965 Wanda

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mfunk9786
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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#26 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:41 pm

FrauBlucher wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:38 pm
mfunk9786 wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:32 pm
FrauBlucher wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:04 pm

Ok. I get it if there are those that like it. But to call this a masterpiece is ridiculous. On what level could this be a masterpiece. Acting- no, character development- no way, narrative- uh uh, technical aspect- don’t think so... I’m sure the restoration and bluray will look spiffy, but that is not enough to call it a masterpiece.
Isn't this sort of thing inherently subjective? Those who don't like this film, with talk of shutting out any positive impressions of it or dismantling it with (again, totally subjective) faux-logic are coming off rather poorly in a way that is uncommon on this forum. I say that as someone who might very well end up hating it, but jeez, God forbid other people are celebrating a movie you don't like from 50 years ago (or vice versa!)
I didn't hate it (if I did I would've turned it off). I felt more indifference about it. That being said I certainly don't want to shut out any positive impressions. There are folks who like this and will like it. But for Criterion and Janus to promote this as some kind of masterpiece is silly. As Domino suggests there will be many disappointed due to the exaggerated praise by the two companies.
If there are people within Criterion and outside of Criterion who are hailing it as an underseen masterpiece, why is it silly? I think Pickpocket isn't very good, and would place Brazil on a short list of the worst films I've ever sat through (twice). But is it silly that they're called masterpieces by the many people who consider them that? Of course not.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#27 Post by knives » Sat Aug 04, 2018 10:56 pm

Maybe from their point of view it is not exaggerated?

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#28 Post by charal » Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:50 pm

What surprised me about this film was the fact that a woman can make a film during the 70s feminist period and portray herself as a 'slave' to a horrible chauvanistic loser of a man who, for unknown reasons, has resorted to crime in order to continue with his life. Perhaps the filmmaker wanted to make her feminist statement by 'angering' her audience?

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#29 Post by FrauBlucher » Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:13 am

mfunk9786 wrote: If there are people within Criterion and outside of Criterion who are hailing it as an underseen masterpiece, why is it silly? I think Pickpocket isn't very good, and would place Brazil on a short list of the worst films I've ever sat through (twice).
You’re making my point. There are many films considered masterpieces that I don’t like but I get why they are masterpieces. For instance, Gone With the Wind, masterpiece, I loathe that film but get why it’s a masterpiece. George Stevens’ Giant, don’t care for it but I get why it’s a masterpiece. Visconti’s The Leopard, masterpiece, not a fan, but I get why it’s a masterpiece. I can keep going. The key is to understand greatness even if it’s not to ones liking. I don’t see the greatness in Wanda.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#30 Post by Lost Highway » Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:27 am

Karina Longworth did an episode on Loden in her Dead Blondes series, in which she claimed that Kazan was influenced by Wanda when he did The Visitors. Apparently after Loden's death he took credit for writing the screenplay for Wanda. I've never seen Wanda, always been curios as I love Cassavetes and the likes but as FrauBlucher hates all the classics which I hate, maybe I should just skip it. :D

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#31 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 05, 2018 11:49 am

Lost Highway wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 10:27 am
Karina Longworth did an episode on Loden in her Dead Blondes series, in which she claimed that Kazan was influenced by Wanda when he did The Visitors. Apparently after Loden's death he took credit for writing the screenplay for Wanda.
Well, that at least explains where people thinking this are coming from. That all makes for a compelling narrative, but I'd caution listeners to be weary of accepting all of it as fact

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#32 Post by Colpeper » Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:08 pm

As FrauBlucher said, no masterpiece, because it lacks distinction in any one aspect.

Yet, when I caught a rare and unheralded screening on BBC2 in 1999, it moved me in a way few other films have, for reasons I find hard to pin down. I'm usually wary of the gritty, low-budget style and often find hand-held camera irritating (at least, where there is no need for it), but Loden's central performance in Wanda transcended all that and I empathized with the character more than I ever would have expected.

It's the kind of film to under-sell and let over-deliver. That's the approach I took when, having recorded it to SVHS (long gone), I was eager to show it to friends. One, who rarely took much interest in cinema, was still talking about it days later.

