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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

Loves of a Blonde

Director: Miloš Forman
Country: Czechoslovakia
Year: 1965

“I know this sounds so little, and not serious enough, but I believe that I have to have fun. We all have to have fun – me, the actors, the cameraman, everybody should feel as if we are making a home movie, because that is the only way to open the film to a certain kind of lightness. If everybody involved feels the seriousness, the heavy weight of money being stamped on movies, it somehow influences the result in a way which is anesthetizing to life.”

“It’s funny to realize, but in my relatively short life I have lived through six or seven different social and cultural systems. First the Democratic Republic of Czechoslovakia, then the limited democracy before World War II, then the Nazi regime. After the Nazi regime there was a kind of democracy again for three years, then came the Stalinist regime, then the reformed Communist regime, and now I am living in a free country.”

“Give me $100,000 and I will make the film for $100,000. Give me $10m and I will make the film for $10m. Give me $100m and I will spend it.”

On how the Beatles brought down Communism: “Suddenly the ideologues are telling you this is decadent, these are four apes escaping from the jungle. I thought I’m not such an idiot that I love this music, and suddenly these political ideologues were strangers.”

All Quotes: Miloš Forman

Background

About today’s director: His first name is pronounced “Mee-losh,” but that’s not even his real name. When he was born in Czechoslovakia in 1932, his parents christened him Jan Tomáš Forman. His stepfather died in Buchenwald, his mother in Auschwitz. Years later, Jan Tomáš would learn that his biological father was a Jewish architect who had – miraculously – survived the war.

Forman’s stepfather had initially been imprisoned for distributing banned books, and young Jan Tomáš followed in his rebellious footsteps: At the age of 13, newly orphaned, he was expelled from school for mocking the son of a Communist Party official. As a side note, I’ve just decided never to complain about my own junior high experience again.

Remember when adults used to say, “that will go on your permanent record, young man”? I’m pretty sure they were (mostly) bluffing, since nobody brought up those broken high school cafeteria tables when I applied for a home loan. But if you live in a Communist Bloc country, that shit is apparently taken very seriously. The blot on Jan’s record caused his rejection by every respectable university. Lucky for us, he was eventually accepted by a single school: Prague Film Academy. Probably that was where they sent all the, um… “alternative” kids.

After years of apprenticeship, he received his first directorial credit for Audition in 1963. In 1965, he directed today’s film, Loves of a Blonde. The blonde of the title, named Andula, was played by Hana Brejchová, the sister of Forman’s first wife. The film was an international hit, and was even nominated for an Academy Award.

In 1968, Forman was forced to flee Czechoslovakia after his most recent film, The Firemen’s Ball, was banned for “making fun of the common man”. He left behind his second wife and their twin sons, Petr and Matěj. “It’s some kind of a self-protection, but I don’t think about it too much, you know,” he said in 2001. “If I went back, then I wouldn’t be making films at all.”

After several lean years in Hollywood, he returned in a big way with 1975’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won five. Also in 1975, Miloš Forman became a U.S. Citizen.

Now firmly established, Forman went on to direct Hair, Ragtime, Amadeus, Valmont, The People vs. Larry Flynt, and Man on the Moon. He lived with Beverly D’Angelo (You might remember her as Chevy Chase’s yummy wife in National Lampoon’s Vacation, who, in my opinion, was way sexier – not to mention hella funnier – than that vacuous Uptown Girl whatsername). In 1998, Forman’s third wife, Martina Zborilova, gave birth to twin sons, which they named Andy and James, after – wait for it – Andy Kaufman and Jim Carrey.

Synopsis

blonde_beehivesinger

The film opens on a round-faced, beehive-sporting young woman, who sings us a charming little rock and roll song:

“What happened yesterday
Doesn’t happen every day
As lovely as a dream
And I love her so, oh yeah
And I love her so, oh yeah
So this great love of mine
Turned me into a hooligan”

Two young women lie in bed, admiring a diamond ring given to Andula (the titular Blonde) by her boyfriend. “What did you give him?” asks the brunette. “Nothing,” responds Andula.

Now Andula is retrieving a necktie from a tree, where she has tied it earlier, for reasons unspecified. A soldier stops her. “You can’t just go around hanging things on trees,” he tells her. “A deer could come by, see the tie, and get scared.” Good point, soldier guy.

Back in bed, we see that Andula’s current-but-soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend is sleeping in the next bed over. The brunette asks Andula if she will see the deer-protective soldier again. “Maybe.”

