If you have a fan of cult films on your holiday shopping list, the next entry in the 2017 PopCult Gift Guide is what you’ve been looking for. Anna Biller is a filmmaking who specializes in exquisitely art-directed movies that mimic the look and style of earlier movies while delivering a completely fresh and unexpected twist on them. Her most recent film, The Love Witch, is such a masterpiece of art direction that I was almost certain that I was watching a lost classic from the early 1970s when a friend showed it to me. She shoots on 35mm real film and has the lighting, props, costume and hairstyles of the era down perfectly.
And she does this all in the service of telling new stories and turning the male-dominated cliches on their head. I’m going to quote from her website to explain:
Anna Biller’s 35mm cult feature VIVA and her 16mm art-film shorts have screened at major film festivals and art spaces around the world, and her work has been written about in academic journals. She is known for her use of classic and outdated film genres to talk about female roles within culture, coding feminist ideas within cinematic aesthetics and visual pleasure. She creates all of her own costumes and set designs, making many or the props and paintings as well as composing and scoring for her films. She has a BA in art from UCLA, and an MFA in art and film from CalArts. She continues to work on film because of her interest in emulating the look and feel of classic cinema, and her latest film, THE LOVE WITCH, was made using only traditional film processes.
Biller herself says…
In my work I try to combine pure cinema with authentic experience. When I say authentic experience, I mean that I try to directly translate my experience of living in the world into form. My specific concerns are with the lived day-to-day experience of the female. Years ago when I was first starting out as a filmmaker, I became interested in trying to create a cinema based on visual pleasure for women.
In the interest of pure cinema or “proper art” (which James Joyce defines as art which elicits a state of aesthetic arrest), I try to control everything that goes into the film frame. Thus in my work I am trying to do something most unusual: to create “proper” art films masquerading as popular films. So while I am quoting genres, I am using them not as pastiche, but to create a sense of aesthetic arrest and to insert a female point of view.
Her work is immaculate. Using the styles and even the acting techniques of earlier years, she manages to avoid producing simple parody or homage and creates exciting new works that transport the viewer to another era. I am recommending her horror movie, The Love Witch, and her earlier sexploitation flick, Viva. She also has a DVD of her short films that were shot on 16mm. I haven’t seen those yet, but plan to order it soon. You can find her movies, along with posters and soundtrack albums at her website. This is great stuff for the jaded cult film fanatic on your holiday shopping list.