The Love Witch review

★★★★

Directed by: #AnnaBiller

Written by: #AnnaBiller

Starring: #SamanthaRobinson, #LauraWaddell

Film Review by: #DarrenTilby



A stylish, vibrant and lascivious overindulgence from the mind of Anna Biller, who brings her use of lavish colours and her defining brand of narcissistic #feminist wit, into conflict with the tropes of the late #60s and early #70s #sexploitation cinema.


The Love Witch sees Elaine (Samantha Robinson), a modern-day witch, as she relocates to northern California following the death of her husband, Jerry (Stephen Wozniak). After arriving, Elaine sets about establishing herself in the local community: she befriends interior designer, Trish (Laura Waddell), begins selling her wares in the local magic shop and brews love potions to seduce the local men. Standard stuff, I’m sure.


Samantha Robinson has proven she is the perfect choice to portray Elaine's unique talents and mannerisms. She oozes #eroticism and self-assurance; fixating men around her with nothing but her gaze. But, at her core is a cold, uncaring arrogance. It's Elaine's belief that to make men happy, you simply need to “give them what they want”, and that she's the one to give them it. The problem is, Elaine also believes that’s a good way to meet the right kind of man; her “prince charming” if you will. As such, Elaine’s pathological narcissism is both her greatest strength and her greatest weakness; it may bring her what she wants, but does so at a price.


In many ways, Elaine is a caricatured representation of what men think they want in a woman: a subservient plaything used purely for sexual gratification. She isn’t actually, of course. But that’s the point. Biller uses the #clichés of male-dominated #1960s cinema to explore contemporary gender roles. Her exploration of #feminism and simultaneous dismantling of male #masculinity is not only unique, but it’s also a pure delight to watch. Lines like “men are very fragile. They can get crushed down if you assert yourself in any way.” and “Men are like children. They’re very easy to please as long as we give them what they want” may be barbed and biting indictments of old-school #masculinity, but Biller never resorts to vitriol. Instead, her takedowns are playful and good-natured.


And the good-natured retro throwbacks don’t end there. Shot on 35 mm film and printed from an original cut negative, The Love Witch bathes in a #Technicolor radiance rarely seen in modern cinema. The film utilises its unique visual style to great effect, and the #cinematography by #MDavidMullen is undoubtedly a thing of beauty. But it isn’t possible to talk about any aspect of the film’s aesthetics without praising the extraordinary efforts of the director, Anna Biller. Practically everything in this film exists because she put it there: the #Technicolor look, the otherworldy soundtrack, costume and set design, the awkward pauses in the dialogue between characters which were so common in #60’s cinema, Biller did it all—and more. Seriously, go take a look at her credits for this film. This is what a labour of love looks like.


There are problems with the film, obviously. The main issue, for me, was the length: at two-hours, it’s just too long. There were moments where the pacing slowed, and I started to become disengaged with the story. And although the film never fully lost me—I was wrapped up in the pure #nostalgic beauty of it all—there’s no doubt this will be a problem for others. Quite aside from that, the story, themes and design choices made for the movie inherently mean it’s less likely to appeal to a certain audience.


With all this said and done, I really enjoyed the film. It’s a wonderful #throwback to an era of cinema and #filmmaking I have a deep love for. Its contemporary disposition melds well with the more old-fashioned aspects of the movie, and it remains fun and playful throughout; never becoming bitter or nasty. The Love Witch is a real triumph of #feministfilmmaking and it champions its cause with accessibility that is seldom seen. A perfect film for the #MeToo era.