Anna Biller: The Love Witch

 

Mehron Abdollmohammadi: What sources did you go to for your information on the witchraft practices that happened in the film?

Anna Biller: Mainly I was reading about Alexandrian and Gardnerian witchcraft—I read a lot of Janet and Stewart Ferrar’s books, “A Witches Bible Compleat” and some other books. I was obsessively looking at Alex and Maxine Sanders and their world. I decided that I wanted to base the rituals on those ‘60s and ‘70s kind of cults, especially because they’re all about gender polarity, and I wanted to talk about the problems that she has which are based on the war between men and women. I thought that was interesting, the fact that her coven is all about gender polarity, but gender polarity is ruining her life as well.

MA: That’s the other thing, the gag you pull on male feminist spirituality, that’s the part where I was screaming with laughter alone in my room. I was like, that is it! He gives her the kiss of blessing and it’s totally creepy.

AB: That’s interesting, because whether it’s creepy or not is totally dependent on who’s doing it. What’s so interesting is in the burlesque club, there’s a sequence where the high priest and high priestess each lecture to the young girls. I didn’t write the witches’ lines for any particular gender — I was just writing them as the witches’ manifesto about how women need to be glamorous and beautiful to cater to a man. When he was saying the lines, they sounded really evil and demonic. When she said them, they sounded empowering and enlightening, but they’re saying the same thing. There’s the same dilemma with burlesque: men can look at a woman and think “she’s degrading herself,” because they’re looking at her as degraded. She feels great, she feels fantastic, she feels all this power, but their gaze is degrading her. So the movie is about all of these things, about whose point of view it is, about who’s empowered and who’s degraded based on who’s looking. And what’s interesting is that the movie works in that way for audiences as well. Some of the men watching it are feeling that Elaine is ridiculous and grotesque, right? And the women are not feeling that—they’re feeling that she’s kind of rad.

MA: I was identifying with Elaine, like, the whole time. I didn’t realize it til the end, when I started crying in her fantasy.

AB: It’s about the tragedy between the inner and the outer experience, right? About the inner sweetness that people have when they want love, and the mask they put on to try to get the love, then just not getting the love because people don’t understand what they’re doing. Like, the men are trying to force her to be this thing, and she does a really good job of being this perfect thing for men and then they reject her for the very thing that she’s doing to please them. Especially Griff, at the end, because he’s the toughest on her. He’s not saying, “I’ve fallen under your spell, you’re so wonderful.” He’s saying, “I’ve got your number.”

MA: The scariest part in the movie is when he just looks at her.

AB: That’s the power of the male gaze, of the patriarchy, of the man saying to women, or any gender that doesn’t fit in, “You’re out, I’m the only valid person.”

MA: “I get to look at you, and determine if you’re up to snuff.” Like she says, men are so fragile, they crumble when you assert yourself even a little bit. I love that that’s one of the first lines that she has, and the rest of the movie is men crumbling.

AB: Griff doesn’t crumble, so she has to destroy him.

MA: Witchcraft is not a force of good or evil, it’s a way of concentrating energy.

AB: That’s what Aleister Crowley said magic was, “Love under will.” It’s about concentrating will, and that’s what you’re doing when you’re creating a spell. People who are not into magic and witchcraft sometimes don’t understand what I’m doing with all those objects, but that’s the world of the witch. Those objects are all magical and she uses them all. Even the sets are conjuring up this kind of magic, with the colors and the visuals and the textures. People are comparing the film a lot to Giallo films, or sexploitation, but I feel more closely aligned with Kenneth Anger, in terms of that fetishization in the magical world, all of those objects and colors. The world of the witch is the world of the symbol, and a film is a piece of magic. That’s another reason I like to use film stock. The magic that’s created when light hits film is a magic that you don’t get with any other medium. You don’t get it with video. Video has its own kind of magic, but film has this more ethereal, abstract magic, I feel.

MA: Ironically, since it’s a more material way of producing images.