I suppose my response was similar to how I might have reacted to a well honed documentary. I think that's quite hard for fiction to achieve and perhaps Wanda only achieves with a minority of the audience.
mfunk9786 wrote:
Sat Aug 04, 2018 6:42 pm
LQ is teaching a course on this one in November and hopefully at some point will have some educational material to share here for those who do find value in it! Judging from critics & civilians I follow on Letterboxd (and ones I live with), they're indeed out there. I'm waiting to see it in the theater that night.
Excellent. I would be interested in an analysis of how Wanda works its hit-and-miss magic.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#33 Post by domino harvey » Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:37 pm

Colpeper wrote:
Sun Aug 05, 2018 1:08 pm
It's the kind of film to under-sell and let over-deliver.
Indeed, and that's probably true of many films that are more widely considered "masterpieces" as well. Though the Internet was a different place twelve years ago, I don't recall this kind of fevered claims of excellence greeting the DVD when it was first released. I watched it with no expectations not long after the R1 DVD came out, didn't care for it, and mostly vacated any precious mental energy on thinking about it until recently with its reemergence in discussion

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#34 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Aug 20, 2018 5:02 pm

As I promised to do prior to it being officially listed, allow me to share the information for LQ's course on Wanda, taking place at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute right outside of Philadelphia, if anyone's interested:
Bryn Mawr Film Institute wrote: The early 1970s was the heyday of New Hollywood, which saw a wave of younger, often first-time directors getting their starts in the industry and exploding conventions of narrative filmmaking by engaging in experimentation and personal expression. A part of this movement, and also apart from it, is Wanda (1970), one of the most fiercely independent and uncompromising films of the era.

It is a study of the eponymous character—an impoverished, shiftless woman living in rural Pennsylvania—who, after abandoning her family, takes up with a criminal, Mr. Dennis (Michael Higgins). Shot on 16mm film at a cost of $115,000 by a crew of four—led by the film's writer/director/star, Barbara Loden—this female-driven production was a true rarity. Loden was inspired to make the film after reading about the case of Alma Malone, a woman convicted of being an accomplice in a bank robbery who, at her sentencing, thanked the judge for sending her to prison. She also drew inspiration from her own hardscrabble upbringing and experiences of being marginalized by the men in her life.

Loden rose to fame in the early ‘60s, acting in Wild River and Splendor in the Grass, and winning a Tony award for her role in Arthur Miller's After the Fall—all directed by her lover and future husband, Elia Kazan. Despite this success, and the fact that Wanda has languished in semi-obscurity for decades, it is Loden’s only directorial effort that has come to define her legacy. Thanks to its champions, including actress Isabelle Huppert and French director/writer/intellectual Marguerite Duras, and its recent restoration, which showcases the film's gritty visual lyricism and singular cinematic vision, Wanda is beginning to receive the wider admiration it has long deserved. Join us to explore this deeply personal and incredibly rich film.
It's $30 for the course + film or you can just go see the film on its own for the price of a regular ticket - and the screening will feature the new Janus restoration.

Speaking of which, Janus has released an exhaustive series of listings for what amounts to a nationwide tour of said restoration through the fall.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#35 Post by domino harvey » Mon Aug 20, 2018 7:13 pm

Sounds cool, I'd def go if I was local

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#36 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:57 pm

I guess those with more sensitive dispositions (kiddingggg) might need to mute me, because this is very clearly a masterpiece in my view. In an era where feminism seems more divided than ever along class lines, this picture's revival is a timely one - Wanda isn't an aspirational person, she isn't a #GirlBoss, she isn't even a cool sort of failure (David Thewlis in Naked, say) that cinema is often so adept at creating. What she is, though, is someone who doesn't have a superior alternative to shaky, aimless exploration through life. Wanda's humane portrayal of the unique hopelessness of the poor in deeply blue collar America reminds me of Melvin and Howard a decade later, it's the sort of thing that can make an audience member without a parallel experience want to grit and shout at the screen about what the lead character should and shouldn't be doing instead. But the entire point Barbara Loden is making here, in my view, is that Wanda herself has gotten to the point where the journey is far more interesting than the outcomes - she's seen the results that efforts to legitimize or expand the scope of her life have created, and they've been perhaps worse than an uncharted path through apathy and disappointment.

In fact, the point of view through which this film is seen is only Wanda's, and I don't think a male writer or filmmaker could have guessed at what details Loden would be focused upon - even when the stakes are high for Mr. Dennis, the film doesn't seem concerned in the slightest in how he sees things, or why. And by being placed so closely in step with Wanda for the duration of the film, we're forced to reckon with her ability to go with even the most uncomfortable flow - because there's no alternative more appealing, no effort to be made to pull herself up by her bootstraps. Shit - she can't even wear pants without them being thrown out the window.

