With her first and only feature film—a gritty drama she wrote, directed, and starred in—Barbara Loden (1932–1980) created a groundbreaking, pre-feminist work of American independent cinema.
Set in a soot-choked Pennsylvania landscape, and shot in an intensely intimate vérité style, the film introduces the distant and soft-spoken Wanda (Loden), who has left her husband and lost custody of her children. Alone, drifting between dingy bars and motels, she encounters a series of men, including a bank robber who ropes her into his next scheme. Recently restored, Wanda is a compassionate and indelible portrait that has influenced generations of artists and filmmakers.
“Wanda is so true: It really hits you between the eyes.” —Sight and Sound
“Cited as one of the 100 greatest American films ever made, Barbara Loden’s Neorealist gem centers on her brilliant performance as a rural Pennsylvania housewife on a flight to nowhere, traveling through an American landscape of decrepit factories, two-lane wastelands, and ratty motels. Dragged into a relationship with a small-time crook (Michael Higgins), Wanda seems to possess a view of desperation filtered through a tinted windshield. Loden’s creative partner was cinematographer/editor Nick Proferes, who emerged from the then-vital tradition of cinema vérité. The brilliant lead acting performances are held in perfect balance by the nonactors who surround them and Proferes’s photography of small-town Pennsylvania.” —2012 UCLA Festival of Preservation Tour