Anna Biller, director of "The Love Witch," talks to us about the film's iconic makeup looks and collecting vintage fashion
If you haven’t yet watched The Love Witch, you’ve probably at least caught scenes from this vibrant and mesmerizing film floating around on your friends’ Instagram feeds. Centered around a witchy woman named Elaine, the movie is a hyper-saturated love letter to the Technicolor films of the past, but with a modern, feminist theme that speaks to the intricacies of male/female relationships, narcissism, survival, and delicious revenge, courtesy of the dark arts. Elaine is a complex character — director Anna Biller’s aim was to have her portrayed as a “sympathetic sociopath” — so you’ll find yourself simultaneously rooting for her while feeling sorry for the poor suckers who fall within her destructive path.
Along with the girl crush you will no doubt have on Elaine, you’ll be enamored with the movie’s aesthetics, from the Thoth tarot-inspired decor in Elaine’s apartment to the dizzyingly vivid clothing she wears in each scene. For a movie this visually stimulating, there’s usually whole crew of people to thank. But Biller not only wrote, directed, edited, and produced the film, she was heavily involved in these visual components.
As we mentioned in our previous interview with Biller, many of the costumes and props were made by the director herself — she even hooked a pentagram rug by hand (which took her six months to complete) and composed the film’s score. She also starred in her own movie, 2007’s VIVA, an equally-stunning cinematic experience as The Love Witch.
If a higher level exists for a Renaissance woman, Biller certainly has unlocked it.
With that kind of passion and talent to create films so beautiful, I had to know more about Biller’s personal fashion inspirations, and of course, her beauty go-tos.
Read on to learn more about this filmmaker’s love for Bob Mackie, how she decided on Elaine’s iconic makeup, and the classic drugstore mascara she always has in her bag.
HelloGiggles: Who do you consider your beauty icons?
Anna Biller: Most of my beauty icons are the classic movie stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Gene Tierney, Claudia Cardinale, Brigitte Bardot, Dorothy Dandridge, Kim Novak, Rita Hayworth. I’ve become sort of obsessed with my own star, Samantha Robinson, since I’ve looked at so many beautiful stills of her lately. I also love Kate Moss and some of the models working today, although I don’t know most of their names. I just look at the magazines and fantasize.
HG: The makeup in The Love Witch was done by Emma Willis, and I know you said she had used Shiseido, which is one of your favorite brands. Did you have input on what makeup was used on the film?
AB: She initially did a makeup test for camera on Samantha where the makeup was unflattering and made her skin look dead, so that’s when I suggested Shiseido. I remembered that I’d had the same problems with base makeup when we shot my film VIVA, and that I’d done some experimenting and discovered Shiseido stick foundation, which is very light, doesn’t look cakey on camera, and has better shades for olive skin. Since Samantha also has olive skin, it worked for her too. Most makeup brands don’t make a good base for olive skin; they just take their pinky base and darken it, which looks absolutely horrible if you have blue undertones. But Shiseido’s base is more like a true ivory without too much pink, so it neutralizes the blue and makes your skin look pretty. They also had some unique shades of orange and pink lipstick that looked very period, plus great turquoise and purple eyeshadow, so we used those for the shoot as well. I just bought a bunch of Shiseido makeup and brought it to the set, and it was perfect.
HG: What makeup items can you not live without?
HG: Is there a new makeup or skincare product that you’ve been obsessing over lately?
AB: Yes, Bobbi Brown black gel eyeliner. I’ve been wearing cat-eye black eyeliner lately when I go out at night, partly because I discovered gel eyeliner! It’s so much better than eyeliner pencil, and so easy to make a cat-eye with. I’ve had nothing but compliments since I started using it.
HG: Your movies show a clear appreciation for fashion from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Is this reflected in your own personal wardrobe?
AB: Yes. Sometimes I’ll make dresses for myself from ‘60s and ‘70s patterns, and I do also collect vintage dresses. Plus, when I buy off the rack I tend to choose styles that look vintage. I’m really not into spandex or tube skirts – I tend to prefer an a-line skirt and a fitted bodice, and I like interesting textured fabrics. I go through different phases though; I used to dress more ‘30s and ‘40s. I’m ready to start making some more ‘40s dresses for myself, especially since I just bought the cutest ‘40s-style shoes from John Fluevog!
Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?
AB: My favorites are the great movie designers from the ‘30s through the ‘50s, especially Orry-Kelly, Travis Banton, Adrian, and Edith Head. And I adore Bob Mackie, and the whimsical haute couture of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen.
HG: What is something in your closet that you will never get rid of?
AB: When I was in college, I bought this black silk-velvet 1930s gown from a flea market. I was visiting friends in San Francisco at the time and I didn’t have any cash, so I got a friend to buy it for me and I paid him back. I was so poor at the time that I didn’t have a bank account or any savings, so I took out an emergency loan from the school to pay for the dress, which cost $75. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever owned, and even though it is disintegrating into shreds I will never throw it away.
What was the last thing you bought online?
AB: A Diane von Furstenburg silk wrap dress in a green print. It was on sale, and I know a wrap dress is going to fit so I thought it would be safe to buy it without trying it on. It really is lovely, and now I’m obsessed with finding some green shoes to go with it! I usually don’t match my shoes with my outfits, but this shade of emerald really seems to call for it.
HG: What are you working on next?
I’m working on a new movie based on the Bluebeard theme, but it’s still in the script stage. It’s based on all of those delicious noirs called “woman in peril “ noirs, where a woman is dealing with a gaslighting or sociopathic husband.