" Wanda is not on the threshhold of anything tangible or even intangible – she is adrift, and in the end she stops drifting, stops being."
Roger, I am organizing a story where my protagonist might be described much the same way. An acquaintance of mine, a filmmaker, writer and teacher cautions by saying that a story of a character without an identifiable goal really isn’t a story, it’s a portrait. Not wanting to go down the road where I am forced to argue Aristotelian precepts, I just respond, well ok, it’ll be a portrait then, ninety minutes long. In truth, I haven’t stopped seeking to discover a goal which motivates him. Maybe it will occur to me and I can redeem his life of drift.
That was my assessment and Roger was right in saying that there wasn’t much of narrative. The distinction I was making was that Wanda is not liminal and that is precisely what drifting is about: one is purposely going nowhere – there is no setup, no threshold to achieve.
What you have with Wanda is a character study – a study of a pathology: the substance abuser without the substance abuse, but with the remaining ethos. She is outwardly unmotivated, irresponsible, and careless; unattached and purposely going nowhere. Scenes in the film may seem to contradict her lack of attachment, but she is imposing, not attaching.
This where Wanda separates from Cassavetes’ works:
Cassavetes characters are motivated by love: they give of themselves and are attached to others in the film.
In the final scene, people try to engage Wanda in conversation – the last shot pulls the film together. I don’t know what Duras means by aura, but if she means the pure self, that is the meaning of the last shot of the film. We see Wanda’s attempt to maintain the pure self : she drifts……
Yeah, and although much of the stylistic comparisons Carney makes to Cassavetes are true, in total Carney potentially* misses the point of the film.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone created a parallel Faces (or your favorite Cassavettes) thread in the same spirit as this one? Seems like the motivation is there.
Go ahead, make my day….
More fun would be a Carney thread, where we could deconstruct some of his more wacky thoughts.
Robert, need I tell you that that thread would collapse into chaos immediately!
Deep thoughts, by Jack Handy
Wacky thoughts, By Ray Carney
“Cassavetes characters are motivated by love: they give of themselves and are attached to others in the film.”
Cassavetes characters are motivated by many things, not just love.
“What you have with Wanda is a character study – a study of a pathology”
Wanda shouldn’t be assessed based on any word ending in ‘logy.’ No work of art should.
“I have to use ‘potentially’, b/c what is said by Carney on page 130 is probably corrected, changed, clarified or given more nuance on page 170.”
What book is this you’re referencing, Robert?
“Wacky thoughts, By Ray Carney”
Yes, every thinker who doesn’t follow the popular way of looking at things is always called “wacky” or “crazy” or whatever. These are all unwitting compliments from the masses.
I’d love to read a logical, mature, thoughtful criticism of Carney’s writings rather than the immature, stupid remarks that seem to accompany the mere mention of his name. I severely doubt that I’ll ever see that day though.
I don’t have the time to read this entire thread, but… Wanda is indeed a great movie. I remember buying a bootleg VHS of it on eBay ten years ago, before it seemed possible to find movies like this on these here internets.
In my book all it takes is one great movie for someone to be a great filmmaker.
I’d really like to see this movie..but guess what?? Impossible to find it in Italy..now that amazon is arrived in my country, too, I can buy the french edition dvd. I’d like to see it with subtitles in my language, but I guess it’s an utopia..
@ Mike Spence
None in particular, but isn’t that the truth? he makes a wacky statement and then has to clarify it for the rest of us, thereby reaffirming his god-like relater status.
One can start almost on any page and find some amazingly hypocritical statement.
I google Ray Carney and VOILÀ:
(…..People are so weak. And the twin pull of money and popularity is so powerful, so morally compromising.)
And he is doing it because…..? for knowledge, right? Isn’t knowledge power? Doesn’t he get money and popularity from books?
This is his view of us: People are so weak
And of course that is because we have fake emotions. Whenever I think of Ray, I always remember this from The Spirit of the Beehive:
“Someone to whom I recently showed my glass beehive,
with its movement like the main gear wheel of a clock -
Someone who saw the constant agitation of the honeycomb,
the mysterious, maddened commotion of the nurse bees over the nests,
the teeming bridges and stairways of wax, the invading spirals of the queen,
the endlessly varied and repetitive labors of the swarm,
the relentless yet ineffectual toil, the fevered comings and goings,
the call to sleep always ignored, undermining the next day’s work,
the final repose of death far from a place that tolerates neither sickness nor tombs -
Someone who observed these things, after the initial astonishment had passed,
quickly looked away with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror. "
If bees had emotions, Ray would say they are fake emotions.
