Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Film Review - The Love Witch

Campy in the most exquisite way is the best phrase to describe Anna Biller's The Love Witch. The film is part Valley of The Dolls with a strong nod to 60's and early 70's fashion, feel and style. Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is a practicing white witch who has been forced to leave San Francisco due to an unfortunate incident. Elaine is all about love. Finding a man to love and please by giving him everything he wants. Her attitude brings a sharp and curt response from Trish (Laura Waddell) an acquaintance of Elaine's friend Barbara (Jennifer Ingrum) who offered the small town apartment to Elaine and insists her husband loves her for who she is so she does not have to satisfy all of his needs.

Elaine continues her attempts to find a man to love in her new town. She mixes potions to enhance her chances plus some other creations that she sells in the local magic shop in town. However our heroine is a little too heavy on the pour leading to overdoses resulting in suitors falling completely under her spell obsessed then overwhelmed.

Writer Director Anna Biller uses color, distinct fashion styles and plain dialogue to set the mood for her film. The first time Elaine is on screen red is the dominant palate. She is in a red convertible mustang dressed in red from head to toe with matching luggage. When she enters the apartment for the first time red is the colour that jumps out at the viewer. The narrative also lives on a primary instinctive level. Elaine sees a man; he falls under her spell then they are together at a lightning pace. The filming style uses a lot of tight framing especially on the eyes to communicate the central characters tractor beam like power over men pinpointing the moment it takes hold.  

Relative newcomer Samantha Robinson leads the line as Elaine. She's innocent and submissive at one moment then dominant and forceful the next. Director Biller also did the costume design for the film that's key in presenting the Elaine character robing Samantha mainly in late 60's solid basic colours from head to toe. British actress Laura Waddell is a great foil to Elaine as Trish in her first major role. She is a fiercely independent modern working woman who does not see her primary function to be is  pleasing her man's every desire. Jared Sanford is strong in the supporting role of Gahan. He's the head of the local Wiccan ramping up the creepy meter anytime on screen. He lingers too long on women that are not his wife while constantly introducing very young females into the coven fold.

The Love Witch is a feature that's hard to classify. It's part sexual thriller, heavily wacky, silly and more naturally funny than expected. The costume design and wardrobe both credited to the director set the scene and mood for the film. The cast mainly full of unknowns direct their performances into the best areas of late night fright films from days gone by. It's a unique watch that despite being a bit on the long side is worth a viewing.

*** Out of 4.

The Love Witch | Anna Biller | U.S.A. | 120 Minutes.

Tags: Spells, Potions, Spices, Pleasure, Witches, Ceremony, Rebirth, California, San Francisco, Small town, Minstrels.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Film Review - Sing Street

1985 Dublin, Ireland. Young people are headed to London by the ferry load to search for work. 15 year old Conor (Ferida Walsh-Peelo) sees the hard times hit him directly as his father Robert (Aidan Gillen) is not getting any new work as an architect while his mom Penny (Mary Doyle Kennedy) is down to working 3 days a week. To ease the family burden Connor has to leave the private Jesuit school to attend the rough and seedy Christian Brothers run State school on Synge Street. Here Conor has to try to survive while being confronted by morons, rapist and bullies on a daily basis. After a particularly rough encounter with the school bully Barry (Ian Kenny) Conor meets Darren (Ben Carolan) a budding business man who teams up with Conor to start a band as he has promised to put local aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) in his band's videos.

As the band takes shape the key member is Eamon (Mark McKenna) a songwriter who can play just about every instrument alongside African Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) to give the outfit street cred  plus a rhythm section that answered the bands ad on the school bulletin board. They start out rough trying to be a cover band until Conor's wise older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) tells his sibling to do his own songs.

Writer director John Carney went back to his roots to tell the story of a young lad thrown into a foreign situation who uses the power of music to gain confidence, stand up to his rivals and garner attention from the girl that he likes. Carney also had a hand in writing the original songs that are natural head bobbers and foot tappers fitting in well with the vast catalogue of mid 80's Brit pop from the time. Conor spends many a night in his brother's room learning about new bands and life itself. Brendan introduces him to Joe Jackson, The Jam and sings the praises of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet when their videos appear on Top of the Pops. Brendan flings at him The Head on the Door album by the Cure when Conor wants to know more about Raphina's term Happy-Sad.

The fresh-faced cast don't set a foot wrong in their roles. Ferida Walsh-Peelo shines as Conor using the pain from a difficult home life and trouble at school to fuel his art. Lucy Boynton has her own demos to fight as Raphina. She resides in a home for girls having had complexed relationships with both of her parents. Raphina is prone to fantasy determined to get to London to model thinking she has found an older fellow to get her there. Jack Reynor continues a run of strong roles as Brendan. The older wiser college dropout brother who has a tuned ear for music and a keen eye for reading people.

Sing Street at its core an optimistic film that will appeal to both young people and older audience members who grew up during the time period of the film. Look for the running gag of Conor's march into the schoolyard dressed and coifed as the latest act seen on the Top of the Pops the night before. The soundtrack is a solid mix of 80's new wave hits and original tracks. It's a film that I can definitely recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Sing Street | John Carney | Ireland / UK / USA | 2016 | 106 Minutes.

Tags: Dublin, Jesuits, Christian Brothers, Duran Duran, The Cure, London, Brit pop, New Wave, School Dance, Legally Separated.