Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

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Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wanda (Barbara Loden, 1971)

Put Wanda in the forgotten classics hall of fame. Barbara Loden made this landmark of independent cinema in 1971, and it was one of the first films directed by a woman given wide theatrical release. It is the improvisational, intensely personal story of Wanda, who has deserted her husband and children and eventually falls in with a small-time criminal, accompanying him on a robbery that can only end in tragedy. Loden herself plays Wanda, and it's such a remarkably personal and realistic performance. The film, with its intense realism and lack of famous actors, feels almost like a documentary. It's not in any way polished, nor, at times, very compelling, but that's what life is like. Wanda's life is depressing and dead-end (she cannot even find a job in a textile factory because she is, according to the boss, too slow), and so is the movie, right down to the last shot.

The film was shot in Kodachrome, making the colors washed-out and real. There is one notable shot, several minutes long, of Wanda in a white coat walking across a dingy landscape of dirt. She has no recognizable beginning or destination, but walks nonetheless. This is the problem of the second-wave woman, not that Wanda is a feminist, or even a strong person, but that there are some feelings that many women share. I am not an essentialist in any way, but watching this movie, I had the feeling that I had seen it before, or that I knew it in some way. That's how Wanda touched me.

All those brilliant qualities aside, the exact lack of compelling action at times stopped me from loving it outright. But I think Wanda is a movie that doesn't want you to love it; rather, it gives the audience a problem with no solution. Barbara Loden died at 48, giving the world only this film, but what a legacy: this film precludes both much of independent cinema and feminist/female-directed cinema. This is certainly a film that deserves to be seen, and to be seen widely.


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