AB: It is more material, but it’s also more removed from reality, it becomes more mystical. It’s got the addition of the grain, the addition of certain other things from the photographic process, and things don’t look like real life, because they actually look better –

MA: More dreamlike.

AB: More dreamy, more removed from us, whereas in video, you can see everyone’s pores. It becomes more like hyperreality, and it actually looks a little worse than real life. Film smooths things out and idealizes things, and video doesn’t idealize anything.

MA: [laughter]

AB: Like, I’m sitting pretty close to you, and I can’t see your pores. Whereas if I were a video camera, I would be seeing all your pores and imperfections, you know? A film camera is even nicer to the face than the eye, makes your face look even more glamorous. It softens, especially if you use filtration like we did, stockings and gauze over the lenses.

MA: Oh, you did? I noticed the red gel for the dream sequences, but –

AB: For all of the close-ups, especially for the women, there’s heavy gauze or stockings over the lens.

MA: Also like Kenneth Anger—Puce Moment.

AB: Oh yeah, you want the ultimate glamour, because if you saw Samantha Robinson’s pores or imperfections on her skin, it would ruin the illusion of perfect glamour. We want her to look beautiful at all times. I’m into glamour. I’m very distracted by movies where women don’t look glamorous, which is almost every movie today. I just stare incredulously as I think, why couldn’t they have just put some filtration on the lens, or soften that lighting a little bit, give her a nice little key light or eye light to bring out the sparkle in her eyes? They cast all of these pretty actresses and make them look like they’re not pretty. What’s the point of that?

MA: [laughter] Like, why didn’t you maximize what you had available?

AB: Or on purpose they don’t maximize it, because they’re trying to give us a sense of documentary, they want to see everyone’s flaws.

MA: Why do you think they do that?

AB: Because it feels more real, more gritty, more independent, like the audience will relate to the “realness” of it—which is true, but you lose something else, you lose the glamour, you lose that distance, that sense that the person that they’re watching is a star. I think cinema does that anyway, so even if you’re going to make somebody look kind of ugly, see all their pores and everything, we’re still idealizing them because they’re up there, we’re watching their story.

MA: That’s why they’re on the screen, they’re creating a myth. That’s what was so refreshing about The Love Witch, it was like—it feels very much like you were creating a myth, consciously.

AB: Yeah, more consciously creating a movie as art. There’s almost an artifice, I feel, in making films feel more “natural,” because it’s all fake anyway. You have cameras, lights, actors, takes, people saying things on cue. Even if the actors are improvising their dialogue, it’s all very artificial, the whole process is artificial no matter what. Even if you sneak up on people and film them it’s still artificial, because you’re still editing it, still messing with it.

MA: Even if you’re not, there’s still the medium itself, which is complicating your experience.

AB: Exactly. So I think it’s more honest to say, “this is something that was constructed,” rather than act like it wasn’t, like you’re watching something totally unmediated that just sprang into existence from the natural world. I like to be honest about what I’m doing. In a way, it gives the audience a glimpse into the backstage. One thing I love—my favorite movies are all about the backstage.

MA: Oh, yes!

AB: Like those Busby Berkeley musicals where they go backstage and it’s all about the lives of those girls, those showgirls, those musicians and composers and producers, scraping together the money for the show. I love seeing that because it feels so much more real to the experience of the people that actually make the film because that is their life, their world: they’re rehearsing, the girls’ feet hurt, and they take a break and go to the commissary because they need to eat. A Busby Berkeley musical feels more like a documentary to me than, you know, extremely rich and glamorous movie stars pretending to be something that’s not their reality.

MA: That’s the idea we have of “actors” or like, the acting craft, how can you manifest someone else’s reality—I like this, you’re asking how can manifest your own reality.

AB: I love movies about moviemaking, or movies about plays. I just love that.

MA: Yeah, and there’s a little bit of horror there too sometimes.

