Fantasia International Film Festival Takes us back to the 60’s exploitation era with The Love Witch
There is something very fascinating about the late 1960s and the way in which it was portrayed on TV and film back then. While it may look all bright and glamourous, my parents assured me it wasn’t exactly like that in reality, only shown to be that way on TV in glorious Technicolor for those just experiencing affordable colour images for the first time, to truly brighten up their brown and yellow surroundings.
Still, it doesn’t detract from the appeal of watching this era being depicted on TV or film. The authenticity may be questioned, but the tackiness, brightness and overall free-spirited nature of the 1960s transition into the 1970s is infectious. It’s no wonder that you would have imitators nowadays, trying to extend the longevity of such an era by paying homage to the brilliance of the décor, clothing, hairstyles all wrapped up within the context of the films of the time.
Alongside the natural surge in popularity of cinema and TV, you had the rise of cult exploitation cinema and horror movies, with an obsession around suburban housewives and their naughty little secrets. You look at the success of a TV show like Bewitched, and it shows that the general populace wanted to believe there was something fantastical about women. Those looking for a harder line of fantasy were left to seek out films like Belle De Jour or Venus in Furs, where you could live out your dark obsessions through the medium of film. The middle ground in all this was the overplayed creative depiction of women who were secretly vampires or witches, whose sole purpose within the films was either to cast spells over men or drink their blood. Sexually confident, they would carry these acts out while wearing very little, something provocative, but classically tasteful for the era.
It brings me nicely onto a screening at this years Fantasia Festival entitled “The Love Witch”. A film shot on gorgeous 35mm, a bright array of 1960s erotic nostalgia, infused with the ridiculousness of a cult classic horror movies. The witch is played by Samantha Robinson, an assured woman who captures your attention from the very moment she is on-screen, putting forward an immaculate, often deliberately over-acted performance. She is your clichéd fantasy of a frustrated housewife; promiscuous and sultry, but in this scenario, also a potential danger.
Robinson exists in a world where Witches are acknowledged but resented, yet she is proud of her choice to practice the arts of witchcraft even if she doesn’t make it apparent when first meeting her chosen man for the evening. She pouts and flirts, stares men out with a cold death stare, and reiterates to all around her how she needs true love in her life. She visibly struggles to exist without the male attention, becoming frustrated but never deterred, resorting to all sorts of hocus pocus to try to achieve her goal. All of this is underpinned by her evident sexual prowess, and despite her ability to make potions and poisons, her appearance and confident demeanor appears to be the greatest spell of them all.
Overall it’s a beautiful film to watch, combining elements of horror and eroticism, paying tribute to the fetishisation of the deviant housewife of the 1960s. There is a strong feminist message to this movie; themes of female empowerment, the oafish bravado displayed in male film caricatures, body confidence and the free-spirited nature of following what makes you happy. While the message is buried among the bright decor, grim deaths and surreal alternate reality, it bubbles to the top occasionally in a subtle yet powerful way. Many viewers might find this film a bit too out there for their liking, but there is plenty to love if you let yourself go with it.
Thanks for reading. More festival coverage to follow.