It's a truly raw portrait of someone who has given up, without any of the self-pity or optimistic glances toward the future that typically are tacked on, particularly in films about women. I loved it.

*Worth mentioning that LQ's discussion and lecture is still ongoing as I write this, and I haven't even had a chance to discuss the film with her as of now. I waltzed in, saw her introduce it briefly, watched it, and waltzed out. So it's not as though I've had someone in my ear trying to nudge me toward feeling some kind of way on this one - I'm actually quite curious as to whether she'll think the above is wacky, having spent so much time researching it and pondering it from an academic lens herself. Perhaps being a little self-conscious by pointing that out, but figured a disclaimer was warranted since my wife was teaching a course in conjunction with my first viewing of it, and it's pretty divisive on this forum.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#37 Post by LQ » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:47 pm

So very sweet of you to pimp my course, mfunk. Probably comes to the surprise of no one that I'm strongly in the masterpiece camp, too. Agree 100% on the strength of the class element you mention, Wanda's place in life at the poorest of the poor rungs of society is the ultimate oppressor here, but her working class existence is never romanticized, politicized or condescended to. It just is. For an impoverished, uneducated woman who was never given the cognitive or social tools to dream there's any other way of life than what she's been dealt, what can she possibly do when something unknown inside of her chafes against that hand?
mfunk9786 wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:57 pm
But the entire point Barbara Loden is making here, in my view, is that Wanda herself has gotten to the point where the journey is far more interesting than the outcomes - she's seen the results that efforts to legitimize or expand the scope of her life have created, and they've been perhaps worse than an uncharted path through apathy and disappointment.
...
It's a truly raw portrait of someone who has given up, without any of the self-pity or optimistic glances toward the future that typically are tacked on, particularly in films about women.
Very well said.

The direction and thematic construction impresses me more and more each time I watch Wanda. She's so frequently conflated with allusions to refuse and trash, utter disposability. Picking her way over slag heaps - not even coal, but the waste from mining coal. Mr Dennis balling up her clothes and shoving them into the Goodwill box, or just tossing them out the moving car window. Or perhaps the most affecting, her picking off the "garbage" from the hamburgers he orders, only noticing her wallet he's tossed in the can after she's likely dropped some drippy onions on top of it first. God, that scene kills me, the indifference with which she digs her fingers into the burgers is just so, so perfectly realized.

I really can't say enough about her performance choices, the way she's always timidly folded into a fetal position, lagging back in doorframes, her awkward gangly walk...always somehow miraculously existing and not existing in space at all. She's like a rodent in a way, a part of the environment but when seen, never wanted, despite her rough beauty. Rodent-like in how she eats, too - her nibbles of that potato chip of the bar (like 6 bites to eat a single chip??). Her performance never, ever feels affected or even premeditated though, she just is Wanda. And Loden's observational distance as a director is so strikingly unsettling, examining herself with measures of self-loathing, resignation, pity and profound understanding, solidarity and care, all at once.

Linking to an essay by Bérénice Reynaud from 2002, For Wanda, which I think does an excellent job at illustrating and analyzing the film's strengths and giving lots of great context.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#38 Post by Colpeper » Sat Dec 01, 2018 2:36 am

I haven't read the Reynaud essay yet, but thanks for these reflections, mfunk and LQ. You have expressed, far better than I could, exactly why I was so taken with Wanda's eponymous characterization.

I felt almost guilty of staring at her misfortune, but was ever such a downtrodden and, above all, such a passive character so compelling?

Her passivity is of course against the grain of conventional screenwriting wisdom but, as you both explained, it is indeed the whole point.
LQ wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:47 pm
... perhaps the most affecting, her picking off the "garbage" from the hamburgers he orders, only noticing her wallet he's tossed in the can after she's likely dropped some drippy onions on top of it first. God, that scene kills me, the indifference with which she digs her fingers into the burgers is just so, so perfectly realized.
The hamburger scene stood out for me too and lingers in the mind nearly 20 years after my viewing.

I don't recall there being much explicit back story, the lack of which renders Loden's portrayal still more remarkable.

Another viewing, via the anticipated Criterion BRD, might nudge me into the masterpiece camp too.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#39 Post by swo17 » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:39 pm


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Re: 965 Wanda

#40 Post by Randall Maysin » Fri Dec 14, 2018 6:45 pm

They should just get it over with and give the spine number to Barbara Loden herself, not her piously boring, uninspired film, which should be a special feature to her. I love her wonderfully raw and eloquent beauty, and she's really fascinating, wonderfully subtle, magnetic, and mysterious in her supporting role in Splendor in the Grass. Criterion should release that instead!!!!!

