Friday, 17 March 2017

The Love Witch (2016)

The Love Witch is not just an intoxicating homage to both 1970s sexually charged exploitation films, and the dreamlike psychological thrillers of the Giallo genre, or Vertigo era Hitchcock. Beneath the lush colours, nudity and violence, writer / director Anna Biller has also crafted a thought provoking exploration of female identity.

Elaine (a breakthrough performance by Samantha Robinson) is a beautiful, self-absorbed witch who breezes into a Californian town to find a new husband to replace her previous murdered one. Her search leads to men falling at her feet - and then falling down dead. As Griff, the police officer investigating the deaths gets closer to the truth, will he be next to fall under her spell?

The heady intoxicating world in which all this takes place looks like a mix of classic Hollywood Technicolor and a perfect pastiche of the rich colours (and hairy characters) of sixties and seventies European exploitation cinema. This is all complemented by the sort of soundtrack of lush strings and female solo voice often found in those sorts of films.

Writer/director/editor/producer Anna Biller has Wes Anderson levels of detail in creating her completely self-contained cinematic universe, which, like Anderson's, feels both real and completely imagined. When late in the film, one character pulls out a mobile phone, the effect is jarring, making you wonder if the whole thing is set in contemporary times after all, albeit completely re-imagined in Elaine's mind. 

The story is pulpy, melodramatic and absurd but works better for taking place within this slightly artificial environment. The acting style ranges from (deliberately) am-dram to understated, all of which seems inexplicably chilling, as artificial and persuasive as a nightmare.

Beneath the masses of style is substance too, in the examination of some of the stereotypical roles men and ascribe to themselves and each other. Elaine in particular seems to have swallowed the idea of presenting herself as a sex object for men to take care of. This buys her some power over them, but when they crave an emotional connection, she seems to find the cognitive dissonance between fantasy and reality too much to take.

THE LOVE WITCH Trailer (Romantic Comedy, 2016) by hotmovietrailer