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,Loves of a Blonde

Loves of a Blonde (1966)

Loves of a Blonde (1965) The opening of Miloš Forman's Loves of a Blonde (1965) beautifully encapsulates the feel of the director's Czech films: A plain-looking young girl leans against a wall, playing a guitar and singing a pop song, a little out of tune but with great urgency. Even as we laugh at her, we recognize some of her awkwardness and her desire for affirmation in ourselves. In fact, the notion of amateur performance connects all of Forman's early films, including his much-underrated first American feature, Taking Off (1971). But Loves of a Blonde still stands out as Forman's international breakthrough, and it remains one of the funniest and most touching works of the Czechoslovak New Wave.

As an artistic movement, the Czechoslovak New Wave is usually said to begin in the early 1960s with films such as Štefan Uher's The Sun in a Net (1962). Because of the political circumstances in Czechoslovakia, artistic liberalization began there at a later date than either the Thaw in Soviet cinema or the Polish School, both of which arose in the mid-to-late 1950s. However, the Czechoslovak New Wave arguably went much further, with its mordant observations of contemporary life and its still-astonishing stylistic experiments. Certainly, the frank love scene in Loves of a Blonde between Milda and Andula would have been unthinkable in Soviet cinema of that era. After the Prague Spring of 1968 and the Warsaw Pact forces invasion in August and September of that year, the Czechoslovak New Wave mostly ground to a halt. A number of artists and intellectuals, including Miloš Forman and one of the film's scriptwriters, Ivan Passer, were forced to emigrate or remain abroad.

In his 2001 interview for the Criterion Collection DVD edition of Loves of a Blonde, Forman recalled that his idea for the film originated when he encountered a woman carrying a suitcase at night on the streets of Prague. He struck up a conversation with her and learned that she was from a small factory town where mostly women worked. She fell in love with a man visiting from out of town and decided to relocate to Prague to be with him, only to learn upon her arrival that he was married.

Forman's collaborators on the screenplay included the aforementioned Ivan Passer, a notable director in his own right with Intimate Lighting (1965), and Jaroslav Papoušek, who had written the story which Forman had adapted as Black Peter (1964). Inspired partly by Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, Loves of a Blonde used a mix of professional and non-professional actors and a semi-improvisational style. In his 1994 memoir entitled Turnaround, Forman wrote, "Shooting Loves of a Blonde, I learned that mixing professional actors and nonactors actually helped both groups, but you have to have actors who could stand up to the challenge of the unstudied, natural behavior of nonactors. It takes a great actor to blend into a scene with people who are being themselves. [...] While nonactors keep the actors honest and real, the actors give the scene a rhythm and shape that nonactors don't feel." The lead actress Hana Brejchová was the sister of Forman's ex-wife Jana Brejchová. Vladimír Pucholt, who plays Milda, was an up-and-coming Czech star who would later move to London and give up his acting career to study medicine. Josef Šebánek, who plays Milda's father, was an uncle of the cinematographer Miroslav Ondříček. Milada Ježková, who plays the mother, was a non-professional actress whom Forman had seen on the street.

Miroslav Ondříček, one of Forman's closest collaborators over the course of his career, had also worked on Forman's first major film, the semi-documentary Audition (1964); their experience with documentary filmmaking and their interest in the cinéma-vérité movement undoubtedly helped shape the loose, observational style of Loves of a Blonde. For the factory workers' dance, the film's longest and most elaborate sequence, Ondříček used two cameras to film the action. According to Forman, this took pressure off the main actors and allowed them to perform more naturally, while drawing the extras more deeply into the atmosphere of the scene. The scene is also noteworthy for its use of telephoto lenses and some handheld camerawork, contributing to its documentary-like feel.

Loves of a Blonde proved one of the most popular films of its day within Czechoslovakia and earned Forman the Klement Gottwald State Prize. It quickly drew international recognition when it was selected for the official competition at the 1965 Venice Film Festival and as the opening film for the 1966 New York Film Festival. Reviewing the latter screening for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther wrote, "It is human, true but understated-inconclusive, indeed, as is life." Crowther also praised Hana Brejchová for her performance and especially Ježková and Šebánek for their "extraordinary skill at depicting the attitudes and folkways of simple working-class parents." As a result of the film's international success, the Italian film producer Carlo Ponti offered to provide financial backing for Forman's next feature film, the ill-fated The Firemen's Ball (1967). In 1967 Loves of a Blonde also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film.

Producer: Rudolf Hájek
Director: Miloš Forman
Screenplay: Miloš Forman, Jaroslav Papoušek, Ivan Passer
Cinematographer: Miroslav Ondříček
Film Editor: Miroslav Hájek
Music: Evžen Illín
Production Design: Karel Černý
Costumes: Zdena Šnajdarová
Cast: Hana Brejchová (Andula); Vladimír Pucholt (Milda); Vladimír Menšík (Vacovský); Ivan Kheil (Manas); Jiří Hrubý (Burda); Milada Ježková (Milda's Mother); Josef Šebánek (Milda's Father); Jarka Crkalová (Jaruska); Josef Kolb (Pokorný); Marie Salačová (Marie); Jana Novaková (Jana); Zdena Lorencová (Zdena); Táňa Zelinková (Girl with the guitar); Jan Vostrčil (Colonel); Antonín Blažejovský (Tonda).

by James Steffen

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