AB: There is a horror to the backstage, because the reality of actors and directors is harrowing, but it’s also exhilarating. That’s what made me want to be in show business, watching those movies as a kid. Busby Berkeley once said, “No matter what else they said about me, I gave ’em a show!” And that’s what I want to do — I want to give people a show. I have a lot of personal issues and I get them out on screen, but in the end, it’s entertainment.

MA: Yeah! Make ’em laugh. [Anna laughs.] Do you have a favorite line?

AB: Probably, I can’t think of any right now—it’s more the way she says the lines. I love when there’s that guy in the car and she gives him the flask, and she says, “Finish it.” The way she says it is so—domineering.

MA: It’s a moment of witchcraft! When she said that, she didn’t make him do anything.

AB: The look on her face was so deadly. The other thing I really love is when Elaine and Trish are in the second tea room scene, and she’s talking to Trish after she’s been completely devastated, and she says “Hey — hey.” The way she speaks is so false, like she has no soul. She’s kind of a monster at that point.

MA: In that moment, certainly. Trish is breaking down, the portrait of emotional expression, and Elaine is just looking at her, eating her cake.

AB: And she knows she’s the one who destroyed Trish’s husband, and has no feelings about it whatsoever. She’s not guilty, she’s even slightly amused by it.

MA: It scared me. Like I said, I identified with Elaine and at that point…

AB: We all have some evil in us we don’t like to acknowledge. She was so jealous of Trish—they were so jealous of each other. I think she was jealous because Trish was happy, without all of the rage and emotional problems. She wanted to be normal like Trish, but she could never be like that, because her life had been destroyed by abuse. She wanted to have what Trish had, but she wasn’t stable like Trish. So she took Trish’s man, but that didn’t make her happy. All it did was destroy that man, like she destroys everything in her life.

MA: So, I’m a Leo moon, which means I live for drama –

AB: What’s your sign?

MA: I’m a Virgo.

AB: Ok.

MA: And you’re a triple Aquarius.

AB: How did you know that?

MA: I looked up an interview you did about astrology at Mystic Medusa. Leo and Aquarius are opposites, but they share some qualities—there’s something about performance they share.

AB: That’s true. I’m actually more comfortable directing than acting. When I was a kid, my sister and I put on the Wizard of Oz at our school, just the two of us.

MA: You cast it and everything?

AB: Yeah, I did everything. She was only interested in playing Dorothy, and she got to because she was older and she was the boss. I cast it, I directed it, I taught everybody all their songs, I made the costumes. I was about ten. I was totally unaware of being interested in directing. The work needed to be done, so I just went in and did it, and I’m still like that. I was totally comfortable bossing everyone around, telling them what was wrong with their performance, how to sing their songs.

MA: I felt like watching The Love Witch, a spell was cast on me. Have audiences had similar responses?

AB: Definitely. I think that’s what all cinema should do — not just a movie about witchcraft, but any kind of movie. All the greatest movies do that.

MA: What is an example that comes to mind of a film that casts a spell?

AB: Have you seen The Birds [by Alfred Hitchcock]?

MA: Yes.

AB: Does that movie cast a spell?

MA: Yes—I think there was a period of film that was much more aware of that power.

AB: Oh yeah, everything in the film, from the dialogue to the hair and makeup, to the way it was shot, to the Technicolor process, to the sets and locations that were chosen, every face, everything was magical. Talk about mythic.

MA: It was fetishistic!

