Monday Movie: The Loves of a Blonde, by David Bax
It’s both surprising and unsurprising that Milos Forman went on to have the most noteworthy and enduring career of all of the Czech New Wave directors. His eye for quotidian farce makes his films funny and more immediately accessible, especially when compared to his more avant garde contemporaries like Vēra Chytilová. But his joy at teetering on the brink of anarchy exemplified the newfound spirit of freedom that made the movement possible. The Loves of a Blonde, his first film to gain international acclaim, with its comedy, anger and deep-rooted empathy, is a quintessential example.
The Love of a Blonde tells the story, said to be inspired by a young woman Forman met in Prague, of a small town factory with an almost entirely female staff, the military effort having taken most of the men to the front lines. When the workers become despondent at the lack of male companionship, the factory arranges with the army for a company of soldiers to visit the town for a dance. These turn out to be middle-aged, married men and so our protagonist Andula’s (Hana Brejchová) eye is drawn toward the younger, more handsome Milda (Vladimír Pucholt), a musician in the band. After a one night stand, Andula decides to set out for Prague to find Milda. Her arrival is not as welcome as she imagines it will be.
Forman employed many non-professional actors–actual factory workers and townsfolk–including Brejchová herself. Cinematographer Miroslav Ondrícek, who would remain Forman’s collaborator for more than twenty years, matches the ensuing naturalism with a verite approach and low contrast lighting.
Forman could be accused of a kind of wish fulfillment fantasy with The Loves of a Blonde, given its central conceit of a beautiful woman spurning the soldiers in favor of the artist. But, as with much of his work for the rest of his career, his true aims seems to be puncturing and deflating mores and institutions. He was off to a great start.