EIFF 2016: The Love Witch (2016)
A fun look at outdated sexism and gender roles filtered through a bright aesthetic filter of ’60s and ’70s Eurohorrors, The Love Witch is also about the madness that often accompanies strong feelings of love. Visually stunning throughout, with wonderful performances that perfectly capture a certain dated style, the final result is a heady brew much like anything created onscreen by the titular character.
Samantha Robinson plays Elaine, AKA The Love Witch. As the opening credits end, we see Elaine arriving at her new home, where she is greeted and given a very warm welcome by Trish (Laura Waddell). The two go for afternoon tea, in a hilariously ornate and excessively pink tearoom, and viewers are quickly brought up to speed on some of the attitudes that are on display throughout the movie, hilarious views on the way that women should keep men happy by allowing them to enact their fantasies and talk of the main female fantasy being nothing more than a wait for Mr. Right. These themes will be revisited throughout the film, as the beautiful Elaine casts a number of spells on a number of men, all while trying to find a perfect man to fall happily in love with.
Although the performances here are fun, Robinson makes for a beautiful leading lady cut from the same cloth as many of the most memorable starlets from the past (Edwige Fenech, Valerie Leon, et al), Waddell is very good and all of the men onscreen (mainly Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Robert Seeley, and Gian Keys) raise a number of laughs, the bulk of the praise must go to writer-director Anna Biller. Not only has she created something wonderful and unique, she has also loaded it with equal parts humour, intelligence, and respect for a bygone era of technicolour horror that gave us fans so many lurid delights from people such as Harry Kümel, Robert Young, Sergio Martino, Mario Bava, Norman J. Warren, Freddie Francis, Jean Rollin, Dario Argento and many more. It’s a love letter to so many films, yet it’s also a fantastic examination of sexism and how women can be harshly treated by a patriarchal society for doing little more than empowering themselves and making men feel slightly less secure.
There are one or two minor missteps. The runtime could have been trimmed slightly and there’s one moment during the last 10-15 minutes when things take a turn that feels out of character for the many supporting players involved. But that’s about all I can think of, and even those lapses in judgement are easy to forgive after your brain has been given so much time to soak up the bright colour palette, every rustle of the soft fabrics, and so many frames that could easily be removed from the film and displayed as individual works of art (as cliched as that might make me sound).
The Love Witch is showing at 2040 on 19th June at Filmhouse 1, and 2045 on 20th June at Cineworld.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: ANNA BILLER
STARS: SAMANTHA ROBINSON, GIAN KEYS, LAURA WADDELL, JEFFREY VINCENT PARISE, JARED SANFORD, ROBERT SEELEY
RUNTIME: 120 MINS APPROX