The Love Witch. Anna Biller. USA.
Some films are best described through the unusual, sometimes unlikely correlations they conjure in the mind (see my description of fellow honorable mention Tomcat). The latest feature from the multi-talented Anna Biller (she served as writer, director, editor, producer, composer, art director, and costume designer for The Love Witch) plays like an imaginary Lana del Rey biopic by Radley Metzger as re-imagined through The Wicker Man (the original, of course) with a dash of Basic Instinct/The Fourth Man and Teen Witch for good measure. Following a self-involved, beautiful witch named Elaine (an delightfully game Samantha Robinson, who shares the seductive allure and ravishing hair extensions of Ms. del Rey) as she flees San Francisco following the death of her husband, The Love Witch is a pulpy, electrifying yarn, exquisitely filmed in eye-popping 35mm.
Though impressive on its own accord, Biller’s first feature from 2007, a throwback to 70s sexploitation films called Viva, suffered from an overdose of kitsch, and while The Love Witch has a sizable dose of such, Biller has learned to pull it back and refine what could have been a queasy mixture of self-aware cheekiness. For all of its on-the-nose discussions of the power, temptation, and pitfalls of “love,” the film itself has more nuanced ideas that it initially leads on. The Love Witch is perhaps 20 minutes too long, but it moves at its own languid pace and emerges as more than the sum of its many influences.
The Love Witch premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and was released in the U.S. by Oscilloscope Films in November. It will be released on video/digital download in April.
With: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Waddell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley, Jennifer Ingrum, Randy Evans, Clive Ashborn, Lily Holleman, Jennifer Couch, Stephen Wozniak, Elle Evans, Fair Micaela Griffin