IN THE coming weeks, several local arts groups will bid farewell to treasured venue Muse Arts Warehouse, set to close at the end of February, and CinemaSavannah’s last screening promises to be wickedly wonderful.
The Love Witch, director, writer, producer, and costume designer Anna Biller’s ode to Euro-sexploitation films of the 1960s and ‘70s, is all the rage among film lovers, fashionistas, feminists, horror fans and vintage enthusiasts. Wrapped up in decadent visuals that pay direct homage to the period, the film is a visual treat of a romp touched up with teal eyeshadow, blood and gore, and a little love potion.
“It seemed like the perfect campy title to celebrate the wonderful five-year relationship CinemaSavannah has enjoyed with Muse Arts Warehouse,” says Tomasz Warchol of CinemaSavannah.
The Love Witch herself is a gorgeous young woman named Elaine with a knack for potion-making and a eagerness to be loved by a man (“You might say I’m addicted to love,” she coos in the film’s trailer). Within the walls of her perfectly-suited Victorian apartment, Elaine crafts spells and potions to aid in the seduction of men she picks up and seduces.
Unfortunately, her spells work a little too well, and Elaine finds herself with a string of dead lovers to deal with. Can she contain herself when she finally finds her dream guy? Or will her desperation for adoration and affection make her lose her mind?
From the plot to the lighting to the music, The Love Witch, shot on 35mm film, is ‘60s revival in every way possible. As a young man growing up in communist Poland, Warchol had extremely limited access to the Euro exploitation films that inspired director Anna Biller.
“The regime saw no social, moral, or artistic reason to make them available theatrically,” he explains.
“These were, after all, B-movies, made cheap, whose sole purpose was to frighten and titillate with violence, nudity, perverse sex, real and imaginary monsters. They were too decadent and potentially subversive to be tolerated.”
With many limitations, the only films Warchol saw were British Hammer-studio productions of the Frankenstein and Dracula franchises.
“For me the whole category of exploitation cinema was like a forbidden fruit I couldn’t really taste until I came to the States in the early ‘80s,” he shares.
“Only then did I become aware of its many subgenres and gradually identified the best in each one.”
“Exploitation cinema,” Warchol explains, “had its heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s and covers Italian slasher (‘giallo’) films and spaghetti westerns, various monster/creature films (mostly British and American), softcore sex and nudist films, martial arts, horror, blaxploitation, and a few others.”
Those films tended to be very macho and male-driven; The Love Witch has been praised for turning the genre on its head by offering a feminist perspective and complex characters.
Biller has expressed a desire to create a character that embodies all the complexities, ironies, and complications of being a woman—catering to male fantasies, indulging in personal fantasies and ambition, the dangers of the male gaze and patriarchal dominance, societal standards of beauty—and how so many expectations can destroy a person.
Warchol hasn’t watched the film yet, but he was drawn to the film’s unconventional shift to an all-female perspective and sensibility and its self-conscious approach.
“I cannot wait to experience Biller’s loving homage to that cinema’s look and style, Technicolor and all,” he says.
CinemaSavannah has utilized Muse Arts Warehouse as a venue for five years.
“Everyone fell in love with the venue right away,” Warchol recalls. “Muse hosted our best, most memorable, and most successful screenings.”
From here on out, CinemaSavannah will host screenings in the Black Box Theatre at S.P.A.C.E. on Henry Street, and Warchol hopes to find a second venue, too.
Currently, he’s looking into developing a relationship with the Jepson Center and is renegotiating an arrangement with Eisenhower 6/Spotlight Theater’s new management.
In the meantime, Warchol is excited to experience The Love Witch right there with his devoted audience and share some laughs.
“My program shows plenty of serious, often heavy, dramas,” he says. “It was time for a light and entertaining diversion.”