Now some military men are trying to decide where to station a battalion (or whatever it’s called) of army reservists. “We have 2,000 girls here, without boyfriends,” points out the owner of the local shoe factory, and the decision is made.

The troop train arrives, and the local young women turn out to greet the men. An amateur marching band plays amateurishly.

The men sing a happy song as they march:

“Across the burnt earth
Over bloody rivers
The vengeful regiments
March steadily on
Heart, law, eternity
Are on our side
We march forward like time
Like a terrible wall of revenge”

You do NOT mess with Czech reservists, my friend.

There is a community dance. The reservists sit on one side of the hall, the young women on the other. Occasionally, someone works up the courage to ask someone else to dance. Many, many glasses of beer are consumed.

Andula sits with her friends, bored out of her skull. “Look at those soldiers over there!” she says with disgust. “Look at those girls over there!” say the soldiers to each other, debating various strategies for getting them out of their dresses. Andula, though, has her eye on the baby-faced piano player. The soldiers eventually grow a pair and send the young women a bottle of wine.

“Stop looking at them!” one girl hisses to her friend. “I’m not looking!” her friend hisses back.

One of the soldiers hurriedly stuffs his wedding band in his pocket as the young women approach. The ring falls and rolls across the dancefloor. Hilarity, as they say, ensues.

Hey, I see that folk-singer chick from the beginning! I thought she was just a device, but apparently, she is an actual character.

The dance is over, and the three eager reservists have hooked up with the three young women (yes, including Andula the Blonde). “When you don’t want to sleep yet, where do you go?” asks one of the men. “To the park or the woods,” replies Andula, and I think we all know what happens at night in the park or woods. The defacto ringleader of the men encourages the girls to finish off the bottle of wine, despite their protests. “Wine is good for you!” he insists, but I suspects he has motives unrelated to their health.

The girls head off to the bathroom to discuss their options, but Andula again sees the young piano player and pauses to make eye contact.

“This is pointless,” says one of the soldiers after the girls disappear. “You two are acting like retarded teenagers.” He speaks the truth.

Between the creepy pushiness of the men and the understandable reluctance of the young women, the whole “to the park or the woods” plan falls through, and everyone leaves for home except Andula, who is now upstairs with the piano player.

While reading her palm, he notices a scar. “You tried to commit suicide?” he asks her. “Because of my Mom,” Andula confesses. “We don’t get along.” The piano player responds in the only way that a young man can reasonably be expected to respond: “Let’s go to my room.”

Once he has her in his room, he offers to show her some self-defense moves, but, like the wine-pushing soldiers, I suspect that he has ulterior motives. Andula keeps saying “no” but they wind up in bed with their clothes off just the same, and it’s not entirely clear if Andula’s participation is willing.

This is the kind of movie that would make Robin say, “That is EXACTLY what it’s like to be a woman! Creepy men leering at you all the time…” and she would be right about that, and I would have to admit that I have been one of those men myself, at times. Not anymore, though. God forbid.

After the lovin’, Andula and the pianist lay abed, laughing and telling each other stories. Andula smiles for the first time in the movie.

The next day, Andula returns to her miserable job in the shoe factory. At the end of her shift, her ex-boyfriend (remember? from the beginning?) appears and demands his ring back. Unfortunately, Andula no longer has the ring or maybe just wants to keep it. When he pushes, she cries and calls him a disgusting beast.

This hubbub in the dormitory prompts a speech by the dorm mother about honor and the evils of promiscuity. Prompted by the pudgy folk-singer, all of the girls take a vote to uphold their honor and safeguard their precious virginity (or something, I wasn’t totally clear). Shamed by her peers and chafing at the new moral code, Andula goes on the lam, hitching a ride to Prague to see her beloved pianist. She arrives at the home of the pianist’s parents, clutching a sad little suitcase. Milda (that’s the pianist’s name) isn’t home, though, so she waits with Milda’s parents, who are not pleased by this surprising turn of events: Who is this girl? Is she pregnant? What the hell is wrong with that idiot son of ours? “You’ve put us in quite a fix,” Milda’s mother tells the disheveled young woman.

Meanwhile, the unsuspecting Milda is at a party, putting the moves on a different girl. Everything’s comin’ up Milda!

When Milda arrives home early the next morning, he doesn’t recognize the girl under the blankets, and argues with his father. “I’ll throw her out!” he promises. “You’ll be the end of me!” weeps his mother. “Wretched boy!” Andula listens to the arguing from the next room and cries. Her life is not turning out the way she had hoped.

