Director Anna Biller isn’t terribly prolific: Her last feature film, Viva, was completed in 2007. But watching the trailer for her latest, The Love Witch, the reason for the long delay between films becomes obvious. Biller’s eye for period detail is obsessively meticulous, with the director even sewing some of star Samantha Robinson’s costumes herself from vintage patterns. The result could easily be mistaken for a lost potboiler from the late ‘60s or early ’70s, when men’s magazines like Black Magic and Witchcraft and lurid paperbacks fueled the public’s twin fascinations with the occult and the sexual revolution.
The Love Witch takes place at the epicenter of those two movements, as glamorous witch Elaine (Robinson) moves from San Francisco to Northern California to live with her goddess-worshipping friends after the mysterious, possibly occult-related death of her ex-husband. Desperate to find the perfect man, Elaine uses sex magic (quite successfully, it seems) to draw lovers to her. But then her spells begin to backfire, turning her into what Variety calls “the old-school sexist pig’s nightmare of a liberated woman, one whose sexual availability comes with an emasculating price tag.”
Filmed in period-accurate 35mm, the trailer for The Love Witch features a brightly colored palette and lush psychedelic visuals that complete the swinging retro look. After playing a number of film festivals, The Love Witch comes to select theaters on November 11 through indie distributor Oscilloscope Labs.