content="Anna Biller"

Anna Biller Productions

Fabulous films about men, women, and love


VIVA REVIEWS



Anna Biller on the cover of PEEP SHOWS, THE DAILY TIGER, and CAMERA OBSCURA




SELECTED PRESS

THE NEW YORK TIMES
Swinging Suburbia and the Sensual City

A waggish conceptual venture, "Viva" is a startlingly pitch-perfect reproduction of the kind of gauzy sex movies from the 1960s and early 1970s that preceded the hard-core revolution. Written and directed by Anna Biller, who also stars as the title character - a doll of a 1972 housewife first known as Barbi - the film unwinds as a series of adventures that take Barbi from swinging suburbia and backyard bacchanalias into the city and depravity. Despite the parallels with Sade's "Justine" and the occasional lurid flourish, the depravity never becomes remotely depraved because Ms. Biller, despite her commitment to verisimilitude, maintains an ironic detachment throughout...Whatever the case, the results are suitably alienating and often funny...[Biller's] attention to visual detail is extraordinarily vivid, from the Kool-Aid-colored costumes to the supergraphics that zigzag across the sets. Despite Barbi's affection for her husband (Chad England), the characters, all of whom mouth platitudes and even parrot advertising slogans, view sex and one another in almost purely (impurely) consumerist terms. --Manohla Dargis


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

It takes skill - a certain sly, even perverse nimbleness of craft - to make an homage to schlock movies that treats them as works of art. Viva, written and directed by its star, Anna Biller, could just about be the third featurette in Grindhouse. It's a lovingly re-created, almost fetishistically spot-on tribute to the candy-colored soft-core sexploitation films that sprouted up like weeds in the late '60s and early '70s. Movies like Radley Metzger's Score were planted on the fault line between suburban swinging and hipster feminism, between the crossover success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and the underground rise of hardcore porn. Viva both mocks and celebrates their slightly freakish high-kink innocence.

As Barbie, a kind of Playboy housewife next door, Biller, with her sultry scowl, has the am-I-exotic-or-just-wearing-too-much-eyeliner look of a Russ Meyer heroine like Tura Satana. Rechristened as "Viva," she is drawn into a trashy cultural odyssey of erotic abandon (wife swapping, lesbianism, orgies), and Biller delivers her dialogue with a flatness that's just expressive enough to be hilarious. She captures a moment when amateur bad acting had an innocence that made sex seem shocking - and therefore still touched with wonder. The real joke of Viva isn't the suburban-psychedelic orange-macramé-on-lime-green-walls decor. It's that this is a truly sexy movie because it's square enough to laugh at. --Owen Gleiberman


LA WEEKLY

Anna Biller's 1970s-styled sexploitation parody Viva may at times come too close to the real thing, but there's a welcome delight in the film's unapologetic and total submersion into cheap thrills. The story concerns suburban housewife Barbi (played by the seductive Ms. Biller herself), whose sexual awakening coincides with the Me Decade's excesses. When her clueless-executive husband leaves on yet another trip, frustrated Barbi is off to the carnal races. She renames herself Viva ("Because I want to live!"), takes a job as a prostitute, visits a nudist colony and stars in a musical orgy. No outfit is too gaudy, no penis too limp to make it into this film, and Biller's brazen art direction, as well as the copious nudity, leaves everything perfectly overexposed. --Derek Thomas


LOS ANGELES TIMES

"Viva" [is] a meticulously designed re-imagining of "classy"-minded '70's-era soft porn--boy meets girl, but more important, girl meets free love--that pays as much attention to the realities of the sexual revolution for women as it does the get-it-on aura of wet-bar aesthetics, polyester, peekaboo nudity and color-saturated interior decor. It converts an earlier male generation's notion of swinger gratification into the pitfalls for females of the unfulfilled tease.

Biller stars (and strips) as a neglected Los Angeles housewife named Barbi who experiments with looser sexuality by becoming a call girl, only to find that her fantasies and those of the men she encounters hardly mesh.

Simply put, the movie pops with parodic joy--in the hoary double-entendres and presentational acting styles--and hotly lighted 35-millimeter cinematography that evokes lounge music album covers and Playboy ads.--Robert Abele


VARIETY

Its titular heroine a neglected housewife drifting into all the sexual revolution mischief 1972 Los Angeles has to offer, "Viva" is a spot-on spoof of low-grade '60s/early '70s sexploitation pics. It's the first feature from multihyphenate Anna Biller, who's made some memorable shorts in a similar vein...Biller takes inspiration not just from Z-grade pics of her favorite era, but also from its Playboy magazine aesthetic and TV cologne/liquor commercials. Her production design is a triumph of dedicated thrift-shop acquisition, with decor as much as drop-dead costumes amplifying the cheesiest aspects of early '70s flamboyance...C. Thomas Lewis' cinematography heightens color to an eye-popping degree, while his compositions delightfully reproduce all the era's lower-budget conventions. --Dennis Harvey


PEEP SHOWS

As Eric Schaeffer states in Bold! Daring! Shocking! True!, 'sexploitation films can best be described as exploitation movies that focus on nudity, sexual situations, and simulated (i.e., nonexplicit) sex acts, designed for titillation and entertainment.' If Scheaffer's definition is assumed to be absolute, then Anna Biller's film Viva (2007) is notably 'Other.' Biller's film, which tells the story of a suburban 1970s housewife (Barbi) attempting to 'live' the sexual revolution, is filled with fun, frolics, and fantasy vignettes. Additionally, however, Viva is also a very serious, striking commentary which seeks not only to seduce the contemporary viewer, but significantly, to mentally stimulate them.

While sexual discovery film has long been associated with political change (in both negative and positive ways), Viva can be understood as a film that is distinct from the current sexual discovery oeuvre in several ways. Unlike films expressing the politics of sex such as Belle de Jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967), Deep Throat (Gerard Damiano, 1972), The Story of O (Just Jaeckin, 1975), Romance (Catherine Breillat, 1999), and Baise-Moi (Virginie Despenes and Coralie Trinh Thi, 2000), Viva responds to and sits oddly between the pulp porn of Gerard Damiano and the avante-garde anger of Breillat. The film is neither solely a dreamy exploration of female sexuality nor a hard-core confrontation of abuse. Instead, Viva is determinedly a text that refuses to 'fit' and this unbelonging has symbolic resonance. While disguised on one level as comedy, a quick scratch of the surface reveals its remarkable otherness. The thing that is distinctive and revolutionary about Viva is not the appropriation of gender politics and sexual inequalities in the 1970s, but rather, the fact that Viva, as a contemporary text, is informed by an understanding of identity as a historical transformation. As a period piece Viva juxtaposes irony and sincerity in order to simultaneously present, reminisce and reflect upon the romanticisation of the sexual revolution.--Beth Johnson


BRIGHT LIGHTS FILM JOURNAL

The acting may be campy, the sets outlandish, and its tongue planted firmly where the cheek resides, but there's nothing insincere about the film's overflowing love for the culture, fashion, and spirit of the much maligned period. A unique masterpiece from an era of styleless banality,Viva is as much an act of film criticism as it is a cultural statement. [more]--Jason Klorfein


THE ONION A.V. CLUB

Anna Biller's debut feature Viva consciously offer[s] a painstaking recreation of the look and feel of campy retro sexploitation. Biller stars as a California housewife circa 1972, who changes her name to "Viva" and embarks on a journey through the sexual revolution after her husband moves out. Prostitution, nudist colonies, guerilla theater, furtive lesbian encounters, Hollywood orgies - Viva tries them all. But while Biller doesn't spare the sordidness or the skin, Viva veers between intellectualized pastiche and absurdly tongue-in-cheek - which means the movie lacks sexploitation's pervasive sense of shame. From the winking shots of housewives reading Decorating With Crochet to the multiple cheery musical numbers, Viva may be a smidgen too "fun" to be a true replica of its source material.

