Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a sumptuous slice of cinema. From its vibrant opening shots, the film confidently sets out its stall with a technicolour palette, eye-popping visuals and luscious lensing. The Love Witch reaches into your mind and bathes it in a flying ointment, preparing you for a two-hour trip. Beneath this visual pleasure beats the heart of a subversive narrative that interrogates gender politics and casts a critical gaze on the construction of femininity.
In a note-perfect performance, Samantha Robinson plays Elaine, reborn as a witch. Following the mysterious death of her husband, Elaine moves to Eureka, California in order to start a new life – one that means finding love. In several wickedly funny scenes, potential mates are selected but none prove to be a match for Elaine’s potent powers.
Early on, we learn of Elaine’s troubled past in which she’s been crushed up and discarded. In this new life, she renegotiates her sexual agency in an effort to get a man to fall in love with her. With her blue eye makeup, false eyelashes, assortment of lingerie, long black wig and ritual seduction, Elaine becomes the embodiment of male fantasy and uses a constructed femininity coupled with some sex-magic potions to take control of the opposite sex. Her admirers are ill-equipped to give her what she desires and their responses and failure to attune to her strong female sexuality does not bode well for them. If her fantasies cannot be met, what else is a narcissistic woman with sociopathic tendencies to do? And who’s really to blame?
The film, shot in delicious 35mm, is sensually ravishing. Biller not only wrote, directed, produced, and edited the film, she also created the sets and costumes, and composed original songs. Alongside the lighting, sound, hair and makeup, her detailed precision comes together to forge a potent cinematic experience.
Stylish, clever and witty, The Love Witch is a film to die for. Lovingly embracing its classic influences, Biller practices her own alchemy and creates something different and fresh. Awash in all its technicolor glory, The Love Witch is a visual incantation and toxic brew of desire. Watch it and fall under its spell.