Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman / Czechoslovakia, 1965):
(Lásky Jedné Plavovlásky; A Blonde in Love)

The credits move from a tomboy yeah-yeah-yeahing at her guitar to whispers in an all-girls dormitory, which sets the timbre. People flirt in snow-covered woods (with a gag perhaps out of Ivan’s Childhood), but the Czech crisis is quickly, wittily represented as a shortage of boys. To try to balance out the 16-to-one gender ratio, the People’s Army is redirected to provincial Zruc, which means the young lasses from the shoe factory get stuck with "a bunch of grandfathers." The dance floor is where Milos Forman conceives a style, the telephoto lens that scans a group setting to sniff out the clumsiness, callousness and vulnerability that individuals keep veiled. Between the tables of bored local girls and paunchy, middle-aged reservists is a little symphony of leers, teases, fumbles and shrugs, with bits like the idiot waiter who sends champagne to the wrong trio of wallflowers and the runaway wedding ring given the proper silent-comedy treatment. The titular blonde (Hana Brejchová), meanwhile, gravitates toward the scrawny piano player (Vladimir Pucholt), a fellow shy creature just passing through; their lovemaking is gently punctuated by uncooperative shutters and pregnant offhand lines (about a previous suicide attempt: "I don’t get along with my mom"). The Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, factory and ballroom and kitchen and bedroom, shot in documentary-grays and peopled with deadpan, profoundly human homeliness. Cluelessly officious matchmakers comprise the Old Guard, youthful Prague is a crowded discotheque. The ultimate prison here is not the industrial assembly line but the middle-class household where the heroine finds herself grilled by a mulish Mom and Pop vaudeville team (Milada Jezková and Josef Sebánek): "You think that in the old days I could simply pack a suitcase and leave for a boy’s parents’?" Few of Forman’s subsequent nonconformists spent a more harrowing night. Cinematography by Miroslav Ondrícek. With Vladimir Mensik, Ivan Kheil, Jiri Hruby, and Jan Vostrcil. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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