The Love Witch

Hollywood terrors, in Technicolor, shot in Eureka, Calif.

What was that cabal of witches up to during those darkly lit scenes in Rosemary’s Baby? Anna Biller brings them out of the shadows in The Love Witch, her Technicolor film tribute to the 1960s. Biller, who also designed the sets and costumes, pays homage to films like The Party and Petulia, introducing the witchy anti-heroine Elaine (Samantha Robinson) by painting her eyes with peacock-blue eyeshadow. While the visual mood is relentlessly bright, Biller undermines that feeling with Elaine’s two-minded psychology. She pays lip service to the Hollywood dream of wanting a Prince Charming — but as each disappointing prince shows up, Elaine finds it easier to ritually sacrifice them rather than build a nest. Biller plays with the mixed-up messages that pop culture sends both men and women. She has Robinson deliver lines like a Stepford wife, a compliant female eager to please men, only to devise increasingly gruesome ways for Elaine to butcher them. Filmed in the Northern California towns of Eureka and Arcata, Biller uses Victorian buildings to influence the atmosphere. At a women-only tearoom, she recreates the fantasy of every girl’s childhood tea party and amps it up to its pinkest extreme. Only this much forced refinement could suppress an equal amount of murderous rage.

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