The Love Witch Screen 21 articles

The Love Witch

2016

The Love Witch Poster
  • A sort of retro throwback modeled on the stylized European exploitation films of the 1960s. Biller shot it, ravishingly, on 35mm and furnished every frame with uncanny precision; the result really could pass as a relic of the era. That it's quite funny and charming seems almost beside the point. I'm keen to watch it again just to luxuriate in it.

  • If nothing else, The Love Witch is an astonishing visual marvel: Every frame of this shot-and-edited-on-35mm film bursts with eye-popping color, and the ornate production design offers plenty of deliciously baroque details to savor. But though Biller is paying tribute to the Technicolor erotic films of old, she’s engaging in far more than just loving genre pastiche.

  • A very dry, stylized, totally obsessive horror comedy that, in its tale of an amorous witch playing the field in Eureka, California, is both a New Age satire and a credible pastiche of an American International drive-in flick, circa 1970.

  • Biller’s brilliance here is that witchcraft, front and centre as the subject matter, is of course an allegorical tool. It’s cinema that Elaine/Biller controls without authorization, that empowers her. And perhaps more radical still, they do this not by adopting the outward trappings of masculine power, but by fully embodying the performative place of the femme... Biller is a preternaturally gifted filmmaker whose unique formal approach is thoroughly in service to an intellectual worldview.

  • It may seem Biller is mounting an assault on delightfully garish exploitation fare, ones with overemphatic titles like “Vixen!”, “Score” and “Two Thousand Maniacs!” But that’s not quite what she’s doing. She clearly loves these films; she wants to work with them, not take them down, using their language to get at something new and fun.

  • Though not without its flaws, The Love Witch demonstrates an astonishing amount of potential for all those involved. What Anna Biller managed to achieve, with limited resources, easily stands up with the films of Lucio Fulci, Dario Argento, and Massimo Dallamano. But, not satisfied in mimicry, the film channels everything I love about those films with an air of self-awareness.

  • A remarkably dense pastiche, recreating elements of American melodramas, sexploitation comedies, and low-budget horror films from the 60s and early 70s with loving care and deadpan assurance... The mise-en-scene is striking and loud, at times verging on Kenneth Anger levels of expressiveness; the sex is lurid and silly, the politics blunt and sincere; and Biller demonstrates such command over tone that even the odd pauses in the dialogue feel carefully considered.

  • This spellbinding ode to exploitation films of the 1960s and '70s is impressive not only for its mock-Technicolor hues and period mise-en-scène but also for what lies beneath: a creepy and cunning examination of female fantasy... Biller embraces the melodrama and vampy camp of ’60s horror while also considering the easy conflation of love, desire, and narcissism.

  • Biller's formal confidence is absolutely astounding, not only meticulously reproducing this vintage Hollywood aesthetic but stirring in shots that hang a beat too long, awkward pauses in dialogue, and goofy flourishes like obvious process photography and sudden snap-zooms. The whole thing is laced with not just overt feminism, but much sharper critiques of prescribed gender traps and the act of mistaking sex for love.

  • Biller has made yet another film of niche artistry par excellence... I believe moviegoers — women and, hopefully, men alike — will buy tickets to Biller’s film this autumn and exit genuinely provoked: entertained, startled, hungry to learn more, and perhaps haunted by the occult, day-glo world they just occupied — and what if it’s not so different from our own?

  • There is no film in this year’s FrightFest offerings more visually attractive than The Love Witch, from writer-director-producer-editor-composer-designer Anna Biller(Viva). It combines the retro glamour, back projection and technicolour brilliance of 1960s cinema (though the setting is a mannered present), was shot on archaising 35mm, and boasts perhaps the most immaculately applied lipstick and eyeliner of the new century.

  • Biller’s latest passion project successfully captures the tone, colour, and style of the 1950s and 1960s Technicolor films it is sending up, as much a knowing wink to Douglas Sirk’s melodramas as it is to its B-horror roots. Refreshingly, The Love Witch manages to be warmly appreciative of its heritage, poking fun in good faith, while pointing out the hilarity to be found in its excesses.

  • A cinephilic homage to the sexploitation films of the 1970s, Biller’s sensual and symbol-laden sophomore film goes beyond pastiche to outright subvert the gender politics within the genre, presenting a stunning portrait of female power and madness.

  • Presided over by the angry spirit of Helen Gurley Brown, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a sprawling, beguiling world unto itself. Biller’s sharp film stands in stark contrast to the complacency and crushing safeness of the vast majority of independent films made in the U.S., and is far more than the lighthearted genre pastiche or retrophile curiosity it may seem to be at first glance.

  • The movie is less a matter of story than of style—it’s filled with ornate period costumes and furnishings (which were handmade by Biller) as well as sumptuous swaths of color and old-school optical effects. Biller’s feminist philosophy meshes with the freewheeling delight of her aestheticism. The film pulsates with furious creative energy, sparking excitement and amazement by way of its decorative twists, intellectual provocations, and astounding humor.

  • The redolence of schlockiness Biller attaches to “The Love Witch” seems like an organic factor in her actual way of seeing. The movie is relentless in how it poses questions about our culture’s way of dealing with the power of female sexuality (and it wouldn’t work without Robinson, whose appearance and performance is impeccable for the job) and acknowledges that there’s not only unease in these questions and their answers but also mordant hilarity.

  • Biller evinces her understanding of every element in a 1950s or '60s-era Technicolor production as either implicitly or explicitly pertaining to sex. The forceful fullness of Technicolor merges with the repressive cultural values of its era to forge an aesthetic that's simultaneously forward and demure, yielding a head-spinning subtextual neurosis that most modern filmmaking can't hope to recapture, with its uninhibited and taken-for-granted access to the profane.

  • This film, then, exists not in the past but in a world that looks exactly the way its multi-hyphenate auteur wants it to look. It’s refreshing to watch a film that commits so boldly to a specific aesthetic, and even more so when that aesthetic is hyperfeminine.

  • In a masc4masc world, few “specialty” filmmakers wear a Cheshire grin as cunningly as Anna Biller, who knows exactly the distance between “Burn the witch!” and “Lock her up!” Her debut feature, Viva, was a retro aperitif; The Love Witch is a subversive seven-course manifesto with a '70s Dinner Party menu.

  • Anna Biller wrote, directed, production designed, costume designed, composed. She is a breathtaking visionary: she knows what she wants, she sees it in her head, she does what needs to be done to make her vision a reality. She works very closely with her actors: everyone is so on the same page that the performances, too, emanate the sensibility of the director. Samantha Robinson, as the “love witch”, gives one of the performances of the year.

  • ++

    Sight & Sound: Kim Morgan
    March 03, 2017 | April 2017 Issue (pp. 40-42)

    It's exhilarating and inspiring when a work of art comes along that defies all categories and upends expectations. That's The Love Witch, an entrancing, emotional, intelligent and challenging picture that's much more than the retro rumination some have pegged it as. The suggestion that it feels like the work of "the great granddaughter of Russ Meyer"... is too easy to slap on this picture. There's a deeper, darker undercurrent lacing every moment, and it's uniquely its own creature.

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