On the other hand, that lighter touch also makes Viva one of the rare skin flicks worth watching for a full two hours. Biller is clearly positioning Viva as a comment on the moment in history when the political ideals of the '60s got bound up with the new freedoms of the '60s, and how once women realized that being coerced into drunken sex with strangers wasn't as much fun as they'd hoped, they lost some interest in "liberation" in general. Viva's characters nervously mock their own worldliness, as they grab a jug of scotch and a girlie mag and cackle, "Now I'm all set! Coffee and the morning paper!" And yet Biller obviously feels for these plywood people she's created. She surrounds them with rich color and eye-popping décor, and fills them with the awareness that as awkward as their sex games may be, they may one day miss what they stood for.--Noel Murray


SLANT MAGAZINE

Writer-director-pouter Anna Biller's influences are as naked as her delightfully curvaceous body is in the riotous 1970s throwback Viva. Biller's film is to the films of Radley Metzger and Russ Meyer what Todd Haynes's Far From Heaven was to Douglas Sirk, only perhaps a little bit cannier and a lot less dryly academic about its postmodern tweaks; if Haynes looked back at the 1950s by making his own Rock Hudson update a blue-blooded queer, Viva revisits the golden age of stag filmmaking by putting its likely audience (bored suburbanites with a 16mm projector in their shag-carpeted basement dens) in the starring roles...Viva's intentionally flat performances and flatter double entendres (he, at an orgy: "I could eat her alive"; she: "Eat me alive!") mercilessly satirize the Playboy mindset even as the film revels in the kitschiness of it all. It walks a fine line, but the film's kicker - in which Barbi is recruited to play a role in a show paying homage to the 1950s because, as the show's director says, "people are bored to death with nudity" - confirms Biller's self-awareness of the way even parody can be used to simultaneously illuminate and evade the social ills of today.--Eric Hendersom


LOS ANGELES TIMES INTERVIEW
Anna Biller brings free sex back to a sex-free nation
The no-budget L.A. filmmaker on movie gender politics, the struggle for good lighting and her retro-risqué sex romp "Viva."

Anna Biller's first feature-length film "Viva," an eerily authentic recreation of early 1970s soft-core sex comedies, opened Friday at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood. But Biller has been making highly mannered, beautifully realized short movies for more than ten years. All of them have worked a rich vein of high-to-campy style, meticulous production value, affectionate but not gentle homage, self-aware narcissism, non-political feminism and overheated performances. In the process she's created a body of work that actually deserves that much-abused descriptor "unique" without quite achieving the status of a cult favorite.

Biller's feature debut, which even with cost overruns and a much-delayed four-year production process still ended up costing only $1 million, may change that. Reactions have ranged from enthusiastic raves to bemused pans - and the difference between the two is not always clear. One review in The Times praised "Viva" as a movie that "pops with parodic joy [and] converts an earlier male generation's notion of swinger gratification into the pitfalls for females of the unfulfilled tease" while another disdained its "uneasy balance between camp and spoof." That fits the ambiguity Biller courts in her work.

Biller spoke with Opinion web editor Tim Cavanaugh...[more]


FILMMAKER MAGAZINE

Some things, though, sell better than amateur soccer tournaments and DVD downloads: sex and politics, for instance, and in Rotterdam two American films certainly hit those marks. An uncannily dead-on tribute to softcore 1970's exploitation cinema, Anna Biller's Viva, follows one extremely vivacious, extremely bored California housewife Barbi (Biller) as she and her best girlfriend take advantage of their husbands' absences to become call girls, "it" girls and more in a SoCal slip-and-scotch sex underground of swingers' clubs, brothels and nudist resorts. Part tongue-in-cheek send-up of softcore cinema, part reverent homage to that nightgown-and-Naugahyde era, Viva was a hit with its late-night, beer-fueled Dutch audiences, and was one of the American discoveries of the festival.--Jason Sanders


SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN

My eyes were literally popping at Viva, a time-warp back to the days of swingin' sexploitation films by Radley Metzger, Russ Meyer, Herschell Gordon Lewis, and similarly give-the-horny-people-what-they-want auteurs. Writer-director-producer-costumer-set designer and star Anna Biller plays Barbi, a bored Los Angeles housewife circa 1972. When her Ken doll-like hubby leaves her alone on a so-called extended business trip, adventurous Barbi becomes Viva, a frequently nude muse for every pervy guy in a neck scarf who crosses her path. Plot ain't really important here, though — Viva is either a parody or an homage (or perhaps both), executed so perfectly it's almost hard to tell it was made in the 21st century. Bad acting, sleazy dialogue, constant porny background music, incredible outfits and hair, drug-hazed orgies, olive-bedecked finger foods, a nudist colony, a call girl subplot, and musical numbers — Viva has everything you want to see in a movie, rendered in luridly bright Technicolor and filtered through what I can only describe as an XXX-rated scramble of The Brady Bunch. Biller is my new hero. I can't wait to see what she does next. --Cheryl Eddy


SF 360

When you ponder the great films of the 1960s, what comes to mind? Maybe Bonnie & Clyde, Easy Rider, Blow-Up, 2001? Yes, yes, all very nice.

But when I'm jonesing for something that really exposes the shocking truth about that "turbulent decade," I head straight for anything that's got "suburb" in the title. Can't think of any such things? You are not alone, but for shame! anyway. Nothing mixes high camp and dated social relevance quite like the softcore smut of the "Swinging" Sixties, particularly those efforts centering on bored housewives and cheating spouses.

These films flew under the radar then and aren't all that easy to find now. (Try Something Weird Video, or S.F.'s own Le Video.) But they have their fans, official #1 among which is now Anna Biller, who wrote, directed, edited, and did a hell of a set/costume designing job in Viva, a first feature that pays slavish tribute to just this subgenre.

