Trish (Laura Waddell), asks Elaine (Samantha Robinson), “What do men really want?” “Just a pretty woman to love them, to take care of them,” was Elaine’s response, setting the tone of the “The Love Witch.” This campy comedic-thriller by Anna Biller references the mid 60’s sensibilities of directors like Russ Meyers. This opening scene sends The Love Witch off on its journey for love that twist into murderous mayhem!
Elaine is a beautiful young witch seeking simplicity and love after the unfortunate and mysterious loss of her husband in San Francisco. That calamity leads Elaine to search for a more bucolic setting in a gothic Victorian apartment in a small coastal town. She continues to practice her witchcraft, making potions and casting spells for love.
That opening conversation between Trish and Elaine is set in the all pink Victorian Tea Room, where Trish plays the role of feminist inquisitor, and Elaine fashions her statements on pleasing men with every clichéd response the patriarchy cherishes. It’s obvious Elaine’s lines are spoken earnestly, but they are written dripping saccharine sarcasm.
More after The Break
On my first viewing of “The Love Witch” at Etheria Film Night in the Aero Theater, I was stunned by its production. I spent the first 30 minutes trying to figure out if it was a mid-century production, given its wardrobe choices, the women’s make-up, the dialogue and even the lighting (Anna mentioned after the screening in a Q&A that there was only one DP in Hollywood who could do the lighting that would make this production unique and appropriately period. She waited for M. David Mullen to finish another film before starting “The Love Witch” because it was so key to telling this story). From its look, you’d surmise the film had been made between 1968 and 1972. It was spot on in every way!
It became obvious to me “The Love Witch” was a contemporary work when Elaine picked up her i-Phone to talk to Trish in one of the scenes. Elaine is sexually open, submissive and charming. Elaine is looking for a man but the men keep slipping through her fingers. Elaine uses her witchy ways to bring various men into her life. Wayne, played by Jeffrey Vincent Parise, is her victim of love. He’s an outdoorsy and manly guy who like it rough. Elaine give him a sexy burlesque tease before they make love. But things go awry a Wayne passion slips into a maudlin confessional after they make love.
Every succeeding romance Elaine embarks upon are bidden by her witchy spells and potions. Her desires for love with these men began with the great expectations only to end in histrionics, pathos and the inevitable carnage. Every romances spirals through themes that touch on various stereotypical fantasies and expectations that she holds regarding men. Elaine exclaims, “What a pussy, what a baby!” as each of these men fail her expectations of being the manly ideal–her knight in shinning armor.
Although, there’s a lot of familiarity in these archetypes of Biller’s narrative, she builds in some surprises that titillate, thrill and entertain the viewer as she explores female fantasies with an undertow of feminist commentary, moments of comedic relief and some pretty dark twisty turns to delight the audience.
“The Love Witch” is a sleeper and a cult classic in the making! It’s is a must see for any film buff that loves kitschy witchy stuff with fringy sensibilities. “The Love Witch” covers a number of different layers within the alternative cinema world with its dark and mischievous storyline and very stylized tone. It’s an amazingly conceived and perfectly executed indie movie. That’s a difficult commodity to find in indie films today!