Wanda (1971, Barbara Loden)

screened Sunday, January 28 2007 on DVD in Brooklyn NY IMDb

My pal salmau suggested that I just watch a movie without writing anything about it, and I am taking this opportunity to do so. But I will say that this movie, though a bit rough-going at parts, gets under your skin and stays with you. One thought I had -- Bonnie and Clyde was one of my favorite films as a kid; would I consider it rather juvenile today, esp. compared to a film like this, that has a more three-dimensional sense of space, place and character?

yes/YES (#6 for 1971 between Pakeezah and Walkabout)

Some key reviews and essays online:

Berenice Reynaud for Senses of Cinema - gives a heartfelt account of the film within the contexts of Loden's life and feminist cinema.

From review by Tom Sutpen for Flickhead:

there really hadn’t been an American film centered around the character of a working class female since Joan Crawford waited tables with extravagant sincerity in Mildred Pierce—and even then one could hardly call the depiction clinical. It was a social archetype that Hollywood (and most independent cinema, if the truth be told) had never proven terribly eager to pursue. Yet throughout Wanda, Barbara Loden managed to strike, and sustain, a phenomenal note of verisimilitude. Hers is not a performance of great nuance, but it also never strays into the realm of sloven proletarian caricature. She is, all in all, a woman left spiritually and psychically numb by the totality of her existence (smacked in the face at one point, it takes her a full minute before she can work up a slightly irritated “Hey, that hurt”). She doesn’t drift through life, life drifts through her; as if the dearest survival could only be found in the deepest passivity.

Jeremy Heilman at Movie Martyr:

Watching as Wanda drifts from one coal town to another, attaching herself to whoever will have her, it might be tempting to read her shirking of the roles of mother and wife as a feminist move. Loden is careful to never suggest anything so deliberate on Wanda’s part, though. Although she might appear to be a free woman, she is best described as meek and clearly still has emotional dependencies that bind her to others.

This tendency is made apparent in the second half of the film, in which Wanda all but forces herself onto Mr. Dennis, a petty criminal who, under his gruff exterior, turns out to have complimentary needs. From this point, Wanda turns out to be one of the more perceptive studies of co-dependence that I’ve seen.

Erasing Clouds:

The sheer cohesion obtained by the editing rhythm, which is slow but tight, keeps this film on track. Some scenes are dragged into embarrassment, shared with the main character, but suddenly sharp, abrupt, cinema vérité-style cutting releases the tension that is soon regained. A strangle-release cinematic approach.

A great collection of screen captures from the film can be found here.