Viva's cautionary tale is aptly encapsuled by the poster line: "They were housewives seeking kicks, in a world of swingers, orgies, booze and sin that was the Sexual Revolution!" The new TV series Swingtown might provide a more dramatically nuanced view of those times, but Viva is a lot more fun. You don't need to have seen the movies she's paying cheeky homage to in order to enjoy Viva.But afterward, you'll probably want to.--Dennis Harvey


REASON MAGAZINE
WIN FREE SEX!
The never-ending charm of sexual revolution nostalgia

Anna Biller's independent film Viva salutes classic softcore cinema such as Radley Metzger's Camille 2000 and Herschel Gordon Lewis' Suburban Roulette...Viva...aims not for the look of the period but for the look of the period's movies: the high-key, pseudo-Technicolor lighting scheme and spare, colorful set design a handful of us have been missing ever since Dragnet went off the air; nudge-nudge wink-wink dialogue delivered in the flattest possible tones; and the way everybody's always got a cocktail in one hand a cigarette in the other...

It's hard not to think there's something missing in this age of freedom. The original sexual revolution may have ended in plenty of bad humping with stinky hippies and gold-chained lotharios, but there was romance in the search for a new consciousness, and in the naïve idea that you could get there by fucking. Is the idea totally dead? How could such a beautiful notion not live on? Maybe what these modern, catty, gossipy chicks really need is a man who can take them to the next level, make them feel the way a woman's meant to feel. Your place or mine? [more]--Tim Cavanaugh


THE AGE

Anna Biller's parody of '70s sexploitation films has a serious core, writes Gabriella Coslovich.

With her bright blue eye shadow, tangerine lipstick, short black dress and fishnet stay-ups, American director and unashamed feminist Anna Biller is attracting furtive glances from businessmen in the foyer of the Westin hotel. While they may secretly ogle, they're unlikely to make remarks to Biller's face, as do the stiffly coiffed men in her film about a halcyon time when men were insufferably sexist - and got away with it./p>

"There has never been a better time to be a man," says the sleazy, heavily cologned "Mark" in Biller's debut feature, Viva, a hilarious spoof on '70s sexploitation films.

The film is an elaborate exercise in style, with sets that meticulously recreate the clashing designs of '70s decor: mustard-coloured walls, floral drapes, wood paneling, lino floors, shag pile rugs, wood-veneer ice buckets, macramé plant holders and the costumes, oh the costumes, to die for - crocheted orange bikinis, floaty negligees, floral shift dresses and matching headbands, bold-printed maxi dresses, white boots and minis - in all, a gaudy visual pleasure chest for fetishists of the era. The film is a campy parody of the times and its advertisements and magazines, particularly Playboy, which perpetuated the myth that life was one big shag-fest...[more] --Gabriella Coslovich


ALTERNATIVE FILM GUIDE

Anna Biller has been labeled the next John Waters. This is not true. John Waters has his own distinctively trashy and marvelous style, which is far different from Biller's lush and extravagant filmmaking. But when it comes to cult following and underground notoriety, Biller is filling Waters' Comme des Garçons slip-ons.

Biller's first feature film, Viva, is a throwback to the sexploitation films of the '70s and an example of how in some ways women's lib wasn't liberating at all. While the film's campiness and kitsch is sometimes overwhelming, there is definitely more to its tone than just some people's opinion of it as being "so bad it's good." Viva is just good, so good.

Viva comes together nicely with all of its eroticism, retro look, social commentary, unyielding camp, and laugh-out-loud wit. The brilliantly strung together scenes such as Sheila's bathtub-in-the-forest musical number (she sings to her new white horse) and the glamorous orgy party will definitely leave a lasting impression on any viewer whether they love or hate Viva. Her passion for the art is unmistakable and I cannot imagine how Viva could have been better. For lack of a better pun: she nailed it...[more] --Keith Waterfield


HOUSE OF SELF-INDULGENCE

The most visually stimulating film to come in contact with my cerebral cortex in donkey's years, multitasker extraordinaire Anna Biller has fashioned an ocular feast for the senses. Every appendage of this beautifully chromatic film is literally engorged with an eye-pleasing vitality. The sets are magnificently constructed, the clothes radiate with an iridescent flair, and the music throbs with a retro sheen.

The acting may be campy, the sets outlandish, and its tongue planted firmly where the cheek resides, but there's nothing insincere about the film's overflowing love for the culture, fashion, and spirit of the much maligned period.A unique masterpiece from an era of styleless banality, Viva is a stunning work from an artist with a singular, wonderfully depraved vision...[more]


KINOKULTURA

The striking revelation of Moscow's competition was the American feature Viva (2007), the wild and campy debut of multi-tasker Anna Biller, who wrote, directed, edited, produced, designed costumes and sets, and composed the music. She obviously stars in this bizarre tribute to the soft-core films of the 1960s and 1970s, sadly slashed by local critics and audiences alike. The phoniness in Viva is innovative and perfectly matches the innocence of its main heroine, a bored housewife called Barbi looking for sexual liberation by reinventing herself as a prostitute named Viva. Here she is, facing a delirious world of predators who want to tempt her in their web of dirty games, to use and abuse her naÏveté.

The heroine's journey put aside, what is truly remarkable in this extravagant, colorful, and enthusiastic exercise of style is what lies beneath its glitzy surface. For all its implied artificiality, kitschy characters, and phony dialogues, Viva rings true in its depiction of the surrounding falseness. It recalls Bunuel's Belle de Jour (1967), remade by Almodovar in 2005. Biller takes a huge risk in playing this audacious game with her audience, who might be too blinded by the assumed kitsch and clumsiness to see that the satiric joy of her enterprise serves as a tool for a cynical take on sexuality and empowerment. The movie may look dumb, but it makes you smarter--and that's the paradox...[more]--Mihai Chirilov, FIPRESCI jury chairman


GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE

One of the most strikingly individual talents to emerge in the realm of art cinema in recent years, Los Angeles-based Anna Biller makes movies that revel in kitsch, while simultaneously commenting on it. Imagine the camp of John Waters and the erotic excesses of Russ Meyer, blended with the satirical blasphemy of Luis Bunuel and the deliberately awful performances found in the films of George Kuchar, and you have an idea of what Biller is after.

Her first feature, Viva, is the story of a woman's discovery that follows Barbi (played by Biller herself ), a suburban housewife in 1972 who's abandoned by her race-car-driving husband. Barbi finds herself at the center of the swinging sexual revolution, and is introduced to the joys of bisexuality, nudist colonies, pornographic modeling, and prostitution. It's a send-up of the vintage sexploitation movie that also manages to seriously explore contemporary and personal issues of sexuality.

Biller is the complete auteur: she not only writes, directs, produces, and stars, but also edits, composes music, and most important, designs her own sets and costumes. Eye-poppingly vivid and sometimes shockingly, deliberately grotesque, Anna Biller's work is something special to discover. --Jim Healy


SCREEM MAGAZINE INTERVIEW

The next queen of cult filmdom is unquestionably Anna Biller. This Los Angeles-based filmmaker has a fierce aesthetic, a heavy work ethic and a definite, singular vision. Biller is best known for her expressionistic use of color, insistence on costumes, sets and stylized lighting. Furthermore, she is deeply sincere in what she does. Where lesser hands would feature settings with pink wallpaper decorated with gold plaster angels and encourage the audience to snicker at its camp excess, Biller would use that very same setting because she finds it beautiful - and insists that her audience find it beautiful as well.