Carney is at heart a fascist. He cannot stand the undermining, endlessly varied and repetitive labors, mysterious maddened commotion, the constant agitation.
Yes people are weak, they have fake emotions and Ray’s vanity forces him to quickly look away with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror.
compliments from the masses
We love Ray, he makes us laugh, unwittingly.
@ Welshy I’d love to read a logical, mature, thoughtful criticism of Carney’s writings
Well, why don’t you start a thread?
I don’t have a problem with the specifics of his criticism, I would bet most of us who have a problem with Ray don’t have a problem with the specifics of his criticism.
Problematic, is the ideological context in which he packages them.
NOTE: Carney was relevant to this thread, but we are veering off now. Why don’t Welshy & Mike start a thread?
Robert, why don’t you start a thread on Carney, outlining the “idealogical criticism in which he packages” his criticism? It’d be worth citing his actual criticism to back yourself up, rather than just email correspondence.
First of all, I did start a Carney thread, which was one-too-much.
Secondly, this “idealogical criticism in which he packages”, is not this ideological context in which he packages them.
Whoops, meant to say “ideological context” there.
So what is this ideological context?
The “one way” i.e. a single style.
My sources tell me Carney doesn’t acknowledge directors as stylists.
But see, if you acolytes started a thread, that is something we could flesh-out.
“My sources tell me Carney doesn’t acknowledge directors as stylists.”
Your “sources” are basically wrong. He doesn’t get all hot and bothered over empty stylists such as Tim Burton or whatever but he believes that understanding the style of a film is essential to understanding the film.
This thread, when it popped up and died two weeks ago, prompted me to get Wanda through netflix. Curiously enough, I happened to see Bonnie and Clyde (for the third time) the night before, and Badlands a week before, sitting down to see Wanda. I realize that there are vast differences between all three of these films, but I couldn’t help thinking about Wanda (the character) in terms of Bonnie and Holly.
Bonnie hooks up with Clyde because she’s, well…bored, I guess. Clyde psychoanalyzes her early on, telling her (and us) that Bonnie is basically too smart and beautiful for this podunk west Texas town. She apparently agrees with him, because she takes up a life of crime with an incredibly handsome man despite the fact that he has a limp dick.
Holly hooks up with Kit because she doesn’t know any better, and perhaps after seeing her father murdered, she’s a little scared to leave him. But until near the point of their parting, Holly seems relatively comfortable with Kit. We don’t know exactly how smart Holly is, but we do know that she lives in Fort Dupree, South Dakota, where I assume nothing exciting ever happens. Kit, if nothing else, is exciting…and, again, handsome.
Wanda is similar to Bonnie and Holly in that she’s living in a no-account place. There can’t be too much excitement in any small Pennsylvania mining town. But, as others have already noted, Wanda isn’t merely bored; she seems downright apathetic. She hooks up with anyone that’ll have her and take care of her for a little while. After letting her husband get a divorce without any fight at all and then failing to get any work at the sewing shop, Wanda, having no where to go, gives a fuck away to the first man who’ll get her a drink. And when she wandered into the closed bar, I had to wonder if she wasn’t looking for another dude to do the same thing. Instead she finds an abusive criminal who made me think of Ray Carney with a mustache. He’s not handsome, he’s certainly not kind, he hasn’t any real money to offer Wanda; he’s just someone that she can float with for however long he’ll let her float. And when her ride with him ends, she’ll find someone else to float with. Watching Wanda was a fairly joyless experience for me. The half-assed gritty realism, where nobody ever talks (I mean, why on earth did that guy just randomly give Wanda a free ice cream cone without saying a word?) isn’t my thing. At points, Wanda did feel tedious. Retrospectively, however, I find it a very saddening film, something I can appreciate from a distance.
The catacombs were cool, though. I could’ve watched another half hour of that stuff.
We need threads like these and I may not have participated on this thread as of yet but that was mainly because I hadn’t seen the film until now. However, my attempt on reviving several other neglected threads hasn’t achieved its goal of….improving the site’s maze of a forum. Anyhow:, some notes:
“That was my assessment and Roger was right in saying that there wasn’t much of narrative.”
But the film is all narrative. There’s a threshold point (Wanda’s accepted masochism of being "useless), a middle point (her encounter with Dennis) and a closing chapter (her empty dissolution), that narrative doesn’t cloud anyone’s view on who Wanda is and how her choices move the film towards a probably conclusion.
