A very rare screening for Barbara Loden’s only film as director, a forgotten masterpiece which as only recently taken its rightful place in the canon. Loden was an actress protege of Elia Kazan (she became his wife), but her handful of film roles can only hint at the sensitivity and depth which bloomed in this vérité-style portrait of an inarticulate country girl – played by Loden herself – who takes up with a petty thief (“It’s the anti-Bonnie and Clyde“, Loden said).
Opportunities for women in directors in Hollywood were almost non-existent for most of the studio era (actress Ida Lupino was a notable exception). In the 70s things began to change, but painfully slowly. In our Ragged Glory: Summer in the 70s season we feature films directed by Elaine May (A New Leaf, The Heartbreak Kid and Mikey and Nicky), Joan Tewkesbury (Old Boyfriends), and Claudia Weill (Girlfriends), as well as important films centred on women, like Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence, Jane Fonda in Klute and Sally Field in Norma Rae, but for the most part American movies in this era remained a boys’ club.
A revelation… Here was an American movie that picked up where Italian neorealism had left off, applying its moral principles and aesthetics to rural American backwaters, with an absence of the sentimentality that had derailed so many postwar European films. Here was an American depiction of outlaws that refused to glamorize (think of Wanda as Loden’s retort to Bonnie and Clyde and to Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie as a fashion icon). And most importantly, here was a feminist film that made visible a woman who had internalized society’s contempt for her so deeply that it was impossible for her to speak or act for herself.
Writer-director-actor Barbara Loden’s 1970 feature has a wonderful, hard-won sense of everyday rapture.
Chuck Bowen, Slant
If there is a female counterpart to John Cassavetes, Barbara Loden is it.
Richard Brody, The New Yorker
Wanda is precisely the kind of independent, deeply personal project that American film making badly needs.
Jay Cocks, Time (1971)
Nicholas T. Proferes
Nicholas T. Proferes