Biller is taking the world by storm with Viva (2006), her take on the sexploitation films of the Seventies. While Biller says her main source of inspiration for the film came from the elegant erotic films of Radley Metzger, many other things came to this writer's mind while watching it: TV's Love, American Style!, the odd attempts at low budget filmmakers trying to craft lavish Ross Hunter melodramas without money such as Love Me Like I Do (1971), Herschell Gordon Lewis' Suburban Roulette (1967), Blood Mania (1971) and Point of Terror (1971) all seemed to have served as unconscious inspirations for the project...[more] --Greg Goodsell


FANGORIA  (Interview with Chris Alexander)

Okay folks, here goes...

The following interview is a must read for fans of trash, cult and generally outlandish cinema. And sex. See, VIVA, a mind blowing recreation of early PLAYBOY magazine gloss and the sexploitation melodramas of Russ Meyer and H.G. Lewis fell onto my happy lap last week and, popping it in my player, I immediately fell in love.

The incredible, experimental, hilarious and hotter than hell in June psuedo-feminist exploitation film is NOT horror, I know this, so quit your slit eyed gawking. But if you, like me, kneel at the sticky alter of drive in and grindhouse cinema than baby, you will flip your wig over this brilliant boob riddled masterstroke of experimental filmmaking.

The picture - out now on DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay (in Unrated & R-rated editions) - is the brainchild of writer, producer, director and star Anna Biller. It's a bold gamble that paid off and it perfectly encompasses her adoration for all things sexy, seventies and subversive.

It's a film that needs to be seen by any self respecting trash movie enthusiast and Biller is woman who needs as much public forum as humanly possible. She's that talented. Trust me.

So I found her and I grilled her and here is that conversation...enjoy.  [more]--Chris Alexander


THE VILLAGE VOICE

Viva does for late-'60s/early-'70s sexploitation what Far From Heaven did for Douglas Sirk. Guaranteed to delight erotica fetishists and porn semioticians (if any exist) alike, Anna Biller's homage re-creates the colors, fashion, lifestyles, Hammond organ solos, and cheesy sex setups of the era. Biller's re-creation is not only right-on but rigorous; the early shots of suburban Cali in particular are so perfectly framed as to suggest a weird structuralist goof. --Vadim Rizov


THE BOSTON PHOENIX

For a tongue-in-cheek and slyly insightful look at the conflict between innocence and desire, curiosity and taboo, bad taste and kitsch genius, I'd recommend Anna Biller's VIVA (2007; Brattle March 24 at 9:15 pm, with Biller). She writes, directs, and stars in this sui generis pastiche of a John Waters/Frank Tashlin/Douglas Sirk/David Lynch parodic morality tale; she even designed the outrageous, candy-colored sets and costumes. Her Barbi is a buxom, vacant-eyed, heavily made-up housewife in '70s LA who's not quite aware enough to realize that she's bored and exploited. She's lost her job as a secretary after responding poorly to sexual harassment, and when her workaholic, Tab Hunter-like hubby (Viva wavers in period style and sensibility from the '50s to the '70s) storms out after a spat, she decides to seek "adventures" with her mercenary next-door neighbor, Sheila. A grandmotherly madam obliges them in Belle du jour fashion, sending them off to meet clients attuned to their needs. For Sheila, now "Candy," that means codgers willing to provide her with a girl's best friend; for Barbi, reborn as "Viva," that means someone "kind and sensitive"--not easy to find among the gloriously realized '70s male grotesques in Biller's sweetly ruthless satire. --Peter Keough


SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

Biller is bringing kinky back in a way that few women directors have ever dared... [more]--Delfin Vigil


INDIEWIRE

New York Underground Film Festival opened this years event with a screening of Anna Biller's homage to 70s sexploitation films, "Viva." Meticulously constructed--from the cheesy acting and stilted direction to the shag sets and vintage film stock--"Viva" is a pitch perfect resurrection of the "Valley of the Dolls" days of cinema. Starring Biller herself as a repressed housewife, slowly discovering her sexuality through a series of increasingly racy encounters, "Viva" takes us on a self-reflexive trip back to the 70s, imbuing us with that naughty spirit that the NYUFF audience yearly seems yearning for. When asked about the referential nature of her work, Biller said, "It's all I've ever done." She laughed, "I have trouble taking myself seriously and I watch a lot of movies." Luckily, those are the magic ingredients to creating this dish. --Michael Lerman


FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL ("Reeling in Rotterdam")

American filmmaker Anna Biller provided some levity to the horror-heavy sidebar with Viva, a revival of the soft-core films of the 1960s. Biller, who dons multiple hats on the movie, stars as a bored Southern California housewife who searches for sexual liberation by becoming a prostitute. Full of campy performances and giggle-inducing period costumes, the film may be destined for cult status.--Daniel Steinhart


NEWSBLAZE
Sixties Revisited in Steamy Satire of Sleazy Sexploits

The Sixties gave rise to a practically plot-free form of sexploitation film which amounted to little more than a lame excuse to have curvy coeds cavort across the screen in assorted states of undress. Perhaps the king of this sleazy genre was Russ Meyer, a purveyor of low-budget smut with suggestive titles such as "Eve and the Handyman," "Naked Camera," "Erotica," "Wild Gals of the Naked West," "Europe in the Raw," "Heavenly Bodies," "Skyscrapers and Brassieres," and "Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!"

"Viva" pays homage to that sordid chapter in the annals of cinema in much the same way that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez recently tipped their director's caps to cheapo scary movies from the Fifties with their nostalgic double feature "Grindhouse." The picture is the brainchild of Anna Biller, who not only wrote and directed her alternately hilarious and hedonistic adventure, but stars in it as well...

What's best about "Viva" is the way in which the production faithfully conforms to the sensibilities of the aforementioned skin flicks, except perhaps for adding an anachronistic dash of refreshing female empowerment to the mix.

