THE LOVE WITCH
Directed by: Anna Biller
Starring: Samantha Robinson, Gian Keys, Laura Wadell, Jeffrey Vincent Parise
Newly divorced Elaine is self-proclaimed Love Witch, who brews special love potions to help her find a new true love. Moving to new town and staying in an old friend's vacant apartment, Elaine makes some new acquaintances, such as the realtor, Trish and her husband Richard.
Elaine's quest for true love is a rocky one - the strength of her potions and her self-serving nature create a number of melodramatic - even fatal - problems. But Elaine is steadfast, convinced that she will find her one and only…
Anna Biller made a name for herself a few years back with Viva, a throwback to the likes of Russ Meyer's films. Here, Biller sets her sights on the low budget, drive-in movies of the 1970s.
This film is absolutely sumptuous from start to finish. The level of detail is great and really evokes the era (although it is actually unclear when the film is set - there are a couple of scenes where there are modern cars in shot in the background - its unclear whether this is a deliberate detail, something akin to The Brady Bunch Movie).
Samantha Robinson is superb in the role of Elaine. Her vampish attire and makeup are just perfect and she oozes both sexual sophistication and confidence in everything she does. However she also has a broken, melancholic side, hidden deep within. She is a contradiction of bold feminist and submissive. She can extol the virtues of tampons ("most men haven't even seen a used one!") and use of bodily fluids, yet at the same time feels that a woman's place is to make her man happy at all times. Not only that, but we learn about how she was treated by both her father and her husband
Again, this is a strange mix - her first lover in the film, Steve, is on the surface a strong, virile, hedonistic character, but after just one weekend she's broken him. Not all men, it seems, can handle the ginormous rush of emotions being with Elaine brings to the surface!
Elaine has a very self-serving nature which comes out when she sets her sights on Richard, the husband of her friend Trish. We know that Trish and Richard's marriage is on the rocks - Elaine feels that it is Trish's fault for not pleasing his properly - something she takes upon herself to perform!
As the film progresses, there is an attempt to veer the story from melodrama into more horror tropes. There are many paganistic rituals (involving nudity, naturally) and there is a small amount of blood shed (especially towards the end). There are also weird scenes of townsfolk all-but brandishing pitchforks, attacking anyone who might be involved in witchcraft, and a number of bodies start to turn up, closing the net around Elaine.
I've been deliberately sparse with details of the plot as this film works better not knowing what's going to happen. The Love Witch is loads of fun, with loads of texture to revel in - not only in its design but in the psychology of its protagonist. And Samantha Robinson - I can't wait to see her in more films.
8 out of 10 (MikeOutWest)