I wrote about this extraordinary movie for the Guardian here when it was screened at the London Film Festival two years ago. This is a rare showing, under the baner of the Little White Lies weekend at the ICA Cinema, celebrating 50 years of movie-making.
Here is the ICA introduction:
Barbara Loden will be known by many as the spouse and one-time muse of director Elia Kazan, appearing in a string of small but vital roles for his early ‘60s movies Wild River and Splendour In The Grass. As her acting work slowly petered out, she took it upon herself to rebel against the studio system by writing, directing and starring in a 16mm, independently shot drama that would exist entirely outside the mainstream.
Wanda explores the tragic life and times of an itinerant Pennsylvanian wife and mother who decides to ditch everything and hook up with an abusive petty criminal. This new restoration by the UCLA Film and TV archive offers the chance to discover Loden’s remarkable film anew, a harrowing masterpiece which deserves a place among the classics of cinema.
Time Out review:
A remarkable one-off from Elia Kazan's wife. Shot in 16mm and blown up to 35, it's a subtly picaresque movie about the wanderings of a semi-destitute American woman. Directing herself, Barbara Loden manages to make the character at once completely convincing in her soggy and directionless amorality, yet gradually sympathetic and even heroic. After a desultory involvement with a bank robber, to whom she becomes attached despite his unpredictable temper, Wanda botches everything - having agreed to drive a getaway car for him - by getting lost in a traffic jam; and our last glimpse of her is back on the road, being picked up in a bar. The film is all the more impressive for its refusal to get embroiled in half-baked political attitudinising; it's good enough to make one regret that the director/star produced nothing else before her untimely death from cancer.
You can see excerpts from the film here and above.