by Rafaela Bassili

I decided to get bangs again, despite the fact that the last time I had them, I promised myself I would never get them again. There is, of course, something rejuvenating about going through a hair change: an unassuming way of feeling like you are taking control of your self-invention, a way of confirming yourself into a mood.

It happened that the day before I went to get bangs again, I rewatched Barbara Loden's 1970 film Wanda, the only one she ever made, a masterpiece. I joke that Loden's hair in Wanda is the best instance of blonde bangs to have ever graced the history of film. Not so thick, but not so sparse as to be wispy, they hang down heavily on her face, stretching to the corners of her hairline that reach her ears. For most of the movie, Wanda wears her hair in a high pony, too high, an adolescent kind of pony––one that emphasizes itself by its bounce, like a girl skipping along the road, her ponytail swinging from one side to the next. Wanda is, obviously, a very bleak film, but I have been thinking about its moments of lightness––the humor that invades the narrative every once and again, despite itself. Wanda makes a little joke, Loden delivers a perfectly deadpan line, and the bangs seem to almost reach out of the screen: not just lonely or alienated, Wanda becomes a little girl, holds on tightly to the wandering power of her imaginative mind, roams around the desolate semi-industrial Pennsylvanian landscape as if looking for pebbles to skip on the lake.

There is a brief moment I love, ephemeral, barely the duration of a blink: Wanda is driving as Mr. Dennis sleeps on the passengers' side, she looks at him for a moment too long, puzzled but with a studying concentration, and she redirects her attention back to the rearview mirror. A truck drives by and honks at her. Wanda looks at it, the camera framing her in profile, her bangs supporting the weight of the world, of being a woman, of loneliness and despair, and wonderfully, briefly, in barely the blink of an eye––she sticks her tongue out at him.

Rafaela Bassili is a writer and translator living in New York.
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