It’s an age-old story: Heartbroken beautiful woman becomes a witch and uses her newfound skills to entice and ultimately destroy other men. In writer-director Anna Biller’s film, the newly widowed Elaine (Samantha Robinson) moves to a coastal Northern California town, and sets herself to bewitching some of the men. Fortuitously, the town already has a witch community, an herbal shop and a ladies-only tea room. Witch tales have long been a stand-in for narratives about female empowerment and sexuality, and Biller fills her film with many nods to this conceit, from explicit sermonizing to winking jokes.
The plot is a bit thin, though Robinson is a captivating enough screen presence to string it along. What is most compelling is Biller’s deep commitment to the look and vibe of witch-and-devil-worship B-films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s all there — from the saturated, garish color photography (Biller shot on 35 mm) and stylized, hokey acting to old-fashioned costumes and sets. Biller even includes a musical interlude and mimics the older films’ oddball eroticism that straddles sexy and laughable. At two hours, The Love Witch is too long, but if you’re a fan of the genre, your interest will be sustained simply admiring this gorgeous homage. Starts Fri., Nov. 18. Hollywood.