AB: Oh totally fetishistic. Also really creepy, and really psychologically intense. I started reading the script for that recently, and I was shocked by it. The script just completely… I almost couldn’t finish it. It was almost frightening to read, because I realized that all the power of the movie is in the script. So everything incredible you see on the screen is in the script, every single thing. When you’re watching the film, sometimes you’re unaware of everything that’s happening. But when you’re reading the script, you become aware of every single choice that’s made, and it made me realize how much psychological power there was in what was consciously constructed. Everything that’s there comes from this very deep understanding of human psychology and myth and pathos. And I thought, “Wow, they don’t write scripts like that anymore,” and then I thought, “That’s my goal—to write a script as good as that.” I haven’t read that many scripts, but it made me realize there’s something to the script in movies. So that’s the first magical thing in the movies—the script. It’s like a sacred text from which you create. I think a lot of directors don’t utilize the script enough. They don’t make enough of their decisions at the script stage, because if you make all of your decisions at the script stage, then you can get on the set and you can really create. You’re confident that everything is going to fit together just beautifully, like a puzzle, and you have absolutely no issues. You’re not going to have any issues in the editing, or any problems putting it together into a perfect movie. And so the only real challenge you have is just making sure, well, you know, it doesn’t rain.

MA: Right, the material challenge.

AB: I was ill for a long period of time while I was working on this, and I think it made the whole thing much more fetishistic, because I had all of this time to sew and make props. So I got to obsessively create the world of the film while I was too ill to do anything else, because I could still sit and sew, or make voodoo dolls, or candles, or crowns, or whatever I needed to make. I feel like all that stitching and all that — it’s all in there, you know, and that’s kind of magical too.

MA: Those are magical objects! That’s the thing, that looking at what she’s wearing in the film, looking at like the witch bottle she makes, or the pouches she makes for the store, I was like, “These were all made,” I’m guessing by you. And therefore they’re magical objects in this film.

AB: Yeah, they were all handmade.

MA: Is the witch bottle a real thing?

AB: Oh, yes it is. They’re not really manufactured. They’re usually earthenware, but I made it of glass because I wanted to be able to see the tampon in it. You should’ve seen when we were making them on the set! The guys would walk by and go, “What is that?” And then the girls would all start giggling, and then they would suspect something and run away in fear.

MA: Right! They’re like “Oh no!” It’s just a used tampon. I’m not going to ask you this, but has anyone asked if it’s a real tampon?

AB: Yeah, they did at a Q&A in Brooklyn. I answered them then, and I’ll answer you now: some of them were and some of them weren’t.

MA: FABulous. I couldn’t hope for a better answer.

AB: Yeah. Because we wanted there to be real magic in some of the bottles, and we wanted to put that energy on the screen, on the set.

MA: I loved the medieval scene—are you a medievalist?

AB: No I’m not, but I’m very into fairy tales and costume dramas. But I also just imagine that the witches would be into that. It’s more like in the ‘60s, how all the witches were all into renaissance fairs, and even now a lot of witches cross over into role-playing.

MA:I asked if you’re a medievalist because there seems to be—you’re in a fairy tale. There’s such a—oh that’s right I wept. That’s what I was going to say. I was shocked to find myself crying.

AB: I actually cried the first few times I watched that scene cut together as well. And the reason I think I cried is because that’s what Elaine wants, that beautiful dream that she can’t have, and I think that’s maybe what I want too. That perfect dream of love and beauty that seems so unattainable. I think if you cry during that scene then you’re really understanding the movie and feeling it from the inside. I’ve had a number of reviews that complain about the renaissance scene being too long or say it’s extraneous to the story. They’re missing the entire point of the movie because that is the key scene in the movie. That’s where the desire is manifested. It doesn’t come true, but it’s still manifested.

MA: They’re not interested in knowing that about her inner life.

AB: Or maybe they’re not open to love! They don’t take love seriously and they find it to be campy or silly. I think sometimes when people call the film campy, kitschy, silly, it’s because they don’t believe in its premise, which is that she’s really trying to find love. You know? They don’t believe in that premise. They don’t think it’s a serious premise. If you take that premise seriously, then you will be crying. I cry when I watch it.

MA: I’m so glad this film exists.

AB: Thank you! I am too. There is no other movie like it. And I thought there might be, which is why I did a lot of research thinking there might be witchcraft movies that I could discover that might be similar, and I really didn’t find any.

[Beat]

AB: So, do you think it’s kind of a queer film?