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Re: 965 Wanda

#41 Post by dwk » Thu Feb 21, 2019 2:44 pm



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Re: 965 Wanda

#43 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 25, 2019 1:09 pm

Hah, I was at the MoMA screening. I should've posted about it but I hadn't gotten in the habit of doing that as a way of preserving the details while my memory was still fresh. FWIW, Tamara Jenkins was also there, and she gave a much better introduction. I'm not sure if she was nervous, but Coppola was an awkward speaker, coming off very stilted and virtually reading her prepared remarks, which didn't say much about the film or give many details about its creation. I think both admitted that they were new to the film and Loden as a filmmaker, and a good portion of Jenkins's remarks was actually based on research for this screening. (The most depressing bit was how Loden died bitter, knowing she would only make one feature film in her lifetime.) Proferes gave an excellent talk, and he invited both D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus to the screening as well. Proferes shot and cut the film, and he gave Pennebaker a lot of credit for influencing the aesthetic as Proferes learned to be a filmmaker from his time working with Pennebaker. No idea if Madonna was there, but I doubt I would have recognized her. (Off-topic, a friend of mine came back from the Village Vanguard once and exclaimed that she saw Elvis Costello and Madonna there at the same table. Seemed like a surprising pairing, but years later, I'm reading Costello's new memoir and he talks about it in passing - he took his father regularly to the Vanguard and Madonna happened to be there one time.)

I just saw the screen grabs on blu-ray.com, and it doesn't look nearly as bad as I feared. It's been too long since I saw the restoration so there's no way I can accurately compare the two, but the screen grabs don't strike me as being drastically different. I can't say if the color's spot on or if a slight teal hue's been added to certain shots (many of the screen grabs don't look teal at all), but the extremely hazy and gauzy look is definitely spot-on.

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Re: Forthcoming: Wanda

#44 Post by jsteffe » Wed Mar 27, 2019 11:27 pm

I just screened this restoration of WANDA on DCP for a series that I am curating, and was delighted with how well it turned out. The reds pop in a particular way that I have only seen in 16mm prints of independent and experimental films.

Also, I have a confession to make: I watched the beginning of the Parlour Pictures DVD before finalizing my decision to program the film, but I had never seen the film before now in its entirely. I can't tell you how glad I am that I was able to discover the film, so to speak, on the big screen. You can put me squarely in the "masterpiece" camp. LQ's earlier post meshes with how I responded to the film:
LQ wrote:
Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:47 pm
The direction and thematic construction impresses me more and more each time I watch Wanda. She's so frequently conflated with allusions to refuse and trash, utter disposability. Picking her way over slag heaps - not even coal, but the waste from mining coal. Mr Dennis balling up her clothes and shoving them into the Goodwill box, or just tossing them out the moving car window. Or perhaps the most affecting, her picking off the "garbage" from the hamburgers he orders, only noticing her wallet he's tossed in the can after she's likely dropped some drippy onions on top of it first. God, that scene kills me, the indifference with which she digs her fingers into the burgers is just so, so perfectly realized.

I really can't say enough about her performance choices, the way she's always timidly folded into a fetal position, lagging back in doorframes, her awkward gangly walk...always somehow miraculously existing and not existing in space at all. She's like a rodent in a way, a part of the environment but when seen, never wanted, despite her rough beauty. Rodent-like in how she eats, too - her nibbles of that potato chip of the bar (like 6 bites to eat a single chip??). Her performance never, ever feels affected or even premeditated though, she just is Wanda. And Loden's observational distance as a director is so strikingly unsettling, examining herself with measures of self-loathing, resignation, pity and profound understanding, solidarity and care, all at once.
The only thing I can add is that an audience member came up to me afterwards and said that he grew up in West Virginia. The film resonated with his experience of people living in coal country during that period. Other people also came up to tell me what an impact it had.

My head is still spinning from the implications of what I have just seen. Even if I am cutting down on my Blu-ray purchases overall these days, this is one title that I will certainly want to own and revisit.

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Re: 965 Wanda

#45 Post by knives » Sun Jan 17, 2021 4:49 pm

I feel a little between camps on this. The style the movie represents isn’t one I like and it’s working class themes don’t seem especially unique either. With that said I do think Loden does do a good job at using the zeitgeist to make this an above average example of those qualities. Like Domino I’ll probably delete this from my mental real estate with time, but I do enjoy it while it’s there.

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