The Love Witch
2016, NR, 120 min. Directed by Anna Biller. Starring Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell, Jennifer Ingrum, Gian Keys, Stephen Wozniak.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Nov. 11, 2016
With a handful of shorts and her feature debut in 2007 (the pitch perfect Viva), Anna Biller quickly established herself as one of the most exciting filmmakers of the past decade. Harnessing a throwback style of Sixties and Seventies exploitation films, Biller meticulously crafts her movies with such care that it would make Wes Anderson weep. I’ve always grappled with the word auteur, but there is no other word to describe her. Biller creates the sets, the costumes, and scours antique shops to fill the frame with the perfect props, and when she can’t find them, she makes them. Her use of the tropes and styles of genre are masterfully done, and she inserts a brilliant feminist subversion as a through line in her work.
While Viva turned the “bored housewife discovering the sexual revolution” subgenre on its head, her latest film The Love Witch burrows deep into the Satanism and witchcraft films of the early Seventies (before The Exorcist violently put an end to that). Shot in vibrant Technicolor by M. David Mullen, the film begins with Elaine (Robinson, in a star-making turn), a self-proclaimed witch, leaving behind San Francisco and a dead husband for an idyllic, small California town. It doesn’t take long for the men to take notice, and then the bodies start piling up. Biller infuses the film with such style, such elegance, such joie de vivre, that I had a smile on my face for the whole running time. She is a filmmaker unlike any other working today. I just hope it doesn’t take another 10 years for her to make her next one.