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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org