I caught this film at it's Pre - World Premiere at a press screening at the Rotterdam Film Festival back in January of this year and I really enjoyed it, mainly because I have never seen anything quite like it before and don't expect that I will likely ever see anything like it again.
The first thing that swept me away was the set design / art direction: right from the get go I had the feeling I was back in the 70's except it wasn't through the usual played out typical Hollywood re-interpretation of what the seventies were supposed to have looked like, this film elicits a "Holy S*** the filmmakers must have gotten their hands on a warehouse full of actual items from the 70's" sensation (and apparently they did collect props for years). The films colors are absolutely dazzling, the look achieved in the film is almost as if the director was aiming to visually reproduce the feel of a Technicolor film as filtered through copious amounts of LSD.
The characters the actors were portraying often came off as mindless automatons, sort of stereotypical parodies of American archetypes if you will, the performances were often wooden to the point of disbelief almost as if they were trying to overact in a very detached manner, it worked quite well and added to the overall sense of "disbelief" I had while watching this film. Some of the lines the actors deliver were so incredibly vapid yet delivered so deadpan that I could not control my laughter, sometimes the sets alone were enough to make me giggle.
While the film certainly parodies B flicks on one level, on another it truly works as a piece of calculated and subversive art by reversing the usual misogynistic dynamics of the typical exploitation film: we see the repressed lead character Barbi transform into "Viva" who becomes self aware and empowered by discovering and reveling in her sexuality ( the animated orgasm scene is pretty awesome, apparently Anna Biller also animated this sequence! ) thus I venture to guess that Anna Biller may have very well created the first "post-feminist 70's era B flick exploitation homage film" - anyone know of anything else out there like this? I would definitely recommend this film to fans of John Waters work as well as anyone interested in feminist or subversive art, hell, Anna Biller's art direction alone warrants at least two viewings. All in all I really enjoyed the film, I do wish I had been just a little bit fresher for the screening as per film festival requirements I had slept about four hours the previous evening and was still a bit hungover. I hope I get the chance to see this film again because I would not hesitate to make some phone calls and round up a posse, Viva is definitely a film experience that would make for some excellent post film discussion over drinks.
If I were to make a criticism about Viva It would be that I think the film could use a little more time in the cutting room to trim it up perhaps just a wee bit, given that I was watching a world premiere I will assume that what I saw was perhaps the "directors cut". Regardless, Viva really is an achievement on several levels and it should certainly solidify Anna Biller as one of the freshest new multi-talented directorial voices of today.