Thursday, 30 March 2017

THE LOVE WITCH (2017) - Review

"Witchcraft is a way of concentrating energy" says the heroine of The Love Witch, a self-made femme fatale who, despite being empowered by the craft, is still haunted by the taunts of her loathsome father and dead husband, who she may or may not of killed. Starting afresh in a new town, Elaine (Samantha Robinson) intends to focus all her energy on the pursuit of a new partner with the help of a little sex magick. Her ultimate goal is love, and she's going to use all the knowledge she's gathered over the years to help her get it.

Delivering what she believes men want, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom, she enlists the help of a couple of little potions in order to seduce lecturer Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), but unfortunately, the love he feels for Elaine is so violent that he dies through the shock of it. Realising Wayne was unsuitable, and disturbingly nonplussed about his death, she buries him in the grounds of his forest cabin and displays a protection charm of a witch's bottle, containing some herbs, as well as her own urine and menstrual blood, and leaves to find another lover. Unsurprisingly, Wayne's death does not go unnoticed.

Directed and written by Anna Biller (who also had a hand in the costumes and set design), The Love Witch takes on the look of the technicolor horror's of the 60s, along with its presentational acting style and jazz soundtrack, but includes the glamour and paranoia of a Hitchcock classic. While the visual style may be a little camp and naff, the script is sophisticated and modern, subverting the gender norms expected in cinema.

Biller casts Elaine as a monster struggling in getting exactly what she wants, which is a man loving her as intensely as she loves them. In Rue Morgue, Biller describes twisting the usual stereotype, as in The Love Witch "men [get] killed because of what they can’t (or won’t) give women", whereas  "most slasher films revolve around women being killed because of what they can’t (or won’t) give men." While definitely traversing into feminist theory, but refusing to tie itself down to any one fixed view point, the films delivers its blows more through the tragic misunderstandings between the traditional male and female stereotypes, and really how Elaine, as well as her lovers, are all doomed due to their unchecked flaws.

The nostalgic aesthetic maybe slightly off putting to some, but if you embrace The Love Witch's stylised look, then you will be rewarded with a rich and engaging story that allows you to question the characters motives without being lost to their reasoning.



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