The Love Witch

2016

Comedy / Horror / Romance

48
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 64%
IMDb Rating 6.2 10 6471

Synopsis


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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by BB Gunn 10 / 10

Genius Direction

Anna Biller not only directed this film, but wrote the screenplay, designed costumes, painted set pieces, recorded music, and even wove a pentagram RUG! This movie is a labor of love that exceeds the expectations of low-budget projects. If anything, this film is more beautiful than anything released in the past 20 years. Oh, the story, acting, casting, everything really, is 100% perfection.

Reviewed by johnnyrev 9 / 10

Witty and beautifully shot gem

I'm happy this time-culture clash exists. The Love Witch is a pitch-perfect pastiche of late 60s, early 70s exploitation movies. A witty examination of shifting attitudes toward gender politics, sexual relations and male-female desire from a vantage point 50 years on by a female director with an obvious affection/obsession for genre and a deep knowledge of the source material.

Visually, the look and feel of the era's style of film is perfectly recreated. So much so, as I watched I sometimes had to remind myself that this was made only last year in 2016. The occasional (and very intentional) glimpses of modern cars parked on streets, and characters talking on mobile phones were, probably, intended to shake the viewer out of that particular delusion. Perhaps, this was a budget constraint cleverly used by Biller to the movie's advantage, as self-reflexive moments like these seem to serve as reminders of the artifice of cinema and cultural style.

Although The Love Witch is a 'feminist' movie, it's not polemically scathing or mean-spirited. In fact, quite the opposite holds true. The Love Witch is gentle and playful; at times sympathetic and forgiving. It is often satirical and ironic and, on occasion, just plain bonkers and laugh-out-loud funny. The dialogue is suitably stilted and the cast's deadpan deliveries are in keeping with the straight/jokey dichotomy of the initial set-up. As for the design and look, Biller (who had several jobs on the crew) really does nail it. Sets, lighting, costumes, hairstyles, photography, editing, acting, story, script, soundtrack all converge and conspire to recreate several genres and sub-genres popular in their day.

However, ultimately The Love Witch is more than just a nostalgic exercise in style. It's a playful tribute to genre movies that actually has quite a lot to say for itself. A retro-style movie with more intelligence and wit than the films it lovingly emulates.

Reviewed by gavin6942 6 / 10

A Darn Fine Vision That Runs Much Too Long

A modern-day witch (Samantha Robinson) uses spells and magic to get men to fall in love with her, in a tribute to 1960s pulp novels and Technicolor melodramas.

Making its Canadian premiere at Fantasia on July 16, "The Love Witch" swooped in to Montreal with high recommendations. Hollywood Reporter has lauded it, as have the New Yorker, Rue Morgue, Chris Alexander for ShockTilYouDrop and Jason Coffman for Film Monthly. With everyone who is anyone in the world of film criticism coming out behind it, who could dare disagree?

Writer-director Anna Biller knew exactly what she was doing when she attempted to make this a throwback to the classic sexploitation films. Shot on glorious 35mm, the colors are vivid and absolutely striking, both in the film's overall look, and in the costuming and makeup. The set design even captures what I picture the West Coast in the 1960s must have been, a world of witchcraft where Anton LaVey would have felt at home. (Some critics have grumbled about the blend of 1960s and modern vehicles and cell phones; I can appreciate their desire for purity, but that was never really the point.)

Although the art direction and cinematography are what capture the look, the acting completes that illusion. The acting is terrible, but in the most wonderful way. Presumably, the actors were forced to watch an endless loop of trailers for films from Something Weird Video until they mastered the stilted language and mannerisms. Although Samantha Robinson is obvious the star and carries every sequence, Jeffrey Vincent Parise (GENERAL HOSPITAL) as Wayne was really the high-water mark for over-the-top melodrama. All of the characters had something a little off about them to make them endearing. And I love that the lead detective in the film is named Griff. I'd like to see this as a nod to the films of Sam Fuller, though it's probably just a coincidence.

Not to sound like a carbon copy, but just as much as I agree with the film's praise, I also follow in line with some of the negative observations. Frank Scheck of Hollywood Reporter says the film "might have benefited from some trimming, with several segments depicting wiccan rituals going on a bit too long." Where I differ is that I would go much further on this point, as Biller's editing is the real downfall of the film. Presumably, after all the hard work of writing, directing and decorating, Biller (now wearing the editor hat) didn't have the heart to trim her hard work. And this is a real shame, because after the first quarter to a third of the movie, the pace feels increasingly slow and the film as a whole comes off as awfully long. A half dozen sequences could have been cut entirely, or alternately a solid 20 minutes could have been removed to pick up the pace. A film this brilliant and visually sumptuous should not be risking putting its audience to sleep, but that's precisely what ends up happening.

And that's the long and short of it. Whether this film actually has a feminist message or is a film for women as Biller claims, I couldn't say. But it is unique, and a ridiculously successful throwback to the exploitation films that genre fans (myself included) are passionate about. When the film opens to a wider audience this fall, I expect it will hit home with a wide variety of viewers and may achieve minor cult status. However, if Biller (or someone else) trims a few minutes here and there between now and October, this could go well beyond cult and be a mainstream hit.

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