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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Loves of a Blonde: Criterion Collection
Loves of a Blonde: Criterion Collection
Criterion // Unrated // February 12, 2002
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted February 24, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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P R I N T
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THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The Czech New Wave of the 1960's was a bright, if brief, spot in the film history of a country long gripped by turmoil. Coming between the Nazi propaganda of World War II and the Communist propaganda of the Cold War, the films produced during this fertile period touched on deeply personal issues of social and emotional relationships. In no way didactic or boring, films like Closely Watched Trains and Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde (1963) make subtle statements on the mind-set of a young generation missing much of its history without ever brooding or feeling pretentious.

Loves of a Blonde is clearly structured in three acts. The first, set at a dance, concerns Andula (Hanu Brejchovou) and two of her friends as they try to stave off the affections of three pudgy suitors. Stuck in the small industrial town of Zruc, the girls live in a dormitory and work in a shoe factory. The only hope they have of escape is to marry well, but since the a town is designed solely for young women to make shoes there isn't much of a male population to choose from (One official is shown saying that there are sixteen women to each man.)

The second act concerns a very intimate encounter between Andula and Milda (Vladimira Pucholta), a young piano player from Prague who charms Andula away from her friends and up to his room. He plays on her insecurities to get her in bed (you can see his mind work as he comes up with different schemes to woo her) and offers the only real closeness that she'll be able to find. In the third act Andula tries to visit Milda in Prague only to find his parents less than thrilled with being her host. The move from the public spectacle of the dance, to the private intimacy of the bedroom, to the uncomfortable mix in the parents' apartment follows Andula's awakening, from innocence, to some sort of idealized emotion, to disappointment and disillusionment.

Forman's touch here is light and really allows the viewers to get to know Andula for themselves; The film doesn't oversell any interpretation. In that way it is a film that rewards repeat viewings. The logistics are minimalist and the filmmaking spare, but beautiful. The black and white cinematography emphasizes textures (skin, hair, cloth) over flash and the editing utilizes the most basic and effective filmmaking techniques. Even though Forman's more recent Hollywood output (Amadeus, The People Vs. Larry Flynt) is largely overrated, his Loves of a Blonde still feels current and fresh almost forty years after its production.

VIDEO:
Criterion's new transfer here is gorgeous. The image glistens with beauty as the simple, perfectly composed images take on a satiny look missing from video releases. There is virtually no dirt or damage on the print, other than the occasional speck or reel change marker. Really a wonderful job has been done. The film is full-frame, as was originally intended.

AUDIO:
The mono soundtrack also hearkens back to the original intent. For such a simple track it is clear and effective. Music sounds bold and dynamic and the voice reproduction is excellent. It is in Czech with optional English subtitles.

EXTRAS:
The extras are few, but great. A fifteen minute interview with Forman, shot last year, covers the social climate that made the Czech New Wave possible, as well as his cinematic influences at the time. He also discusses the actors and the process he used to mix professionals and amateurs. It is an excellent supplement, if not quite as lengthy as a commentary track would have been.

A deleted scene is also included. A graphic informs us that this scene is actually present in some prints of the film but not in the "definitive" print used for the transfer here. It's not clear if Forman wants the scene in or not and it does make some motivations more obvious towards the end of the film, but it is not necessary (it shifts the attention away from Andula and gives us some information that she doesn't have), even though it is a great supplement for the DVD.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Outstanding performances and sensitive direction help make Loves of a Blonde an exceptional film from a unique time. Criterion's devotion to releasing these Czech films is commendable, since they have much to offer modern film fans looking for real emotions and honest characters.

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com

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