MA: It does feel queer—there’s a moment in the beginning where it’s explicit. Trish is like “You’re so pretty! Oh, I didn’t mean anything.”

AB: I was going to develop that a little more but I decided not to. I like that fact that it sets it up and it’s there for the rest of the film. And then you sort of wonder, is that why she’s not really into having sex with Richard? Cause she prefers women? And is that why she’s so obsessed with Elaine?

MA: I mean that’s very like, All About Eve queer. That’s also the way that desire functions in Elaine’s world: fear and desire are commingled.

AB: And also she’s kind of so constructed that she’s in drag the whole time. I think when you see her pre-witch self is when Trish attacks her and she turns into this frightened little child, and she’s screaming and in terror. That’s the real Elaine — that’s when we see the childlike, fearful Elaine underneath. You would think that when somebody starts beating her up she would beat them up back or kill them. It’s like suddenly she becomes — somebody’s attacking her, and you can see she’s been attacked before back when she was very helpless, so she reacts in helpless terror when she’s attacked. Samantha did that so well. I didn’t direct the anger and the fear scenes. I just let the actors do — I mean, we talked about the character and Samantha and I watched movies, but other than that she was pulling it all out of herself. And the way she did the fear was really interesting for me because I didn’t realize she would go so deeply into it, which means that she’s got that in herself, you know? She’s feeling it when she’s in love, and when she’s in fear. And the rest of the time she’s putting on a mask. A lot of people are saying that the acting is wooden and stiff, and I’m telling them that it’s not. It’s method acting!  It gets at something real because it’s almost like in a Bette Davis movie where all the lines are like, Great Lines, and so that’s why they sound that way — everything is like, a line. That kind of theatrical quality is in the script.

MA: It feels truer to ancient performance as opposed to contemporary performance in that way. Elaine, like you said, she’s an archetype.

AB: Don’t you think people do that in life? That people are all wearing masks? I’m just exaggerating that a little bit with her, you know?

MA: Yeah, exactly. I think that’s why people get creeped out by her, it’s glamour. It’s literally casting a glamour over yourself.

AB: That’s the meaning of glamour — glamour means magic spell.

MA: It does? Like, the meaning of the word?

AB: The actual meaning of the word.

MA: Do you know the origin of the word gossip?

AB: No.

MA: It was originally like, god-sibb. Your god-sibling. It was a woman’s best friend, after she gives birth. It was like a godmother. And then over time god-sibb became synonymous with gossip, like, phonetically. Then gossip became a woman’s friend with whom she gossipped. Which became, you know, acid, useless, trashy talking.

AB: It’s about women.

MA: Women communicating without men. Which is another thing with The Love Witch, the men are almost disposable. They’re not disposable people, but they function as archetypes no less so than the women and in some ways more so.

AB: Yeah. And all of the men felt very natural, as well, playing those roles. I cast people who I felt were just really comfortable playing those roles. I will tell you that 95% of the people that came in and auditioned for me couldn’t feel the script. They were kind of making fun of it while they were performing it. So I was looking for the people that would be taking the script more seriously, and really feeling it and bringing things out of themselves. I think it’s the opposite of the kind of campy wooden acting that people are accusing it of having.

MA: There’s an emotional authenticity.

AB: That’s why I think maybe some of it — maybe what people are calling camp is more like a kind of performance art that the actors are doing. Because everyone is going through a type of gestalt therapy in their own performance, and I think that’s what makes it queer. Because everybody is expressing their inner drama queen, whether they’re male or female. Everybody is like, ‘I am in a melodrama and this is very real for me. I’m going to get out these emotions that I never get to get out.’ Every actor gets to be a diva, even the background actors — everybody.

MA: They’re all larger than life. I don’t know how you found Griff. I was like, how does this person exist now? He has a face that, like, doesn’t exist.

AB: He was great, right? And he also turned out to be such a sweetheart, and such an earnest actor.

