Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Noirsville Gif Of The Week

Noirsville Pulp Fiction/Title Art Of The Week

Wanda (1970) Woman's Noir, Road Noir

Barbara Loden wrote, directed and starred, in Wanda.

This is no fairy godmother story. Wanda is not pretty picture. She's a total mess. It's about a woman who has given up on everything, on her husband, her children, and life. She's an alcoholic. She's an alienated loser. She sleeps on the couch at her sisters house. Is she mildly retarded?

She bums money from her barely scratching by father who is reduced to picking through slag piles for chunks of coal that he can sell. She's late for her custody hearing at divorce court. She tells the judge she doesn't want her kids and that they'd be better off with her husband. A depressing tale set in the disintegrating communities in the coal mining country of Pennsylvania.

The cinematography was by Nicholas T. Proferes. The rest of the cast consists of Michael Higgins (Terror In The City (1964), The Conversation (1974), Angel Heart (1987)) as Norman Dennis, Frank Jourdano as The soldier, Valerie Manches as The girl in the roadhouse, Dorothy Shupenes as Wanda's sister, Peter Shupenes as Wanda's brother-in-law, Jerome Thier as Wanda's husband, Marian Thier as Miss Godek, Anthony Rotell as Tony, and M. L. Kennedy as the Judge.

Wanda (Loden)
Wanda can't find work as a seamstress at the local clothing factory because she's too slow. She spends her time in the local dive bars sipping on beers. She gets picked up by a traveling salesman looking to get his noodle wet. He takes her to a motel. In the morning he silently tries to slip out on her. he bumps against a suitcase stand.  Naked, Wanda wakes up, gets quickly dressed, and hops in his car. He whisks her out of Carbondale.

that's a great look Wanda sure to impress the judge

The salesman thinks she's hot

At a soft ice cream stand the salesman speeds off ditching Wanda as soon as she gets out of the car. With barely any money Wanda buys a movie ticket and dozes off in the theater. She is awakened by the cleaning man at closing. She discovers that she was robbed of what little money she had in her sleep.

ditching Wanda
Wandering around the streets she enters a bar at closing time, she has to use the john. There she meets Norman Dennis (Higgins) who she thinks is the bartender but is really a petty thief.

Norman, just before Wanda walked in, conked the real bartender over the head. The barkeep is laying out of sight behind the bar. Norman is robbing the cash register. When Wanda comes out of the john she asks for a beer. Norman serves it to her. She fancies him. Another wrong direction. When done he takes her with him out of the bar and on the run.

Dennis Norman (Higgins)

Hey this guy looks like a good match......

Wanda is extremely pliant and Norman is creepily abusive. A good match for trouble. Wanda and Norman go on a low key spree, boosting items of clothing from unlocked vehicles. Hot wiring cars, etc., etc. Things go Noirsville when Norman decides to go big time with his "partner" and cooks up scheme to rob a bank using a fake bomb and the bank president's family as hostages.


Wanda's sister

Coal Country

'57 Chevy

boosted clothes

the fake bomb

The film is a nice snapshot of 1970 Carbondale and Scranton, Pennsylvania that is not ever going to appear on any tourist postcards. The movie was shot on 16mm stock, using a budget of about $100,000 with a crew of four: Loden, cinematographer and editor  Nicholas Proferes, Lars Hedman for lighting and sound, and production assistant Christopher Cromin.

Barbara Loden died young and who knows what else she would have accomplished. At the 31st Venice International Film Festival, Wanda won the International Critics' Prize for Best Film. Noir light 7/10.