Choices = film’s structure
“It is an over reaction to call any first film an absolute masterpiece, as this dumbs down the notion of craft. Wanda, 400 Blows, The Whole Shooting Match, Black Peter”
That’s debatable, one can perform a wonderful eloquence on how Resnais’ “official first film aka finding his style” is Night and Fog, so by that sense, all the Cassavetian references affiliated to Wanda should be removed from the film’s analysis precisely because the first half of Cassavete’s oeuvre is only 10% of Wanda’s fundamental “truth” and the second is nowhere to be found in Wanda, both the human and the script’s process.
“Why I’m not sold on sandbox narratives like the one in Wanda is that often times the voids purposely left in the story / plot could just as easily express absolutely nothing as it does everything.”
I think that where Roger’s not keen with Wanda is what appeals to me most: nothingness. I like that in one instant, she’s loafing around and staring unreachable objects (clothes in stores), yet as the film climaxes, she’s meta-morphing into a strident “model”, acknowledging her weakness is none other than her inability to…think. Yeah, perhaps it’s quite common in “minimalist” perplexes but that’s the beauty of indifferent frames.
House is provoking an antithesis by the way. Faces is brimmed with love, Wanda is the exact opposite. I don’t see any affection in Wanda, although I may be wrong and my speculations are simply based on my cold-hearted behavior.
P.S.: For what it’s worth, it’s a pity that I’ve noticed on other threads that these type of film reviews aren’t helping the site, on the contrary…the people who are saying such things are the ones who don’t belong here.
Thanks for your comments (and Story of Sin is my first film to watch post-Cup).
The comment that struck me most was one of your last—that Wanda opposes Faces in terms of love/the absence of love. Wanda is all about the absence of love from the very first frames, which suggest this thematically (the desolate landscape and hopeless tasks) and explicitly (Wanda’s belief of her baby’s rejection of her). That’s in the first few minutes, and there’s nothing that occurs in the film past that to suggest love (or hope).
“I wrote the script about ten years before Arthur Penn made Bonnie and Clyde…the film was unrealistic and glamorized the characters… People like that would never get into those situations or lead that kind of life – they were too beautiful… Wanda is the anti-Bonnie and Clyde” – Loden
Amen to that.
I disagree about the film being loveless or hopeless. It’s emotions are just held much closer to the vest. Wanda tries in small ways, the best ways she know how, to feel something. She just lacks focus, like many people I know and almost no one in films like Bonnie and Clyde. Wanda and Dennis make a small connection encapsulated by his first use of her first name. Everything here is small and that’s part of the point. Dennis obviously has his own issues, which Loden doesn’t go into but to characterize him as simply “an abusive criminal” strikes me as an Oprahized way of viewing cinema.
I think there is hope in Wanda, if not in Wanda. I think she truly does think she’s capable of breaking out of her situation—right up to the end of the film. I think what happens there forces her into acceptance, and that is a hopeless stance.
But we could probably argue finer points on this from the film, too.
Dennis is hardly a “scumbag”, he’s merely one of us, without any connotations for it’s obvious anyone of us could have ended up in this situation, even though he himself is responsible for his choices. Therefore, the environment per se whereas an important detail of influence, it’s not always what makes the difference when discussing the penultimate conclusions.
I’m not sure I can believe that there are hints of love in the film. I read somewhere in this thread that it’s possible Dennis wants to escape this world in a blaze of glory. If that’s valid as an argument, then Wanda herself wouldn’t mind leaving this world as well but the then present circumstances are the reason where luck’s around the corner e.g. Loden’s individual framing to show Wanda’s yet again lack of orientation, thus saving her life from an impending doom.
Sure I’ve said it before, but this is a fine analysis/thread, House.
Have you come across the short essay Don Delillo wrote about the film a few years ago?
I don’t believe I have, but I’ll seek it out. Thanks for the bump.
The essay seems to have completely disappeared from the web, so when I get the chance I’ll see if I can scan it and load it up. It’s rather brief, but worthwhile.
What a great film. There are a lot of great reactions to it as well.
I don’t really think the commonly over-used comparisons to Cassavetes’ films really does the film justice though. Although there are stylistic similarities, they have very little in common for me thematically. I love both their work, but also keep in mind that I’m pretty sure only Shadows and Faces were released by Cassavetes before the production of this film. And honestly, I think it stylistically resembles later color films by Cassavetes (like Husbands and A Woman Under the Influence) more than his early black and white films.
No matter what we think about the similarities though, Wanda is a brilliantly unique and moving film that stands easily on its own apart from the work of John Cassavetes.
^ yes, thank you.