Otherwise, our exhibitionistic heroines incessantly involve themselves in nearly naked antics against a campy backdrop of appropriately gaudy color schemes reminiscent of the period. With the kinky action underscored by an appropriately seedy, soft-porn soundtrack, it all adds up to a trippy, tongue-in-cheek peep show. --Kam Williams


EYE WEEKLY

The title of Viva of course means "to live," and its eponymously named (or rather pseudonymed) heroine does enough living for several movies - if not the entire sexploitation subgenre. Sensing a change in the backyard-poolside air, stifled So Cal hausfrau Barbi (writer-director Anna Biller) ditches the kitchen and goes sex-kitten, getting drugged, duped and groped by various high-fashion photographers, hippies and husbands (including her own) along the path to superstardom. With its painstakingly tacky early-'70s aesthetic and fleshy, Radley Metzgerian set pieces, Viva wears its pastiche on its (flared) sleeve, but there's something more here than a mere exercise in art direction. Biller, a noted short filmmaker with art-scene cred, has crafted a film about the sexual revolution of the '70s informed by several decades' worth of hindsight. She approximates the leering gaze of the period's porn-meisters while retaining a contemporary female sensibility - Viva the film is as sly and knowing as Viva the character is endearingly oblivious. --Adam Nayman


MONTREAL MIRROR
Sex and the Married Girl

It's impossible not to be impressed by the triple threat of Anna Biller, the L.A.-based filmmaker who writes, directs and stars in Viva, her feature directorial debut (and that's not even counting her co-producer and costume designer credits). The film is a free-loving ode to the campy erotic comedies of the '60s and '70s, in particular the films of Radley Metzger. It's an odd concoction, hitting all the right notes: wooden acting styles, clumsy dialogue, improbable situations that evolve into entirely ludicrous ones, and brilliant, glow-in-the-dark, tacky set and costume design. For films about sex, these films were more about the tease than the actual act, with plenty of naughty talk made by babes wearing revealing outfits. Viva is a mindbender of a movie, a dreamscape in which Biller looks back to a pre-AIDS era of what many in the underground celebrated as a newfound liberation. Biller plays a repressed housewife who learns about various carnal pleasures, turning herself into Viva, a newly rebranded woman with a clitoris made of Kryptonite. Or so the narrative goes, on its surface. And make no mistake, Biller gives great surface: the sets and costumes alone deserve a slew of awards, they are so perfectly period-tacky. And cinematographer C. Thomas Lewis captures everything with a camera that is simultaneously strangely distant and hyper-voyeuristic.

Where critics are wrong is to argue that Viva is merely a stylistic exercise, a vapid ode to a genre. The men who our heroine Viva does encounter talk up the fantastic side of sexual liberation, but there's rarely any sign that it's actually pleasurable or empowering for Viva herself. Once you dig past all that Formica, vinyl and lipstick, Biller is making feminist digs of her own, suggesting that something much darker lies beyond the valley of the dolls. --Matthew Hays


VUE WEEKLY

Biller's film is like a memorable conversation with somebody at a party who sincerely admires the sexploitation films that began in the late 1960s, particularly those of Radley Metzger, Herschell Gordon Lewis and especially Russ Meyer, whose Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is directly referenced in a fast-paced, stunning orgy sequence. It's a fiesta of gold speedos, transparent bras, and lots and lots of pubic hair. Biller fetishizes the period to such an extent that she centres her entire film around it, including maintaining a bizarrely banal plot and extended sequences of titties and psychedelic music. The film runs at two hours, providing an experience of excessive wank material that's not a far cry from the predecessors.

And of course, there's plenty of subtext that allows a post-feminist deconstruction of irony in the hands of women filmmakers. --Jonathan Busch


FAB MAGAZINE

Much of my exposure to the world of underground films came from late nights spent navigating the realm of cable, looking for skin and scandal. Midnight movies courtesy of art-house networks turned me on to '60s and '70s kitsch chick flicks like Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! and Mark Robson's Valley of the Dolls. These retro sexploitation flicks reveled in their outlandish depiction of sexuality while celebrating a sense of freedom and taboo filth a gay man couldn't help but love. It's time to love again. The sensibility of these films is no longer a thing of the past, thanks to cinematic temptress Anna Biller and her new film Viva.

With a plot stripped from a 1969 letter to Penthouse magazine, Viva tells the story of Barbi, a tired and naive housewife who sets out to discover the dark and seedy underbelly of the sexual revolution. With her best friend Sheila in tow, she encounters everything from prowling cougars, grandmotherly brothel madams and lesbian supermodels to full-blown sex orgies. Toss in a chiseled silk-robe sporting gay hairdresser who seduces his neighbor with "magic powder," a funk-gasmic soundtrack and some surreal David Lynch-esque animated and musical sequences and you've got one smoking hot slice of nouveau cult cinema.

Everybody in this film nails their clichéd roles with perfectly cheesy and self-assured B-movie style delivery. The performances, including Biller's own star turn as our vixen heroine, are executed with such skill and bizarro craft that they avoid parody and build a seamless homage to smut.

Biller's truly amazing accomplishment in Viva comes courtesy of her uncannily authentic design. It doesn't emulate the spirit of those swinging times, it's possessed by them. Just one whiff of the cheap cologne, one glance at the rugged polyester, and you'll have to submit to this killer escapade. --Matt Thomas


NATIONAL POST

What little I know of 1970s sexploitation films comes from modern parody; for instance, I thought there always had to be a pizza delivery guy in one scene. As a result, Viva, a loving homage to bad dialogue and oops-my-clothes-came-off nudity, struck me as a documentary; educational, but with breasts.

Biller, who plays Viva, also wrote, directed, produced and edited this movie, and she clearly cornered the world market on chintz, tassels and shag in her work as costume and production designer. (Seems she did everything short of fluffing.) The result is definitely not a parody (note: no pizza guy) but doesn't take itself seriously, either. Without making it sound too stilted, the film seems a bit of an exercise in time travel: Can one make a 1972 movie more than 35 years on, with all the gaudy colours, psychedelic references and so-naughty-it's-nice nudity?

Biller delivers a resounding "yes." As one of her characters says, "This is going to be the freshest thing since Liberace!" Whether you're mildly prurient, a touch prudish or just, you know, curious, this is an intriguing trip, from its opening credits in a font last used for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, through its on-screen costume changes to its final Hammond organ chords. --Chris Knight


SCREEN REVIEW
Viva does for tacky '70s softcore porn what "Far From Heaven" did for old Douglas Sirk movies

Funky Hammond organ and flute jams, martinis at poolside, tacky polyester clothing, and wife-swapping?

Why, it can only be Los Angeles circa 1972, ground zero for the sexual revolution that's just penetrating the American suburbs. Viva follows sex-kitten-in-training Barbi (director/writer Anna Biller) and her nymphet neighbour Sheila (Bridget Brno), both restless and at loose ends after their respective husbands have left them. Drifting to the city, they're spotted by a talent-seeking madam who sets them up as prostitutes, assuring them they'll have as much adventure as they desire.

Sheila immediately hooks up with an elderly billionaire, but Barbi (newly self-christened as "Viva") instead opts for a series of sexual misadventures that take her from a free love chanting nudist guru (Paolo Davanza) to a stage director (John Klemantaski) to a model (Robbin Ryan) and a hipster artist (Marcus DeAnda). Despite these erotic encounters, Viva resists total immersion in the milieu, attempting to stand apart from more willing participants in the sexual free-for-all going on around her.