MA: And he does romance novel covers and stuff! Which I love. Talk about medieval fantasy!

AB: And he’s straight,

MA: Of course he’s straight.

AB: What did you think of the high priest?

MA: He was great.

AB: He was scary, right?

MA: He was scary, and part of what was scary is that he is so manipulative. What did he say? The thing — “I’d never hurt you.” “Perfect love and perfect trust.” Even saying those words makes me afraid after seeing that movie.

AB: It is manipulative. Perfect love and perfect trust when somebody’s pointing a sword at you. You really have to have perfect love and perfect trust, don’t you, in order to enter into those kinds of agreements.

MA: I love that line when he’s like, “Back in the day, we could be a witch, a Satanist, whatever! We just had fun.” I was like, Satanist? In there? I love it.

AB: I took that directly from a podcast that I heard where they interviewed a witch, and he was talking about New York in the seventies and eighties. It was almost verbatim, what he said about the scene: how all the Satanists and Wiccans and Druids and everybody hung out together, and they all congregated at this bookstore and nobody cared. They were just a community. And then I went to some rituals and I found the same thing. Maybe that’s because there aren’t that many pagans around, so all of the different get together and have rituals together. But I think that many pagans today are more ideological…they draw lines, you know?

MA: Yeah, you’re right.

AB: I went to some rituals where there would be one person, and she’d be definitely a feminist Wiccan, and then there’d be another guy, and he would be a ceremonial magician that was into Golden Dawn stuff. So, the high priest and priestess in my film are also like that. And Elaine has little quotes in her spellbook from Crowley. “Every man and every woman is a star.”

MA: You describe the process of putting on the mask of the woman as kind of draggy, and I like that.

AB: Well, that’s how I, when I go out, when I wear a lot of makeup — I feel so much more comfortable going out with a lot of makeup because I don’t feel like people are getting to construct me the way they want to and project their own thing onto me. I feel like I’m telling them how to interpret what I’m doing, so I feel more in control. I used to feel really upset when I was a young girl when men would stare at me when I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I’d feel really violated. But if you’re in character, you’re in a costume and makeup and they’re looking at you, then you don’t feel that way. You feel like, they’re looking at me because I’m playing a role — I’m constructing a character. Not like you’re just being blank, like going out and being blank, out in the world. That feels kind of scary. When I was a young teen I went through these different phases. One phase was, I decided I wanted to look like a man for about a year. Then I decided to look really femme for the next year, and I loved looking really femme. It wasn’t like that’s who I was more, it just felt like that’s what I like to play more.

MA: Right, that’s when you feel like you’re having fun.

AB: Yes. I felt like underneath I was pretty androgynous, and I was trying to choose which one to be. So every time I really dress as a woman I feel like it’s not that that’s what I am, I just feel like that’s what I’m doing. Most of the really pretty women that I’ve met don’t have this split that I have. They don’t have this feeling that they’re constructed as a woman, they never think about it. And they just feel like a girl. Maybe they were socialized as girls, so they’re unaware of it.

MA: You were socialized differently?

AB: Yeah, I was socialized without gender. I think — and this is painful to say — I think it’s because I was kind of rejected by my mother and sisters, but I was accepted by my father. So I identified with him and not with my mother and sisters, and I feel like I didn’t get to be a girl. And so it wasn’t like I was forced to be a girl, it was more like I didn’t get to be a girl. So when I started to construct myself as a woman, I still didn’t feel like an authentic girl, and I still don’t. Which is why I think I’m kind of really, um… Everyone says my taste and my interests are like a gay man. And I wonder if that’s just the experience of growing up wanting to be a girl and feeling like you don’t get to be one? So I feel like a lot of this goes into my work, this sense of getting to be this fantasy of a beautiful girl who’s wearing all of this makeup and fabulous dresses. I identify with her and I live vicariously through her.

MA: In a way, Elaine, I mean, you said it: she’s a doll you got to dress up.

