144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

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Martha
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144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#1 Post by Martha » Sat Feb 12, 2005 8:43 pm

Loves of a Blonde

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With sixteen women to each man, the odds are against Andula in her desperate search for love—that is, until a rakish piano player visits her small factory town and temporarily eases her longings. A tender and humorous look at Andula's journey, from the first pangs of romance to its inevitable disappointments, Loves of a Blonde (Lásky jedné plavovlásky) immediately became a classic of the Czech New Wave and earned Milos Forman the first of his Academy Awardâ„¢ nominations.

Special Features

• New digital transfer, with restored image and sound
• Video interview with director Milos Forman
• Deleted scene
• New and improved English subtitle translation

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The Firemen's Ball

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A milestone of the Czech New Wave, Milos Forman's first color film The Firemen's Ball (Horí, má panenko) is both a dazzling comedy and a provocative political satire. A hilarious saga of good intentions confounded, the story chronicles a firemen's ball where nothing goes right—from a beauty pageant whose reluctant participants embarrass the organizers to a lottery from which nearly all the prizes are pilfered. Presumed to be a commentary on the floundering Czech leadership, the film was “banned foreverâ€

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Matt
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#2 Post by Matt » Sun Aug 07, 2005 9:12 pm

Bosley Crowther's original review of Loves of a Blondefrom the New York Times:
Now that Milos Forman's Czechoslovak film, Loves of a Blonde, has attained a lively reputation and a considerable audience want-to-see by virtue of its explosive premiere showing at the recent New York Film Festival, the beginning of its regular engagement at the Sutton yesterday is almost an anticlimax in the trajectory of its interesting career.

Everybody seems to know about it from the generally fine and full reviews it received after its festival showing. Mr. Forman has had his day in the sun of the admiring gaze of interviewers and movie buffs hereabouts. And the rising stock of Czechoslovak pictures has taken another jump because of it.

There's not much more for me to say about it in the way of critical report than I said here on September 13. It is a delightfully simple and sure account of the way in which a romance-starved young woman warily surrenders herself to a visiting piano player on the night of a factory-town dance and then, acting on his casual invitation, follows him to his home in Prague.

What she finds there—two nervous parents, scolding and clucking over their son and treating his romantic peccadilloes as though they were the naughty acts of a little boy—provides the surprising material for a beautifully droll denouement that is laced with tender traces of youthful poignancy.

The notable thing about it is its frank inconclusiveness—its clear incidental indications that romance is perpetually pursued by young people seeking that something that can never be found totally. It is hopeful—but realistic. And full of delicious characters.

Most winning, of course, are the two young people, played with natural ingenuousness by Hana Brejchova and Vladimir Pucholt, but humorous and touching, too, are Milada Jezkova and Josef Sebanek, as the parents of the boy, and three fellows (not listed in the credits) who are army reservists at the dance. The maneuvers of these three citizen-soldiers attempting to pick up three factory girls, including the blonde of the title, are comedy of the grandest sort. Human comedy, I think they call it. Such is Loves of a Blonde.

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#3 Post by In Heaven » Fri Mar 16, 2007 1:04 pm

So I just watched Fireman's Ball, and I have to admit, not what I expected. I found the beauty peagent choosing and so on rather tedious, and as it lasted for 30 or so minutes, it took away most of my enjoyment. Does anyone have any thoughts on this film? I see there's no conversation...

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#4 Post by domino harvey » Fri Mar 16, 2007 2:51 pm

I think the extended sequences in both films are what makes them so charming.

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#5 Post by sevenarts » Mon Jul 14, 2008 10:22 pm

The Firemen's Ball is the July selection at the Film of the Month Club, so there will be lots of discussion and reviews at the site this month.

I've also cross-posted my own review for now, with more in-depth thoughts to come later.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#6 Post by dad1153 » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:36 pm

Caught "The Firemen's Ball" (DVR'ed) for the first time over the weekend. On first viewing all the swipes at Communism and/or the Czech Republic's regime went over my head because, frankly, I wasn't looking for them. Yes, afterwards the symbolism stood out clearly but I primarily enjoyed Forman's first color picture as an almost burlesque comedy of never-ending errors (a term that could also apply to Communist regimes I suppose). The beauty pageant selection scenes felt too long but the payoff at the end is anarchic fun. At times these ballroom antics feel like excised footage from the wedding scene in "The Deer Hunter" (that's a complement). And I don't recall ever laughing so hard at the on-screen misery of an old man seeing his home burning to the ground. "The Firemen's Ball" resonates so universally because the stakes (like a feud between college professors with tenure) are so low, yet they mean the world to the poor souls stuck within its cinematic (and now historic) realm. An interesting look at Forman's work before he became all-consumed with the 'rebel anti-hero' archtype.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#7 Post by karmajuice » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:46 pm

