Starring Elle Evans, Samantha Robinson, Dani Lennon
Directed by Anna Biller
Reviewed at the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival
Newly arrived in town, witch Elaine sets out to lure a man—and it doesn’t matter if he’s married to someone else…
A pitch perfect 1970s witch movie pastiche, the question raised by The Love Witch is whether it is more than it seems, or is mere facsimile enough? Writer-director Anna Biller is spot on in both décor and design (which she is also personally credited with) and in dialogue (which is occasionally laugh out loud) and performances (which are both arch and earnest). In the central role, Samantha Robinson embodies the kind of character you’d expect to see in 1973’s George Romero movie Season of the Witch.
At first it is hard to tell if this is set in the 1970s, yet later despite the vintage cars, fashions and hair cuts, the use of cellphones and computers puts it very much present day, or in some kind of out-of-time limbo. The vibrant colour palette, the soft-focus cinematography, and the mix of the occult and the erotic combines to perfect effect.
Director Anna Biller’s previous movie, Viva (2007), was a similarly staged affectionate spoof of 1960s and 1970s sexploitation cinema from a feminist perspective. In The Love Witch, Biller has hit upon a genre and style of filmmaking that is likely to bring her a much wider, more discerning audience.
Where The Love Witch goes wrong is in the bloated run time. At two hours, it’s at least 30 minutes too long and the lengthy musical sequence set at a cod Renaissance Fayre is in desperate need of cutting—the whole section could go without the film losing much at all. In fact, there is every chance that without that section, the film could be an even sharper pastiche of the source material.
Verdict: Pitch perfect, if overlong, 1970s horror flick pastiche, 8/10
Brian J. Robb