THE LOVE WITCH hypnotized me into her delicious spell as quick as a finger snap used to wake you from a trance. But..why wake up? This reverently campy, boldly sexual, stylishly conceived, slyly sage 120-minute romp is an instant cult classic delight; witty, wise and wanton, a cool dream you want to do over to pick up on pieces of its collage you missed. Mere man I am, I suppose liberally sprinkling the movie with beautiful, talented women may have put me further under influence….
Though critical praise lit up keyboards, it will be up to word-of-mouth to capture disciples, as the veiled release of the 2016 picture netted, as of April 2017, but a newt’s eye of $227,000. I guess part of its charm is being in a underground coven of admirers select enough for fans to chant “I saw it first!”
‘Elaine’ (Samantha Robinson) moves to postcardish Arcata, California to seek a fresh start (and new hearts) after her husband’s mysterious death. Befriending (bewitching) assorted locals, a chain of seductions follow, with lethal consequences. Can Elaine really get what she’s really after? Can any of us? Do we even know? Try, try again.
“According to the experts, men are very fragile. They can get crushed down if you assert yourself in any way”
Move over, Orson. Wunderkind auteur Anna Biller conjures this charm as—get ready– writer, producer, director, costume designer, editor, art director and production designer. Oh, and she handled the score, too. She aced every facet, not least in casting a bright array of unknown actors. It’s a jewel box (or potion bag) of talent treats.
Producing on a shoestring, her editing is so deft it’s impossible to tell when it takes over from her directing, which steers the bubbling idea brew of her script into simultaneous layers of homage (the rich color palette redolent of 50s and 60s Technicolor—in the style of Douglas Sirk or Hitchcock’s Marnie), laugh-aloud retro send-up (the Hammer and Italian horror-sex kitsch genre), done to a deadpan tee, so good/bad many will misread the acting and, deeper, a pointed and poignant feminist-based critique of the cross-wired ideas about love held by women vs. those usually accepted by men. The allures of fantasy ideals and the trap and penalty of narcissism are thought-provoking ingredients in the brew that nourish the spice from its potpourri of teasing carnal visuals and the sugar rush from its laugh-aloud characterizations.
The men are all somewhat earnest and goofy looking, oily faux macho, or just plain clowns. Biller’s women are mostly stunners. There I go, being a sexist with my gender-bred objectification. Guilty, but it wasn’t moi who cast it, either…
Ms. Robinson is—come hither glances, dead-pan delivery and dead-serious intent— to die for. ‘Seductive’ is inadequate.
The eye-candy cinematography was one element Ms. Biller didn’t do herself, but her imagery and mood wishes are clearly reflected through the marvelous work of cameraman M. David Mullen, whose 35mm re-imagining of classic style is a technical and tonal triumph. Gorgeous and fun. Manna for the lens is in that Biller’s costumes, set decor and props are inspired creations. Every frame has something striking in it.
Fetching smiles and sighs are Gian Keyes, Laura Waddell (priceless delivery), Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Robert Seely, Jared Sanford, Jennifer Ingrum, Randy Evans, Giselle DaMier (angel on harp), Jennifer Couch (her eyes should come with a warning label), April Showers, Elle Evans, Fair Michaela Griffin. Best write-up I’ve seen is from A.O. Scott of “The New York Times”: worth seeking out. That tarnished doorstop may be a war-megaphone, but at least it boasts a perceptive critic. From my lowly perch, it may be time to throw my blu-rays in a backpack, hitch to Arcata and take my chances with sorceress fate: what’s a one-way wheelbarrow ride against a night of passionate delirium?