What I Liked

Doe-eyed Hana Brejchová is perfect as Andula; swerving erratically between sullen discontent, flirtatious sexuality, and despondent heartbreak, she was completely convincing. She reminded me of young people I’ve known, and how they might behave if trapped in the more restrictive atmosphere of a Czech factory town, making ugly Communist shoes all day.

Vladimír Pucholt is also excellent as Milda; not a bad guy, exactly, but always angling for a way into Andula’s panties, which is totally realistic, in my experience. He’s the only male in the movie who seems halfway alive, with a bit of spunk and humor in him, and it’s easy to see why Andula is attracted to him. It’s also clear that he is bad news; immature and selfish. But I liked that the film doesn’t make him a Bad Guy, just a fairly average, self-centered and oversexed young man, destined to provide a painful learning experience for several young women.

I liked the scene when Andula showed up at Milda’s parents’ house; the mother’s discomfort, the relative kindness of the father, Milda’s clueless immaturity, Andula’s realization that she has been duped. The whole sequence rings true and unfolds naturally, with moments of genuine humor and sadness. It reminded me of a few similarly awkward scenes from my own life.

The scene in the dancehall is also very good; the contrasting conversations going on between the men and between the women, the realistic portrayal of the clumsily horny “guys’ night out”, and the way the tension of the scene eventually just evaporates because none of the characters can quite get it together. It’s uncomfortable, funny, and ultimately very sad.

What I Didn’t Like So Much

Some of the acting was not as good; Andula’s friends, in particular, spent most of their screen time staring blankly and delivering their dialogue like they were reading it from cue cards.

As much as I liked Hana Brejchová as Andula, I never got to know her in anything more than a superficial way. We never see Andula’s home life, we know very little of her history, and we don’t learn much about her relationships with the young women in the factory. The episodic nature of the script, the choppy editing, and the somewhat abrupt ending all left me outside the action, looking in. I sympathized with Andula’s sad plight, I wanted her to find some happiness, but I didn’t ever feel invested enough for the story to move me emotionally.

There’s also nothing particularly interesting about Blonde in a technical way; cinematography, sound, and music are all workmanlike and mostly unexciting. Only the opening scene, with the young woman singing directly into the camera, promises something fresh.

Should You See It?

Blonde might be a good choice if you are teaching a college class on Women’s Issues, or if you want to learn more about youth culture under Communist rule, or if you’re a fan of Czech film of the 1960’s, or a Miloš Forman completist. Otherwise, I’m gonna say skip this one.

Next: M

2 Comments

  1. She is blonde, horny, and curious amid a cold war czech republic sans the 1960s decade.
    Milos Foreman had a bit of fun before he came abroad stateside and this is a delightful tart coming of age story at hands of a roguish lad still living with his parents. For shame young lad. Great black and white film from across the iron curtain. Seek at all expense.

  2. I was born in 1964.

    MTV came to be in 1981.

    I graduated from High School in 1982.

    I’m solidly part of the “MTV Generation.” We are the group that some people say ruined film-making. You see, we didn’t care about stories any more. All we cared about were music videos (when MTV played music videos) and suddenly our attention spans were reduced to four minutes and change. Film-making and film-editing suddenly went from long shots of people talking in a room to hand-held cameras, different points of view and film-making be damned if the scene lasted longer than 4 minutes. 5 minutes – TOPS! SOMETHING HAD TO HAPPEN!! No more of this slow paced bullshit. Cut cut cut cut cut! Story? What story? If we can cut the hell out of it and feed it to the masses in 3 minute doses and make them think they got their $8, $9 and $10 worth – then, hell, we’ve done our jobs.

    I will be the first to fight this stereotype that all kids who grew up during this time have the attention span of a four year-old high on “pop-rocks.” I was talking the other day about how my favorite Kubrick film is “Barry Lyndon” a 3 hour long epic film that is AMAZING. A film I watched on a boring Saturday afternoon and fell in love with. Could I tell my friends to come over and watch “BL?” “Come on, guys! It’s a 3 hour epic about a man’s journey towards redemption! It’s amazingly shot with natural lighting! There’s even NUDITY!” No. I hid my love for “Barry Lyndon” and would invite the friends over to watch “Damnation Alley” or “The Swarm.”

    But…damn that stereotype if it isn’t in the slightest bit true.

