Though Barbara Loden, born in North Carolina in 1932 --and at one point Elia Kazan's wife-- is not listed in most reference works, her "Wanda" ought to have put her there. Written, directed and starring Loden, this is the tale of a drifter who leaves her family, has meaningless one-night stands with men who pick her up, becomes the temporary hostage of a hold-up thief who's not quite all there, then becomes his mistress and accomplice in crime, only to find herself alone again and drifting again.
Film is told with understated, calm and dead-on-target accuracy, paints an unforgettably poignant portrait of Wanda and the shabby circles she moves in, of a certain America of aimless losers. It was shot in 16mm then blown up to 35mm --something uncommon for features in those days. Shot in real locations throughout, entirely un-slick, totally verisimilar and sincere, with a sometimes rough look, it makes you forget that this is a movie but feel instead that you are somehow peering into real lives. "Wanda," in fact, does not fit any familiar film category, whether docudrama, cinema-verite, grungy realism or verismo. Justly and unanimously praised by critics and public, seen mostly in festivals and special showings, it won the FIPRESCI (International Critics' Association) Prize at the Venice Festival. This still little-known classic was the first and last film made by Barbara Loden, who died prematurely in 1980. (Edwin Jahiel)
Copyright © Edwin Jahiel
Movie Reviews by Edwin Jahiel