As with the films Viva is based on, there's much less sex here than titillation, but Biller doesn't stint on the nudity, nor does she shy away from unveiling her own attributes when needed. Another obvious antecedent is the look of Playboy magazine - the publication is both referenced and seen in the film - and especially the Harvey Kurtzman/Will Elder strip Little Annie Fanny, which follows a busty naif not unlike Viva, and her constant battle with the lascivious attention of men around her.

Knowing winks at the clumsy rhetoric of the times are well played, as are the musical sequences - "Love is good for the birds, it's good for the trees," warbles one nude hippie troubadour, an earnest smile on his face. "It's good for you and me." An orgy heaves into pulsing psychedelic orgasm, busting out into an over-the-top depiction of clichés both sexual and racial. (Black men pounding on congas!)

And for those who lament a long-gone era and a mindset, and who might be too distracted by all that flesh to spot Biller's point, there's a line spoken directly to the camera by one of Viva's suitors, a weasel of a man who later violently forces himself on our heroine. "There's never been a better time to be a man," he says. "The sense of entitlement! Enjoy this time, for it will soon be gone, never to return." --Tom Murray


XTRA
Director and star Anna Biller does everything - and everyone - in her sex-filled tour de force VIVA

You will never see a labour of love quite like Anna Biller's Viva...Biller has managed to recreate 1972 Los Angeles to jaw-dropping perfection, evoking sexploitation directors such as Radley Metzger and Russ Meyer. Viva is a scathing satire of the more illusory aspects of female empowerment overshadowed by male narcissism, hedonism and excess. That her critique of past mores is couched in the most fluttery feathered hair, the tightest bell bottoms and the most garish textiles and furnishings - did someone say macramé - makes the whole film a smart, retro pleasure from a start to finish.

The film is very funny. The obsessive historical reenactment is so relentless, so dead-on and deadpan that its effect is more hypnotic than hilarious. The acting is intentionally wooden, the innuendo intentionally dull-witted, the pace intentionally logy, the situations intentionally far-fetched. Even the most rollicking nude hippie sing-along has a static quality about it, a if it were a natural history museum diorama or a conceptual art piece. Everything is very glazed in a way. That just makes you empathize with Viva more; she's trapped in this perfectly but oppressively designed and decorated world where she has no real agency.

The politics Biller resurrects, if not the aesthetics of the period, uncannily resemble our own, where sexual liberation still too often comes with the strings of men's profit and pleasure attached.[more] --Jon Davies


THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Anna Biller takes a woman's look at a distinctly male genre

Viva seems destined for instant cult status, particularly in the gay film community, where it has been establishing a following. Camp is layered upon camp as Biller, in the lead role of the oh-so-innocent housewife Viva, discovers lust and gay/straight sauciness around every corner of the shag-carpeted seventies.

In developing the project, Biller immersed herself in old Playboy magazines and sexploitation films, but she wanted to embed a lesson in the lechery - reversing the power relationship. The male characters in Viva emulate the ugly stereotype of lascivious guys out to get some flesh between cocktails and gold tee-off times. But the female characters are into exploring their sexuality on their own terms and comparing themselves with each other.

And for all the peek-a-boo knit tops and flashes of nudity, the film isn't about titillation at all. The dialogue is intentionally as stilted as seventies ad copy and as dated as the Brady-Bunch-on-valium décor. (Biller made most of the sets and costumes herself). The pacing is also undramatically slow and measured. The result: a film entirely about sex that feels astonishingly sexless. Then again, Biller emphasized that this is not a film catering to straight men, but a performance piece for women.--Guy Dixon


CAMERA OBSCURA
Dated Sexuality: Anna Biller's VIVA and the Retropective Life of Sixties Sexploitation Cinema

American sexploitation cinema of the 1960s and early 1970s has gained a second life in the past two decades through a boom in video and DVD distribution and rerelease, and consequently a new, generationally distinct audience. This article proposes that what appeals to cult audiences in the present about the “impoverished” tableaus of sexploitation films is the shunted melancholia of obsolescence. Sexploitation maintains a hold on contemporary viewers precisely through the films' constriction by history, by their seeming containment within their own historical moment and inability to transcend it — as if “time capsules” without a destination. An exemplar of the penchant for “dated sexuality,” filmmaker Anna Biller restages the profilmic universe of the sexploitation oeuvre in her film Viva (2007). Viva's narrative of two women's entrance into the sexual revolution and its meticulous reconstruction of the genre and its vintage mise-en-scène evokes both sexploitation cinema as well as the commodified landscape of the late 1960s and early 1970s, embodying itself as a time capsule constructed in retrospect. Viva, in its indulgence in the material artifacts, conventions, and “dated” precepts of the genre and its period, encourages a historiographic reconsideration of the sexploitation form, particularly in how it speaks to the spectatorial experiences of women, the undesignated audience of the genre, as well as to public memories of the sexual revolution. This article argues that Biller's relay of her own spectatorship of the sexploitation cinema represents a way of imagining female spectatorship as a form of cinephile wandering through the historical frame — and through a cathexis on the world of forgotten bodies and discarded objects, both material and cinematic...[more]--Elena Gorfinkel


THE L MAGAZINE

This periodically hilarious feminist revision of seventies sexploitation movies covers a checklist of generic conventions (modeling, sex work, nudists, hippies, orgies, etc). If the narrative is demanding, the colorful awesomeness and ultra-tackiness of the set, costume and make-up design provide constant gratification. Better for an art gallery than a movie theater, Viva restores honest sexual politics to a genre that frequently masqueraded misogynist blackmailing as sexual liberation.--Benjamin H. Sutton


PANORAMA
Click here to read the original French review

[Viva] fully satisfies the expectations of film lovers in search of a completely exploded comedy of manners. Like a retro carnal circus amplified by a thousand, reenacting the fantasies of a past epoch, Viva emerges on every front as a brilliant success; and one is forced to admit that the aesthetic risk-taking is the principal attraction. After all, the film culminates in a zealously directed Grand-Guignolesque musical number of a medieval orgy directly inspired by the smart psychedelic parties in Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. However, the true surprise reserved for underground cinema fans is that Biller's film is curiously less naive than that of the recent Shortbus by John Cameron Mitchell on the "free" love and the liberalization of sexuality...[more]--Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau


FILM FORWARD

Another return to the grindhouse in this homage to the no-budget sexploitation films of the early '70s. Besides producing, writer/director Anna Biller also designed the costumes and sets as well as starring as suburban housewife Barbi, who takes on the moniker of "Viva" upon her sexual liberation, becoming a call girl in 1972 Los Angeles (where else)? What's more, Biller provides the only serious amount of skin shown. (Isn't a perk of being the director supposed to be that the clothes stay on while others strip)?

Like Julianne Moore's Boogie Nights porn star role, the cast carefully, almost hypnotically, recite their lines. Impressively, Biller's little-girl voice is both monotonous and chipper. The film's vibrancy derives from the garish color combos - bright yellow furniture set against neon blue walls - flatly lit in Technicolor, with extras just as colorfully dressed as the main characters and stealing the focus. (Warning: the Herb Albert-inspired score from the period may bring back nightmares of Love American Style).

