‘The Love Witch’ Is the Greatest Movie Ever Made
So why haven’t you seen it yet?
There is one cure for the rightful ennui of these troubled times, and that is going out to the nearest movie theater screening The Love Witch and luxuriating in every 35 mm frame of cinema as it unfurls. It is a film about a beautiful young witch named Elaine, escaping her life in a move to northern California, where she casts spells, looking for the perfect man through a combination of love magic and sex magic.
Ever since I saw The Love Witch, I’ve been turning it over in my head, ruminating on why it’s so good. Perhaps it’s fidelity to its inspirations, a sort of exacting obsessiveness, sincerity that becomes hilarious, earnestness that turns into camp. But really, I’m pretty sure that the root of its genius is that it’s a rare pleasure to see a film — arguably a collaborative art — feel so singularly from the consciousness of one mind.
The mind behind The Love Witch, Anna Biller, is the film’s director, screenwriter, producer, composer, editor, production designer, art director, set decorator, and costume designer. She is the sort of talent that should have David Lynch cowering in fear, Lana Del Rey calling her on a vintage princess telephone because they should probably be best friends, and Kathleen Kennedy should just offer her the next Star Wars film, since she’s clearly more talented than Gareth “I made a movie called Monsters on the cheap that you haven’t seen before going big budget” Edwards. Mild internet stalking reveals a fun fact: she’s partners with Robert Greene, who wrote The 48 Laws of Power. I imagine they throw killer parties.
Perhaps the easiest shortcut to explain the fastidiousness of Biller’s vision, the luscious technicolor beauty of it, is that there is a shot in the film featuring a pentagram hook rug. You can’t get a pentagram hook rug in the store — nope, Biller made it herself, looping the rug over the span of six months. It’s in the film for six seconds.
Please ignore the official trailer for The Love Witch: it’s oddly paced, and doesn’t quite get at the film’s woozy, funny rhythm. Rather, check out this clip:
It’s been about ten minutes into the movie, at most, and Elaine is giving her thesis: “What I’m really interested in — is love. You might even say I’m addicted to love.” The acting is unified in its pitch — I don’t know enough about acting to be able to identify what the effect is when actors are purposefully delivering things in a manner that’s arch and stilted, flat and over-dramatic; good bad acting, leading you into a dream within a dream. It’s a style more familiar to the melodramas of the past, used well in the works of David Lynch, and impeccably set out here.
It’s terrifically frustrating to me that anytime I’ve mentioned The Love Witch to friends, they’re not up on it. It played some festivals, it got a good amount of press for its fastidious, beautiful design. Oscilloscope Laboratories (the late Adam Yauch’s film company, whose impeccable taste doesn’t often translate to the mainstream as of late — how much have you seen about the flawed, striking debut The Fits?) is distributing it in the U.S., and while they are getting it into the theaters, it’s not getting the attention that it deserves. (Too silly, too girly?) It should be worshiped and adored, the number one pick of covens worldwide. It’s weird that it already feels like a cult hit even when it’s in release.
The thing is, on the surface Elaine may be a silly witch, not someone to take seriously. She’s a lady buying into all the promises of femininity; and when they come up short, she exacts her revenge. As she searches for love, she kills a lot of dudes, cursing them to feel feelings for the first time, weeping their way to the grim reaper. It’s gleeful misandry, a woman driven mad by our times. It may take place in a fantasy-land dreamscape, but that’s just a smokescreen: the guilty truth of The Love Witch is that we are all Elaine — even if we have no ability with impeccable turquoise eyeshadow.
Elisabeth Donnelly wants to live in a world where Moonlight wins Best Picture at the Oscars.