USA, 1970 (MIFF 1971, Programme 23)
Director: Barbara Loden
Wanda is a nowhere person in a nowhere world: one who lets events and circumstances pick her up and carry her along unprotesting, to be deposited at random at whatever bend or turn in the road fate may deem opportune.
She has no glamour, is unintelligent and incompetent, yet her rootless existence on the fringes of society assumes a shining innocence that seems to thrive on misfortune. Laconically agreeing that she is a lousy, lazy housewife and mother. Wanda drifts blandly from divorce into a life of petty crime; stealing a car here, thieving there, and even attempting a bank hold-up. She experiences transient relationships with men, and for a while, through a liaison with a small-time crook, even a kind of loving.
Her existence, almost inconsequential, exemplifies a total inability to cope with and relate to the world in which she lives.
In her debut as director, Barbara Loden, wife of Elia Kazan, won unequivocal praise from European critics for her independently produced work, Wanda, which won the International Critics' prize for the best film at the 1970 Venice Film Festival.
As well as directing Wanda, Miss Loden also wrote the script and played the title role.
Well-known in the U.S. as a Broadway stage actress, she made an impressive screen debut in 1961, with her performance in Elia Kazan's Splendour in the Grass. Since that time, she has been conspicuously absent from the screen, and Wanda marks her reappearance as a formidable talent.
Made on a microscopic budget by actress Barbara Loden, who also appears in the title role, Wanda is precisely the kind of independent, deeply personal project that American film making badly needs.
... Miss Loden manages at time to make the heart ache for Wanda's rootlessness and empty-headed plight. As a director, she captures te ambience of small-time roadhouses with compelling accuracy...
Jay Cocks, Time
... shy elusive charm.
... this is Bonnie and Clyde the way it looked rather than the way it felt.
... Barbara Loden, actress and director, is definitely somebody.
Tom Milne, Sight and Sound
Barbara Loden (Mrs Elia Kazan) shows a calm, dispassionate feel for direction and an insight into the psyche of an inarticulate, ill-educated but not despairing woman as the protagonist of this probing pic about a cultural wasteland alongside affluence.
This is in a U.S. film tradition but without the social blames and castigations and moralizing.
Mosk in Variety
You are simply astounded that something so fresh, good and truthful was made at all.
John Coleman, New Statesman
Pasinetti Prize, International Critics Award, Venice 1970