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Wanda

Screening on Film
Recently Restored
Directed by Barbara Loden.
With Michael Higgins, Barbara Loden, Frank Jourdano.
US, 1971, 35mm, color, 102 min.
Print source: UCLA

“If you don't want anything you won't have anything, and if you don't have anything, you're as good as dead.”

Barbara Loden started her Hollywood career as a girl in a bathing suit, getting pies thrown in her face on the Ernie Kovacs Show. But ten years later she fought against all odds and all prejudices to write, direct and star in this extraordinary and nearly forgotten film. The title character is a poor woman in rural Pennsylvania whose ambitions have decreased to zero, having rejected the one thing she is supposed to want: her husband and children. She drifts alone through her life, aimless, numb. At her nadir she meets a man in a bar, who she thinks at first is the bartender, but he’s actually robbing the place. What follows is a grimy, abusive, glamour-free version of Bonnie and Clyde, with a Clyde who’s anything but Warren Beatty. 

Loden’s onscreen creation was something unique, but vitally needed: an instinctual female protagonist who defied all simple explanation, whose desires could barely be expressed much less categorized. It’s the kind of character many male actors were getting to play in that period, but very few actresses. Loden had to create the part for herself. Although the film took a prize at the Venice Film Festival, Loden never made another movie.

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