Biller is not only intent on sending up the era but also indicting it. Hardly a sexual adventurer, Barbi/Viva is sexually harassed, drugged, and raped, all during which she remains expressionless. One stud proclaims, "There's never been a better time to be a man," but Barbi/Viva fruitlessly searches for true love, both in a nudist colony and with a trick. This undercurrent gives the film an edge. (Who would have assumed that Alice Munro would be more of a source of stimulation here than Erica Jong)?--Kent Turner


PEGASUS NEWS

You've got to credit Anna Biller for... well... just about everything involved with Viva, which she produced (along with co-star Jared Sanford) and directed; she also plays the lead role, in addition to doing the songwriting, painting the artwork that hangs on the walls of the sets, designing the outrageously kitschy 70's costumes and creating the psychedelic Warholish pop-art animation fantasy sequence employed during a key sex scene.

For cripe's sake, she even plays the dang organ. On the soundtrack, I mean.

Viva is a throwback to the softcore porn (think Russ Meyer - no relation, by the way) of the freewheeling "sexual revolution" days when men were men and women of a certain endowment were on hand to serve their every whim.>--John P. Meyer


CASHIERS DU CINEMART

VIVA (Anna Biller, 2007)

I went into the Fantasia screening of VIVA expecting a faithful recreation of/homage to early-seventies exploitation movies, along the lines of such recent indies as PERVERT! and SLAUGHTERHOUSE OF THE RISING SUN. VIVA is that exploitation tribute, for sure, but it's a lot more: a musical, a campy, surreal comedy, and a cutting satire on sexual politics in general and the sexual revolution specifically. Sometimes it's all of these things at the same time, leaving the viewer as bewildered as its protagonist, suburban housewife/call girl Barbi, played by writer/producer/director/star Anna Biller. But it's all part of the plan, making VIVA one of the most original indies in a long time.

The film is set in suburbia, 1972, a world that is obsessively realized in the movie's costumes and production design (also handled by Biller): it's as authentic a recreation of that era's movies as anyone will ever make.

Everything is played with an exaggerated, stylized tone, which adds to the campy humor. But as it goes on, Barbi's trials become more painful to watch, as she (and the audience) begins to realize that despite the "free love" hype during the sexual revolution, things didn't suddenly become as equal for women as they were made out to be. Without realizing it, you actually start to care about Barbi, and even her asshole husband Rick; they go from being comic caricatures to real characters, without the movie ever dropping its hilariously deadpan, campy sensibilities. After all the laughs, musical numbers, and outrageous performances (Barry Morse as Sherman is at least tied with Skip E. Lowe's Artie from BLACK SHAMPOO as the screen's ultimate gay hairdresser), I walked out of VIVA thinking mostly about just how much heart it has. It's a great feature debut from Biller, and I can't wait for the "circus sex witch" follow-up she described in her Fantasia Q&A. --Rich Osmond


MONTREAL MIRROR

If Tarantino's mind-blowing Death Proof (the second half of this summer's Grindhouse which incomprehensibly flopped) was a "chick-flick" as seen through the eyes of a male, Anna Biller's feature film directorial debut Viva is just the opposite using the same inspirational sources: low budget 70's exploitation! Biller was director, producer, writer, editor, set and costume designer and lead actress (!) of this remarkable epic, approaching the making of it as a gallery artist would: one installation at a time over several years! And it"s a musical to boot!

Though she was too young to have fully grasped firsthand the era she grew up in being emulated, she says this worked to her advantage because it made her bring a similarly innocent POV she claims most of the films back then were largely driven by, clumsily breaking taboos and forging virgin sexual frontiers!.--Rick Trembles


THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR

Viva is an exquisitely designed, lush, 35mm epic mash note to classic 70s exploitation (written, directed, starring, edited, production designed, even animated!) by a one-woman powerhouse named Anna Biller. Ostensibly about a bored sheltered housewife named Barbi (played by Biller with perpetual cocked eyebrow and pouted lips) who transforms into "Viva" upon plunging headfirst into the sexual revolution, the film is equal parts homage and critique as Biller both honors that period through meticulous detail and comments on it with 20/20 hindsight.

But first the production itself - which is a dazzling feast for the eyes with every shade of every color of the rainbow seeming to pop up somewhere. From vintage "Playboy" magazines to chartreuse shag rugs, from checked polyester suits with open shirts to lion's head medallions, from cologne and cocktails to green Jell-o, "Viva" is nothing less than a treasure chest of nostalgia! And adrift among the hyper-real wreck is Biller's Barbi who, after her husband Rick leaves her at precisely the same moment her best friend Sheila splits up from her hubby Mark, embarks on an odyssey à la Terry Southern's camp icon Candy (only with a female empowerment touch, as Barbi desperately attempts to explore her sexuality on her own terms). In other words, Barbi-turned-Viva serves as an unwitting magnet to all the sexual energy of the 70s - and both profits from it and suffers as a result. ("There's nothing I like more than being wet," Barbi innocently announces early on as she takes a dip in would-be-swingers Sheila and Mark's pool.)

But beneath all the hippies and hair, makeup and music lies a film bubbling with ridiculous humor and serious heart.

In short, Viva is as addictively campy as the film's centerpiece costume ball/orgy is outrageous, with African drummers mixing with naked nymphos blending with Mae West wannabes (or rather, one Mae West wannabe - a cameo by Biller's very own mom). After a sleazebag tells Viva that she turns him on she wearily retorts, "I turn you on, I turn everybody on." Viva is great camp because it's so over the top - pushes the envelope in all directions - while remaining dryly and wickedly deadpan. As the slimy theater producer Arthur puts it, "This is going to be the freshest thing since Liberace." I couldn't agree more. Viva is the ultimate post-millennial midnight movie...[more]--Lauren Wissot


PHILADELPHIA CITY PAPER

Everything in excess is Anna Biller's MO. Written, directed and starring the L.A. filmmaker, Viva is a painstakingly accurate depiction of late '60s/early '70s exploitation cinema. (Think Russ, Radley, Doris, Herschell, etc.) Biller plays Barbi, a doll-like, dejected housewife whose inattentive hubby drives her to seek affection elsewhere: at the neighbors' house, in a brothel, at the hairdresser's, in a nudist colony, at an orgy, and any other place that obliges pretty, naked ladies. Viva has all the trappings of a cult classic--plasticine acting, absurd dialogue, fabulous costumes--which is good news for midnight moviegoers. Everything in excess, indeed. --Ashlea Halpern


BALTIMORE METROMIX

From the outset, "Viva" is a beautifully stylized film, embracing the '70s sexploitation aesthetic in all its polyester glory. Though the soundtrack's porn-style jams imply ensuing hard-core action, "Viva" stops shy of such degrading on-screen behavior, and relies instead on lots and lots of nudity and an endless barrage of sexual imagery to document Viva's sexual awakening.