    Thus brings us to “Loves of a Blonde.” A story that I was dying to have something, ANYTHING, happen.

    As with most films in the Janus collection, it has a simple story at it’s core. No convoluted back-story with obscure characters in situations that only show up in films. Nope. This is about a small town near Prague. Seems the town houses a bunch of young girl factory workers (including the blond of the title). They all live in dormitories and are bored out of their skulls.

    Sensing that the working labor isn’t very happy, the mayor of the town (or something) invites a bunch of soldiers in to visit. He wants some “cuddling” to happen.

    Now we know the blond has a boyfriend who has already given her a diamond ring but he’s nowhere to be seen and she is smokin’ hot in that age between knowing that she’s beautiful and using it to her advantage and lacking self esteem to really feel she’s worth anything. So men are attracted to her by the boatload while she has no idea what to do with them.

    When the soldiers arrive she and her friends attend a dance where a group of four soldiers (at least one married) spies them across the room and buys them a bottle of wine (which gets sent to the wrong table). Flattered and flustered, the girls don’t know what to do. Finally, the blond escapes the pressure of this “date” and hooks up with the visiting piano player (why is it always the piano player?!).

    The Piano Player isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be himself and he eventually manipulates the young blond into his bed. With promises that he has no girlfriend in Prague and even putting pressure on the blond after she confides to him that she had tried to commit suicide. Dude, no matter HOW attractive I find a girl, if she confides that she tried to kill herself – that’s a major buzz kill. My next instinct would be to try to get her help instead of trying to get in her pants…..but maybe that’s just me.

    Well, after some shenanigans with a window shade and some naked male booty, they have sex and he encourages her to “come look him up” the next time she’s in Prague. With him, of course, figuring that this one-night-stand is all it will be.

    Meanwhile her friends are fending off the lecherous and much older married soldiers who want to “take them into the woods” (if you know what I mean).

    The Mayor (or Jason explained Factory Owner), now acting as pimp, does hook up one of the soldiers with a nice black-haired girl.

    After Piano boy leaves the next day
    when shes in the dorms her first boyfriend shows up. The one who gave her the ring. The one we see a photo of early in the story. He’s a bit pissed that she’s not that happy to see him and she explains that he’s been gone for a month and what was she supposed to do. Of course the cheap motorcycle riding dick-wad wants his ring back but she doesn’t want to give it to him. He storms the dorm and the other women fight him off. Soon after this confrontation there’s a scene in a classroom (?) where all the girls talk about being virgins (I think) and how they need to behave like proper women. They even vote on it. Think of this as an early “promise keepers” club. I’m surprised they didn’t hand out promise rings and bibles at the same time.

    Feeling a tad guilty, our Blond gets a ride in to Prague to meet up with her Piano Boy and shows up at his house unannounced with a SUITCASE! And we know what that means! She’s either preggers, or in love, or both. After some arguing with PB’s parents they let her sleep there for the night. When PB comes home there is more arguing and the Blond realizes that she was only used for the one night and that he has no use for her now. Bastard!

    In the last scene she is back working in the factory with the Mayor/Pimp Daddy observing her shoe-making handiwork.

    What I liked:

    The acting was great. The B&W cinematography was spot on. You really felt like a fly on the wall in many of the scenes.

    The scene in the parents house where she realizes she’s just being used was heart-breaking.

    What I didn’t like:

    Call it the curse of the “MTV Generation” but there are scenes in this film that go on FOR-EV-ER where nothing happens. There, are, literally only about 10 scenes in the entire film. The Dance scene where the soldiers want to hit on the girls goes on for about 20 minutes of an 85 minute long film. The scene at PB’s house goes on for about 20 minutes as they deal with the fact that this lost lonely girl has been duped into bed by their son (who should be slapped!). In between there are other scenes where NOTHING HAPPENS.

    For an 85 minute long film…it seemed MUCH longer. Damn those “Journey” music videos! Damn them!

    Though we get to know the girl, we don’t get to know many of the other people. The men are pigs looking for one thing…the women seem more victims and objects then three-dimensional characters (other than the blond). So many of the peripheral characters that we follow a bit here and there don’t add up to a lot.

    Overall:

    This film falls into the “interesting” category. I don’t know so much that I can recommend it. Again, another film that I would not have watched had it not been for this fun and enlightening marathon of film-viewing. Certainly a case study of a small town in a foreign country but nothing to write home about.

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