Before We Vanish by Matt Lynch Film

The Love Witch | Anna Biller

November 11, 2016

Ever since Quentin Tarantino arrived, and especially since his Kill Bill and Grindhouse films, the market has seen a deluge of faux-exploitation garbage—from high profile stuff like Robert Rodriguez’s Machete all the way down to meaningless, so-bad-it’s-good(?) junk like Sharknado. These movies either double down on ironic winking or merely throw a “distressed film” filter on in Aftereffects. Nobody else, it seems, has been able to actually make a true exploitation film/homage, one that simultaneously provides cheap trashy thrills and a dose of social politics while remaining—and this is crucial—a formally exact recreation of the films being referenced.

Until now, that is. Anna Biller’s very funny second feature The Love Witch is an absolutely perfect recreation/conflagration of three distinct forms: ’60s Technicolor melodramas, Radley Metzger’s arty sexploitation, and mid-period John Waters-directed satire. As with her previous film, 2007’s Viva, Biller controls nearly every aspect here: Not only did she write, direct, produce, and edit The Love Witch, she also designed (or found) the costumes, sets, and props, and wrote all the music (including a piece for the harp). Her formal confidence is absolutely astounding, not only meticulously reproducing this vintage Hollywood aesthetic but stirring in shots that hang a beat too long, awkward pauses in dialogue, and goofy flourishes like obvious process photography and sudden snap-zooms. The whole thing is laced with not just overt feminism, but much sharper critiques of prescribed gender traps and the act of mistaking sex for love. This is a perfect exploitation film, and Anna Biller is the most promising voice to hit the genre in 20 years.

Published as part of BAMcinemaFest 2016.