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In the coal mining region of Pennsylvania, Wanda Goronski is constantly drinking to shut out the problems in her life. Having deserted her husband and infant children, Wanda sleeps on her sister's couch - when she isn't sleeping with the latest man who bought her a drink - and is unemployed with no long term job prospect. Her drinking and her life in combination have made her an emotionless woman. Her life changes when she meets Norman Dennis in a bar. She initially believes he's the bartender, but in reality he's a petty criminal who just held up the bar in question. Even after she learns Mr. Dennis' occupation and despite he treating her poorly, she willingly goes along with him and his petty crimes as a way to get through life. Mr. Dennis, on the other hand, sees her as a conduit to bigger and better things. Although things don't turn out quite the way either of the two envision, Wanda does at least begin to feel once again. Written by
TCM made its debut showing of Wanda tonight -- which also happens to be the day Barbara Loden passed away in 1980. Coincidence or not, this film just blew me away. No doubt the cinema verite feel -- and sense of grittiness -- is enhanced by use of the hand-held 16mm camera and having the print blown up to 35mm. That grainy enlargement process just adds to the feel of the dying rust belt goal region around Scranton circa 1970. The image of Wanda, dressed in white, walking through the barren landscape of mined out areas and the piles of black coal and slag around her, is surreal. It's a jarring image, an angel gliding amidst decay. Is she flotsam on the ebb tide, with no course or direction? The fact she participates in the hostage taking of the banker's family shows she has some resolve, when called upon to make a choice. I could watch this movie a dozen more times and find something new each time. The long-gone scenes of Woolworth's and other extinct businesses just adds to the melancholia for me. A must see, and re-see, and I wish Ms. Loden had left us with more films she directed.
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