Monday, April 16, 2018

The Love Witch (2016) Review : A Feminist, Technicolour Homage to 70's Sexploitation

The Love Witch is a film that's been on my radar for a couple years now, and I'm so thrilled I finally sat down to watch it. Shot and projected on 35mm film with rich and lush colours, The Love Witch pays homage to the 60s and 70s exploitation films, and Italian Gaillo. Visually, it's done so perfectly, it's hard to believe this treat came out in 2016.  Its director, Anna Biller, is a powerhouse herself, having wrote, produced, and directed the film, PLUS having made the costumes and much of what you see on screen. 

The story follows a witch, Elaine (played by newcomer Samantha Robinson), as she moves to a new city and is on the hunt for the perfect man. Along the way she entraps men through her love potions, however, things don't ever go as planned. Samantha does a phenomenal job in this role, with her sultry and often humorous performance, combined with absolutely stunning physical features and makeup. Although the film has a feminist message, in particular the seductive powers women have on males, The Love Witch doesn't shove this down your throat. In fact, Samantha's character has a lot of qualities that aren't ideal, and she too, is flawed. 

Elaine does however, have immensely quotable lines and some viewpoints that are spot-on. In a scene where she's mixing a love potion, she throws in a used tampon, commenting on the fact that women bleeding isn't something men should be grossed out about. "Women bleed and it's a beautiful thing", she says. Her finest and most powerful delivery lies near the end, however. As she's fighting to explain her rationale she states that society teaches males to be stoic and that, "a woman's intuitions and emotions are illnesses that need to be cured." In our day and age this rings a very strong bell, and it's wonderful to see a heroine challenge society's ideals. 

All in all, this film is wrapped in such a vividly beautiful technicolour package, one that never ceased to amaze me. Elaine's striking blue eye makeup, her Victorian apartment with brightly coloured walls, to the tea house where the ladies gossip all while wearing ornate and colourful flowered hats; it's all such a treat for the eyes. Sure, some reviewers have commented on the acting being at times, overdone, but to be entirely honest, stilted performances are the point and a complete throwback to the pulp genre. Another bonus? Biller takes actual soundtracks from Giallo films, and hearing the music of Morricone makes my heart skip a beat. As for the length of the movie? If you're a fan of vintage horror and exploitation genres, the 120 minute run-time will be heaven for you. 

The Love Witch is the exact sort of film I adore - blending classic horror with ultra-feminist ideals. And it's these ideals that Biller manages to drive home, or at least makes us want to talk about it. Questions about the way men deal with female sexuality and gender relations in general, are wonderful points of discussion long after the movie is over. Samantha Robinson's character on the other hand, blazes a path and teaches us that she too is "just a little girl dreaming of being carried off on a white horse" but as her life and society taught her, she has been reduced to something else, not much more than eye candy. It's because she has been denied that basic respect that Elaine has become a narcissistic monster; brainwashed by the patriarchy and obsessed with murder. 

If you want a seriously beautiful sensory overload that harks back to vintage genres, I suggest you go see The Love Witch. It's certainly not a film for everyone, but with its layers of complexity it's poignant, touching upon society's norms that are definitely worth questioning.



1 comment

  1. I remember wanting to see this when it was in the cinema but never got round to it. Judging by your review, I think I would really like it. I’ll just need to catch it on the small screen instead :-)


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