director Barbara Loden
Wanda is sincerely amazing. Barbara Loden’s directorial debut, in which she stars (and which she also wrote), is a remarkable film, far more obscure than it deserves to be.
I’d quite recently read about it in Sarah Weinman’s article about the film and its true crime inspiration (The True Crime Story Behind a 1970 Cult Feminist Film Classic). Reading about how much Barbara Loden identified with her beaten-down protagonist and Loden’s own all too brief life, imbues Wanda with further tragedy but also with a prime sense of accomplishment.
The films that came to mind while watching Wanda were interestingly mostly films that came after it: Badlands (1973), A Woman Under the Influence (1974), Killer of Sheep (1978). Only Blast of Silence (1961), which also echoed for me somewhere predates Wanda.
Wanda starts out in rural Pennsylvania, where she borrows some money, allows her kids to be taken by the court and her ex-husband, and flows through bars into lonely places, random men, movie houses (the 1962 Mexican horror film The Brainiac was on the marquee!), she stumbles into a partnership with a sleazy middle aged lowlife who looks a lot like James Ellroy.
“I don’t like friendly people.”
A truly remarkable picture.