Reviews

Wanda x 3

Michael Hayward

I finally got around to watching Barbara Loden’s 197 film Wanda (Criterion), a film I’d been hearing about for ages. Made at a time where there were few active women directors, and fewer still who could find funding for a feature-length independent film, Loden wrote the screenplay for, acted in, and directed a thoroughly absorbing film in which the central figure is a complicated woman who is not just the foil for a leading man. Nathalie Léger’s Suite for Barbara Loden is a book-length meditation on Loden, her film and the themes which thread through it. Suite is translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer and Cécile Menon, and published by the Dorothy Project, a feminist small press based in St. Louis, Missouri, named for “its editor’s great-aunt Dorothy Traver, a librarian, rose gardener, animal lover, children’s book author and bookmobile driver.” In the book, we learn that Loden saw herself in Wanda Goronski, her film’s central character, and that the screenplay was based on the newspaper account of a woman who, convicted of being an accomplice to bank robbery, thanked the judge for her twenty-year sentence. “What pain, what hopelessness could make a person desire to be put away? How could imprisonment be relief?” The third of our Wandas is Wanda, a novella by the late Barbara Lambert, set in BC’s Okanagan at the start of WWII, and published by Fish Gotta Swim Editions. Lambert’s Wanda is a brash seven-year-old refugee from the London Blitz, who arrives in the Okanagan Valley “like something [the young narrator] Eva might have imagined, conjuring a friend out of loneliness.” The two young girls get to know each other as they wander, small observers of a community trying to adjust to “a time when suspicion is rife and Canadians of varied origins are subjected to the steeping prejudices of a small Interior town.” Wanda is proof that you don’t need six hundred pages to tell a good story: sometimes a slim novella is the perfect length.

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