character pulled out a modern-day mobile phone.

It’s not without its flaws though; it perhaps lingers for a little longer than it should have done, but by and large it’s a lot of fun and definitely worth a watch.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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