IFFR KINO #10: Viva

On Wednesday 1 November, IFFR KINO presents Viva (2007), the debut feature of US artist and filmmaker Anna Biller. A delightful homage to the softcore porn films of the early seventies with a feminist twist. At the time the film premiered at IFFR and won the Best of Fest Award at the Boston Underground Film Festival.

Viva depicts the adventures of a bored housewife who becomes part of the sexual revolution in California around 1970. Barbie (played by Biller herself) is young, curious and naive. When her husband takes off for a ski resort she sets off on a quest for love. Together with an adventurous friend she first arrives at a brothel, meets a nudist/guru who smokes marijuana and ends up with a jet set photographer – and they all want only one thing.

Kitsch, camp, cheesy, over the top it all applies to Vivawhich is astonishing in its execution. Its style emulates the cinematography of the genre, with slow editing, scenes that start over three times and events that never get really funny. In other words: just like the original films. In the meantime, there is plenty to enjoy about the immaculately transplanted details of the genre, while Biller subtly mocks the outdated notions on female sexuality and male dominance that ruled the era.

Anna Biller’s second feature The Love Witch – another glorious tribute to a genre, this time that of the horror film – was shown at IFFR 2016 and was included in the programme of the Amsterdamned genre film festival.  The almost decade-long interval between the two films might seem extreme, but Biller is such a perfectionist in the use of the right stylistic elements that it takes her years to find, design and build all costumes, props and sets. She is also responsible for the music, and edits and produces all her films herself.