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LOVES OF A BLONDE

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Hanu Brejchovou, Vladimira Pucholta
Director:  Milos Forman
Audio:  Dolby Digital Mono
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Criterion
Features:  Milos Forman Interview, Deleted Scene
Length:  85 Minutes
Release Date:  February 12, 2002

“Almost every animal on the planet is content to merely come together to mate, without the awkwardness of becoming involved.  It is only the humans that make a mess of everything.”

Film ***

Loves of a Blonde in 1965 marked the first time Czechoslovakian director Milos Forman would be nominated for an Oscar, and of course, it certainly wouldn’t be the last.  Before the renowned director came to the United States to make his indelible mark with films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon and more, he was one of the primary forces behind his native country’s own version of the New Wave film movement.  Loves is a simply structured testament to that movement’s success, both inside and outside of his homeland.

There is a verite quality to the work that strips the subject matter of gloss and glamour…indeed, it has the feel of a home-movie documentary that was filmed in black and white for monetary rather than artistic considerations.  It is both absurdly amusing and surprisingly touching at the same time, telling the story of one woman seeking her own identity in the impossible Communist environment of her country.

That woman is Andula (Brejchovou), a bit unlucky in life and in love.  She lives with a large group of girls who have all been relocated to a small provincial town by the government to work in a shoe factory.  She tells her bedmate of the boy she loves, but we see in flashback that he never arrived for their pre-arranged meeting.

In order to bring balance to the largely female population, the factory directors bring an Army unit into town, which seemed like a good idea on paper, but most of these men are too old for these young ladies, and not exactly the kind of romantic kindling they were hoping for.  In a funny scene, three soldiers flirt with Adula and her friends from across the room at a dance…many things go wrong.

As her friends make dates with the soldiers, Andula finds herself in the arms of the dance’s pianist, Milda (Pucholta), who seduces her strangely, persuasively and possessively.  Though he must soon move on with the band, he leaves Andula his home address in Prague so that she can look him up sometime.

The final stretch is both funny and sad, as Andula does indeed show up, only to find Milda’s bewildered parents there, not knowing what to do with the girl.  When Milda shows up, he doesn’t remember his invitation.  To him it was a one night stand, but to Andula, it was the beginning of a new romance.

Refusing to let her son sleep with the girl, the mother forces Milda to sleep with her and his father in their bed.  Their constant grumbling and griping is amusing enough, until we leave their room to find poor Andula crying softly outside their door.

We leave Andula as we first found her, chatting on about Milda as her new love, but knowing that her situation is not as glowing as she pretends.  There will be other loves for her, we surmise, but we wonder how long her charming, wholehearted naivety can last.

Hanu Brejchovou is sweet and delightful as Andula.  She has a pretty face with sad eyes, and makes us feel for her every step of the way.  Her naturalistic work is a good mesh with Forman’s loose, realistic structure, which often serves to bring us uncomfortably close to what should be private, revealing moments.

For Andula, love and emotion does seem to make a mess of things for her, as one character describes early on.  They don’t lead her out of her stifling life, but sadly, further into it.  But those fleeting moments of escape are when she comes to life, and I’m glad that this film almost seemed to ‘happen’ upon one such moment for her.

Video ***1/2

This is a beautiful black and white transfer from Criterion…clean and pristine in appearance, with remarkable and natural looking contrast levels throughout.  I noticed no grain or breakup to interfere with the images…in fact, the only print flaw is a tiny, faint line that appears off center from time to time…so faint, it’s honestly barely noticeable.  One drawback of being a DVD critic is that you train your eye to notice the most insignificant details.  But overall, consider this another top notch offering from Criterion, and another gift to lovers of world cinema.

Audio ***1/2

This soundtrack ranks amongst the best mono offerings I’ve ever heard…the audio is surprisingly dynamic and full sounding, as evidenced by the strange opening song, but maintained throughout.  Voices have a natural reverb quality to them, and sounds, music and emotional levels give the track plenty of dynamic range.  An excellent effort!

Features **

The disc includes a 15 minute interview with Milos Forman, who talks about his early career in the cinema, with a bit of in-depth detail on Loves of a Blonde…an interesting piece.  There is also a 4 minute deleted scene, which the disc explains has been included in some versions of the movie, but is NOT considered part of the director’s definitive version.  We are even told where it belongs in the movie chapter-wise, just in case we’d like to skip around and re-insert the scene ourselves.

Summary:

Loves of a Blonde earned Czech director Milos Forman international attention, and was early proof of the talent that would soon blossom into a pair of Oscars and worldwide acclaim.  This simple New Wave film is a touching and funny look at a remarkable woman for whom love may never bring fulfillment.  But we have no doubt she’ll keep trying.