AB: I have this little Barbie doll, and it’s vintage from like the sixties, and she’s in a little box and she has a little closet in there with hangers and a wardrobe.

MA: I love that.

AB:  I bought it before I met Samantha, but it looks exactly like her. I also had paintings of her commissioned before I ever met her that look exactly like her. They’re supposed to be her self-portraits, but they were done two years before I met her, and also look just like her.

MA: Do you identify as a witch?

AB: Well yes, I do. I’m a very creepy person, you know? I’m creepy and I can’t help it. I’m also kind of psychic. I’m really different and I can’t help being different, so I’m a witch.

MA: I like the fact that you practice magic through creativity. It’s through art that you find magic. I also just know it- you do seem to have like a, you know, you’re a seer.

AB: I also feel like I’m a spirit medium. And I feel it’s like this with all artists, when they finally find their groove. The work is happening through me but I’m not necessarily creating it. The work wants to be something, and you keep working on it until it becomes that thing, but you’re not necessarily making all the decisions. Something else is making the decisions. Which is why, when I was working with a painter to do those self-portraits of Elaine, I kept making her change the face a million times until it looked exactly like the face I imagined as Elaine. And then when I cast the actress, she had exactly that face. I don’t know where that face came from, but it was a face that I’ve imagined, and it manifested in a painting and then manifested in real life.

MA: It’s eerie how she just fell into the film, isn’t it. There’s something else at work. You say it like you were surprised, but you were sewing objects for years before filming, right? The universe is like “We get it!”

AB:  I auditioned several wonderful actresses [for Elaine] that had a completely different quality from each other. Some of them were sex kitten Playboy bunny types that were too obvious. But Samantha had that kind of dichotomy between “I’m giving you but I’m not giving you.” I thought, “Wow. I don’t have to explain that to her. That’s the hardest thing to do and she’s already doing it without me telling her.”

MA: That’s the split.

AB: Yes. She’s disconnected from her own performance of sexuality — you can’t teach someone how to do that. The other girls were doing their dance and they were winking at the camera, playing it come-hither. That just wasn’t as interesting. But Samantha was actually imagining that a man was there, and giving the kinds of cruel or blasé glances she would give a man she was actually torturing. So she was actually acting during her dance. So that’s when I realized that she was a very intelligent actress as well. She read the script, so she knew the character was all about destroying men. So it wasn’t just her personality coming out —it was also an intelligent choice as an actress.

MA: What’s your favorite outfit she wears?

AB: I like those pink and yellow Victorian dresses that she wears, the Gunne Sax ones.

MA: So Myra Breckenridge! Especially the one in the tea parlor with the hat.

AB: My boyfriend freaked out when he saw that I was going to put her in that hat. He thought I was going too far. He was like, “Don’t you think that’s going a little too far?” I said, “No, she has to wear that hat!”

MA: It takes up the whole screen, which is what makes it so good, it’s so much. And the best part is just before that she’s like, “I’ll just be a minute.” And then she arrives in a full look. My God, that was a minute? I love it.

AB: And that was just in her little red suitcase.

MA: Can I expect more films like this?

AB: I don’t know, I’m trying to tone it down a little bit. But that’s what I said for this film! So I’m saying the next one is going to be toned down, but I doubt it will be.

MA: Your definition of toned down is definitely different from other people’s.

AB: The Love Witch was a little toned down from Viva. There were fewer characters, fewer sets. It was less comedy, it wasn’t as bright, and it was a little more moody. So it is about twice as contained as Viva. I think the next one will be more contained. I’m interested in going in that direction. I think because she was a witch, I had to do all the visuals exactly the way they were. The next story isn’t as visual in terms of having so many objects.

MA: The volume won’t be on 11 in the visuals in the same way.

AB: No, it won’t, because it’s a different world. I mean, it will still be pretty.

Anna Biller in conversation with Mehron Abdollmohammadi

photography Parker Day

beauty Allison McGillicuddy