Barbara Loden, Michael Higgins, Dorothy Shupenes, Peter Shupenes,
Cited by Jonathan Rosenbaum as one of the one hundred greatest American films ever made, Loden’s neorealist gem centers on her brilliant performance as a rural Pennsylvanian housewife who embarks upon a flight to nowhere, traveling through an American landscape of decrepit factories, two-lane wastelands, and ratty motels. Dragged seemingly by the wind into a relationship with a small-time crook (Michael Higgins), Loden’s Wanda floats through her life as if a witness to it, a view of desperation filtered through a tinted windshield. Loden’s creative partner in the production was cinematographer/editor Nicholas T. Proferes, who, crucially, emerged from the then-vital tradition of cinema verité. With its location shooting, existing light cinematography, long takes, and extensive use of nonactors, Wanda functions at one level as pure documentary. Loden’s and Higgins’s brilliant acting performances are held in perfect balance by both the nonactors who surround them and Proferes’s photography of small-town Pennsylvania. Proferes’s verité origins ultimately fuse with Loden’s expert direction in one of the most authentic visions of Middle America committed to screen.