The Icarus Films DVD of the 2017 Chinese drama "The Widowed Witch" helps bring one of the most stylized and bizarre (not to mention honestly cynical) films in the past few years to North American audiences. Whether "Witch" casts its spell on you partially depends on whether you believe in magic (i.e., whether you believe that you believe that you do.) A related note is that if your mission is magic,your love will shine through.
The accolades for this bizarre comically tragic mash-up of the '60scoms "Bewitched" and "The Andy Griffith Show" include director/writer Cai Chengjie winning the coveted Tiger Award at the 2018 Rotterdam International Film Festival. Star Tian Tian equally deserves the Best New Actress trophy that she brings home from the 2018 Chinese Young Generation Film Forum.
The visually artistic elements of "Witch" extend beyond the very sharp cinematography to the shifts between color and black-and-white with some scenes having elements of both. The symbolical use of this technique expands on the use of it in the 1998 Tobey Maguire film "Pleasantville," which also has a strong connection with "TV Land" series.
The real action begins after a prologue. The camera is from the POV of the titular sorceress Er Hao, who newly is a three-time loser regarding husbands. She is paralyzed and initially silently witnesses the conclusion of the ritual that is credited with saving her life.
Er Hao soon learns of Husband Number Three dying in an explosion at his fireworks factory that also is the home of the couple. The ensuing violation is almost as sickening to the viewer as it is to Er Hao.
The rest of the story is that young Er Hao having buried three husbands is a major factor regarding the superstitious rubes in her rural village both believing that she is a witch and shunning her based on that conclusion.
A homeless Er Hao soon discovers that her only options for shelter involve requiring that she allow men who hold the keys to have their way with her, This is the first of many instances in "Witch" in which someone with something to gain does not mind consorting with a bride of Satan if that association involves a benefit.
These desperate times drive (pun intended) Er Hao and her deaf 10 year-old brother-in-law to take up residence in a panel van. It soon becomes clear that that downfall does not satisfy some angry villagers. An early confrontation indicates that Cai Chenjie is a fan of "Back to the Future III."
The interpretation of the results of a hilarious oversight by Er Hao in this portion of the film further establishes her cred, as a magical being; other humor relates to the aforementioned shifting sentiments regarding whether our lead is a good witch or a bad witch.
Er Hao fully plays the survival game when charged with ridding a home of a spirit; the rubes readily accept her statement that that ghost busting requires an extended stay in the house,
The best flip-flopping is saved for last; we really see that an irate mob has no shame when the locals come looking for help after inflicting a humiliating punishment on Er Hao related to the same manner in which they essentially asking that she twitch her nose and put right what once went wrong at the hands of the supplicants.
The nature of this film that is made far from California makes it just as likely that it lacks a Hollywood ending as it is that Er Hao marries a loving advertising executive and raises a family with him in the suburbs.
As indicated early in this post and as shown throughout, the primary appeal of "Witch" beyond the exceptional surface elements is the mirror that reflects every society. "Respectable" people are very quick to spit on outcasts until they almost inevitable require assistance from that undesirable.