Wanda (film)

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Wanda
Wanda1970.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Barbara Loden
Produced by Harry Shuster
Written by Barbara Loden
Starring Barbara Loden
Michael Higgins
Cinematography Nicholas Proferes
Edited by Nicholas Proferes
Release dates
1970
Running time
102 min.
Country U.S.A.
Language English

Wanda is an independent 1970 drama film that was written and directed by Barbara Loden, who also stars in the title role. It is set in the anthracite coal region of eastern Pennsylvania.

The film played at the 31st Venice International Film Festival where it won the Pasinetti Award for Best Foreign Film. A special restored version of the film was played at the 67th Venice International Film Festival out of competition.[1]

Plot[edit]

Wanda Goronski, an unhappy housewife, stays on her sister's couch after leaving her husband. Showing up to a court divorce hearing late she renounces her rights to her children and grants her husband a divorce.

Unable to find work she sleeps with a stranger only to be abandoned by him the morning after when he drives off after leaving her at a rest stop along the highway. With rapidly dwindling funds Wanda takes a nap in a movie theatre only to be robbed during the movie. Afterwards she enters a bar in order to use the bathroom and makes conversation with the man behind the counter assuming he's the bartender. Unbeknownst to her, the man has just robbed the bar. Unable to rid himself of her the man, Norman Dennis, takes Wanda with him on the run. Though he is abusive and controlling Wanda decides to stay by his side even after discovering he is a criminal.

Dennis eventually persuades Wanda to aid him in a bank heist. Dennis is shot and killed during the heist while Wanda, who was to meet Dennis outside the bank, is able to escape undetected.

Wanda is then picked up by a stranger who tries to sexually assault her, fighting him off she scrambles through the woods. She ends up in front of a bar where a group of strangers ply her with alcohol and cigarettes.

Production[edit]

Barbara Loden stated that the film was semi-autobiographical and that she was inspired to write it after reading a newspaper report that a woman had thanked a judge after he sentenced her to prison. Her husband Elia Kazan claimed to have written the movie but that " she rewrote it many times, and it became hers."[2]

The movie was shot using on a budget of roughly $100,000 and using a crew of four: Loden, editor/cinematographer Nicholas Proferes, Lars Hedman doing lighting/sound, and assistant Christopher Cromin.[3] Loden and Michael Higgins were the only two professional actors used in the production and most of their scenes were a result of improv between the two.[4]

Reception[edit]

Despite its warm reception at the 31st Venice International Film Festival Wanda received little attention in the U.S.

The film is a favourite of actress Isabelle Huppert and she championed its release in France in 2004 on DVD.[5] Gucci and The Film Foundation collaborated on a restoration of the film for the 67th Venice International Film Festival.

The restored version currently holds a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[6]

The film is referenced in Rachel Kushner's 2013 novel The Flamethrowers.

Evaluation[edit]

The film is improvisational in style and meditative in nature, similar to the works of European directors like Robert Bresson. It is seldom seen, but strongly admired. Loden, the wife of director Elia Kazan, died from cancer before she had an opportunity to make another film. But the legacy of Wanda, one of the very few American feature films directed by a woman at that time, endures.

The film has been cited as a favorite by filmmaker John Waters, who presented it as his annual selection within the 2012 Maryland Film Festival.

Further reading[edit]

  • Melton, Ruby, "Barbara Loden on Wanda—'An Environment that Is Overwhelmingly Ugly and Destructive'", Film Journal v. 1, no. 2 (summer 1971), pp. 11–15.
  • Reynaud, Bérénice, “For Wanda”, in The Last Great American Picture Show, Thomas Elsaesser, Alexander Horwath and Noel King, eds, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004, 223-247 <also published in Senses of Cinema>

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Out of Competition WANDA (1970) [SPECIAL SCREENING] - BARBARA LODEN". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Taylor, Kate. "Driven by Fierce Visions of Independence". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  3. ^ McCourt, Kate. "Who Was Barbara Loden?". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Longworth, Karina. "ONE-HIT WANDA". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Paley, Tony. "London film festival puts a trailblazing film called Wanda back on the road". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 
  6. ^ "WANDA (1971)". Retrieved 15 March 2015. 

External links[edit]