Viva's exploration lands her in multiple positions (pun very much intended), presenting herself and her companion in this sex-fueled picaresque as lovers, sinners, swingers, victims, friends and mothers. For Anna Biller, whose work on the film included writing, directing, costume designing and starring, the topic seems a natural fit. For all its campy one-liners and plot turns, "Viva" remains true to Barbi's discoveries.

Sure, "Viva" provides wonderful eye candy, but it isn't just an indie skin flick. It's an indie skin flick with a moral.--Mark Gross


DAILY TIGER

Pour yourself a Pink Pussycat, put on your go-go boots and plunge into vibrant Planet Viva! In VIVA (USA, 2007), a delightful retro-styled sex comedy inspired by Seventies-era Playboy magazines and advertisements, filmmaker Anna Biller appropriates the sexploitation genre for her own means, using it to tell the humorous story of a woman's journey through the jungle of the sexual revolution... [more]


PERTH FILM FESTIVAL

The new "sex cult comedy" is here! Just when you thought the art of the cult movie was dead, along comes Viva to give it the kiss of life - with lips covered in sticky pink lip-gloss and blue eye shadow to match!!

Responsible for this resurrection is writer-director-star Anna Biller. Fearlessly she has reworked the 70s sexploitation comedy into something we can laugh at in delight, recoil from in shock and marvel at with 30 years hindsight. Its lurid production design is torn from the pages of 70s furniture catalogues, its sexual politics from the pages of 70s Playboy.

Biller plays housewife Viva. Permanently clad in sheer negligées, Viva yearns for a life beyond looking after her man Rick (Chad England) and sitting around the pool reading 'sophisticated' magazines. She and best friend Sheila (Bridget Brno) decide the only path to true sexual revolution is to 'become prostitutes'. Orgies, singing hippy communes and swingers parties ensue, with plenty of gratuitous nudity!!

Recalling the work of Doris Wishman, John Waters and Russ Meyer, Biller's film is hilarious - an instant a hit on the international festival circuit. So wrong, yet so right, Viva is a minor masterpiece destined for cult movie history. --Megan Spencer


VC FILMFEST

VIVA is also not lacking for explicit sex and decadence, but unlike another nominally hedonistic film of recent vintage (SHORTBUS by John Cameron Mitchell), VIVA is feminist filmmaking that knows its strengths and limitations, and works within those parameters to turn the whole paradigm of feminist liberation upside down... [more]--Abe Ferrer


DOOMED MOVIETHON

Ah 1972, when men were men and women were their doormats. Biller's delirious version of the sexual revolution is delightfully ironic. Taking cues from Playboy and other men's magazines of the age, the world of Viva is a fever dream of a bygone era that never really existed. With commercials for liquor and tobacco written into the script, it's a trash mag (equal parts hilarious and disturbing) come to life!

Imagine Beyond the Valley of the Dolls soaked in kerosene and set afire with a flame thrower and you might have an idea of what Viva is like. Saturated with sex and nudity, this delirious film even has musical numbers and a trippy animated sequence that would have been right at home in a sleazy softcore romp from the early 70s. With a dedicated cast and a director with an unshakeable grasp on her vision, I can't help but wholeheartedly recommend Viva to anyone with a taste for excessive camp or even just a perverse sense of humor.


BALTIMORE METROMIX INTERVIEW

With "Viva," Anna Biller does it all: Writing, directing, set and costume design and acting. (Yes, she does nude scenes. It'd be difficult to make a film exploring the sexual revolution of the 1970s without them, don't you think?) Speaking with Biller over the phone, she shared her thoughts about checking out Playboy, being a sex goddess and taking it all off....[more]--Mark Gross


GLAMCULT INTERVIEW

No, the IFFR does not program porno, as the Viva promo-poster may lead you to believe. In Viva, a film by director ANNA BILLER that takes place in the 1970's, the dissatisfied housewife Barbi is seduced into prostitution, with all of its consequences. Biller, who was inspired for the film by vintage Playboys and sexploitation films from the 1970's, has produced a particularly colorful film... [more]--Hanka Van Der Voet


DAILY TIGER INTERVIEW

Anna Biller's marvelous debut film VIVA is a highly stylized pastiche of advertisements and sexploitation films from the sixties and seventies. Biller was not only responsible for the directing, but for practically everything, including vacuuming the sets...[more]--Kees Driessen


POLLYSTAFFLE INTERVIEW--"THE NAKED FILMMAKER"

PollyStaffle.com had the chance to talk with Biller via phone for close to two hours and the talented filmmaker opened up about the project. Biller talked nudity, how the film has been misunderstood, sexploitation, exploitation, Russ Meyer, Quentin Tarantino and more...{more}


UPTOWN MAGAZINE

As a women's studies university minor I am so fatigued - that is, 'made anticipatory' - by contemporary feminist filmmaking sometimes. It's just not enough that Marlo Campbell and the rare cinematic theory about women's issues are often all a boy has to go on. This absence bothered me until recently, when I watched Anna Biller's 1970s sex(ual-revolution)ploitation homage, Viva - which opens Cinematheque's Late Night Cinema series, this weekend. Watching the lush attention to set-dressing paid by Biller and her crew of pastiche-perfect artists, one is instantly transported back in time to the palatial orgy salons of Radley Metzger's Lickerish Quartet or Score. The mimicry so camp-ily nails the tropes of the early 1970s sexploitation genre that I thought Cinematheque had stumbled upon a lost auteur of the era.

Biller's tale of a housewife who sets out on an adventure in the spirit of good old-fashioned Women's Lib is fun, funny and transcendently profound. Adding to the contextual layers of Biller's tribute/critique is the fact that she plays the lead, Barbi (aka liberated 'Viva') - whose encounters run the gamut of 'liberation' exercises: modeling for fancy artists, working as a call girl, getting raped by a capitalist pig-male, and even dabbling in hippie nudist colonies. What's so exciting about Viva is that Biller's crafted a trans-historical masterpiece of the era to live amongst the 'feminist' acts of Pam Grier in Foxy Brown. As Barbi cavorts in and out of the strange new social codes of the era, she comes to learn hard lessons about idealized communities, glorified freedom and the deep love of her husband, and partner, Rick. But these lessons, with the benefit of decades of actual elapsed time, lend an erudition to now-classic women's issues that is largely absent from most films of the era. Thanks to Anna Biller, history might still be re-written. -–Walter Forsberg


BALTIMORE CITY PAPER INTERVIEW

Over the past decade, filmmaker Anna Biller has made a series of visually rich and provocative films. Her shorts, including "Three Examples of Myself as Queen" and "A Visit From the Incubus," have garnered both rabid praise and visceral disdain from festival audiences, largely due to her recurrent themes of female pleasure and empowerment. Biller's feature debut, Viva, is already drawing considerable critical praise both for its political wit and visual style, which borrows from brightly colored 1970s sexploitation movies... [more]