Elaine is a young, beautiful woman who has uprooted her life from San Francisco after the death of her husband, (which through flashback montage, is heavily implied to be her fault). She is hyper-elegant and has perfected the sixties mod/hippy vibe. She moves into this fabulous apartment which is decorated by Trish, the local interior designer with a seemingly mundane personality and somehow turns out to be the character with the most depth.
She attends the local ladies tea room, which as well as being absolutely bizarre, the design is so consistent throughout that it actually becomes a bit of a safe space within the landscape of the film. The two ladies, dressed appropriately in various shades of predictable pink, jump right into the discussion on love and sex, you know….as though the two were best friends catching up rather than two complete strangers meetings approximately ten minutes prior. Upon hearing Elaine’s verdict on ‘how to please a man’, Trish tells her that she sounds as though she’s been ‘brainwashed by the patriarchy’. Aside from the overly pronounced delivery of speech, she’s saying what we’re all thinking.
This is where I can’t really fully grasp a sense of feminist sensibility. It had a lot of possibilities of where it could go and I didn’t really enjoy the direction it did, from a romantic or identity standpoint. Elaine became a sad figure to me as she was so far gone that she couldn’t accept a love that she didn’t manufacture herself through witchcraft. I’ve learnt recently that there is very little in love that we can manufacture. It will go where it needs to go, so outside interference isn’t inspiring to me at this moment in my life I suppose. Therefore, I wasn’t enamored by the leading female protagonist (aside from her killer style) and I suppose that’s why I’m not deeming this a feminist flick.
I wish there was slightly more depth in the relationship between Elaine and Trish. There was of course that endearing but sad moment were Trish returns Elaine’s ring to her apartment and has a nosy around, trying on Elaine’s clothes, makeup and wigs. The film attempted to showcase the juxtaposition of feminine ideals, the sexy spontaneity of Elaine, versus the headstrong reliability of Trish and pit them against each other.
Shot on 35mm, Anna Biller’s vision for this film that took seven plus years to bring to life, is brilliantly brought to the screen. Feminist persuasions aside, the aesthetic attention to detail for this film is undoubtedly spot on. The consistency is notable in every scene, from the amber glassware to clashing wall colours, everything was in it’s rightful place. That is why I admire this film, for it’s un-faltering dedication to what it set out to do. Anna Billers, notable for her feature length debut VIVA, 2007, a musical comedy that explored female sexuality, is a true auteur in every sense of the word. Billers is clearly number 1) a cinephile, her love cinema tangible, from the outset of any interview she does 2) a technical genius (writing the score for her movie really puts her up there in my eyes).
Anna Biller on her movie, ‘THE LOVE WITCH is designed to be funny for women, but scary for men (although the ending is specifically designed to be heartbreaking for women).’
‘I love 35mm. It captures light in a breathtaking way and is easier to work with, especially in post, if you know what you’re doing!”
A female auteur is intimidating to a world that dotes on those glorious ‘fore-runners’ cinema who have been allowed centre stage for too long. Even in Mark Kermode’s review of the film, his (lackluster) sidekick, Simon Mayo, declares Biller a ‘control freak’, for her hands on approach to almost every element in making this film. It would be interesting to hears his views on David Lynch of Quentin Tarantino?
Biller has said that she is, in no way, attempting to pay homage to exploitation cinema of the 1960s/70s as ‘they’re often just really bad movies’. With this I have to admit the irony as The Love Witch is an interesting an bizarre trip of a watch, but I wouldn’t necessary deem it a ‘good movie’ and probably wouldn’t watch again. The acting is purposefully exaggerated but in turn, also rather annoying. I suppose we are supposed to view this from an extremely hyperbolic stance of symbolism, but with a runtime of two hours you begin to question your decision to watch this film.
Having said this, I did very much appreciate the styling of the film. The attention to detail and photography were so on point. Biller has said she was heavily influenced by Hitchcock and this is visible in the staging. Everything in the shot is carefully placed, has a purpose and can almost go unnoticed. The retro look of the film is enhanced by the camera movement, editing and photography. This indulgent parody of a cinematic genre hits some interesting noted, in exploring women’s sexuality and emotions versus men’s, I’m just not entirely sure what the result is. The monologues over footage of the the weird woodland wedding about idealistic feminine and masculine ideals and what each sex expects from the other are heartbreaking, the difference never so obvious.
I think if I’ve taken anything from this film, it’s that heartbreak is a detrimental emotion and although we have to go through emotions, we can not let it take over. Women are capable of handling the deepest versions of our love, a sentiment that proves, just too powerful for some men.