I'm glad you posted in this thread, because I'm compelled to say how much I adore this film. I saw it about a year ago and it astounded me; my estimation of it has only grown since. The conceit is so modest and understated one hardly notices how remarkable the film really is. I marvel at Forman's ability to juggle all these characters, how he manages to maintain interest and awareness in every event running through the film. It's an ensemble piece in the purest sense of the word -- maybe ironically, this anti-Communist film exhibits the fruits of collective prowess. More than anything, the film reminds me of the half-finished restaurant in Playtime blown up to full length. Tati's style differs from Forman's significantly, and Tati does more with simultaneous action in his compositions, but both films are beautiful observations of human chaos.
Human. That's another thing. The film is scathing satire and its outcome is pessimistic, but it still feels like a deeply humanist film. Like many other Czech films, particularly those of the New Wave, it has a humanist streak which emphasizes our eccentricities and often our naivety. While the film explores human folly it does so with care and I never feel any hatred or even disdain toward the characters. They may be bumbling, but they are all bumbling; we are a bumbling people, it seems to say. In fact, it feels like each character is a protagonist and their collective presence is the antagonist.
So those are my observations. I'd like to give more specifics but like I said, it's been a year since I've seen it. Now, I haven't talked much about its subversive themes or its political criticisms, but that's not to say I don't admire them. Most of all I'm impressed by how seamlessly they are built into the film: they compose its very fabric. I'm utterly enamored with Eastern European cinema, particularly its views on its history under the shadow of Russia, and this film illustrates those issues so eloquently.

Also, and this bears no less importance than any of the rest: the movie is absolutely hysterical.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#8 Post by ehimle » Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:53 pm

I saw this (the firemen's ball) today too.
so good. I really need to watch this again to catch the allegory better.
I thought the beauty queen thing was long and painfully embarrassing but in a ridiculously funny way.
I also saw "loves of a blonde" a couple years ago and loved it too.
what else did milos do during his czech new wave time?

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#9 Post by jbeall » Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:09 am

ehimle wrote:I saw this (the firemen's ball) today too.
so good. I really need to watch this again to catch the allegory better.
I thought the beauty queen thing was long and painfully embarrassing but in a ridiculously funny way.
I also saw "loves of a blonde" a couple years ago and loved it too.
what else did milos do during his czech new wave time?
If you're region-free, you can pick up Audition from the UK's Second Run.

Let me suggest that you don't have to work too hard to find an allegorical reading. Under communism, the officlal cultural/artistic program of the regime was socialist realism, which entailed an explicit portrayal of the class struggle, typically portraying the working class as virtuous and heroic, and bourgeois factory owners as corrupt and evil. The class that the Party champions is depicted in the film as itself corrupt (albeit not without reason). Forman's charm is that he shows no small amount of warmth toward these hapless and ineffectual villagers, but at the same time, he's driving a pretty vicious stake into the heart of Communist ideology (at least in its socialist realist form).

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#10 Post by karmajuice » Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:18 am

He made a film called Black Peter, I believe his feature debut. I haven't seen it but I've heard mention of it. The film is available via Facets but the quality is undoubtedly atrocious. IMDB lists a few other films from that period but I haven't even heard about them.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#11 Post by Cinephrenic » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:11 am

karmajuice wrote:He made a film called Black Peter, I believe his feature debut. I haven't seen it but I've heard mention of it. The film is available via Facets but the quality is undoubtedly atrocious. IMDB lists a few other films from that period but I haven't even heard about them.
Black Peter is a classic from the Czech new wave and I believe Criterion will release this.


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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#13 Post by bamwc2 » Fri Aug 27, 2010 12:59 pm

To posted on my Beaver review:
Well folks, I goofed. Shortly after Gary posted my reviews for these five Criterions, I began receiving notification that the pictures were not representative of the video quality of the releases. Although I initially defended my captures, I recently realized that when I took the screen captures, the software that I use to do this was incorrectly configured. Fortunately these are the only reviews of mine that were affected. I will redo the captures as soon as possible, but since they are currently in storage roughly 300 miles away from me, it will likely take a week or two before I can get that done. I apologize for the difficulty and I assure you that I will take every step in the future to ensure that this won’t happen again. I’ll end by reiterating for those who are considering purchasing these discs, THE IMAGE ON THE DISCS LOOKS BETTER THAN WHAT IS CURRENTLY DISPLAYED.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#14 Post by bamwc2 » Wed Sep 01, 2010 2:03 pm

The pics are all now fixed.

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Re: 144-145 Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball

#15 Post by MichaelB » Mon Sep 27, 2010 7:57 am

Can you also fix this sentence in the Firemen's Ball review, which rather leaped out at me?
As per Criterion policy of the day, the disc comes with a competent, but uninspiring English language Dolby Digital 1.0 track.
The disc is definitely in the original Czech!

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Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#16 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Mar 31, 2014 6:34 am

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#17 Post by domino harvey » Mon Apr 14, 2014 8:53 am

I actually did get a chance to revisit this one recently when going through old favorites to make the syllabus for my 60s World Cinema class and while I didn't end up choosing this for my class, I was struck with how the film opens with the charmingly scrappy live music number and how it anticipates many such appearances in other Forman films, especially Taking Off, where maybe a third of the film is just a collection of similar tunes (throughout of the folkier variety)

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#18 Post by MichaelB » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:00 am

I can think of loads of films (and filmmakers: Altman, Loach, many others) that used broadly similar working methods to Forman since Loves of a Blonde came out - namely, overwhelmingly non-professional cast, shooting with two cameras (one concentrating on the scene's lead character, the other roaming around to catch unscripted moments) and lots of improvisation to the point where Forman reckoned only about half the dialogue in the final film was actually scripted - but can you think of any that used a similar approach prior to Loves of a Blonde? Besides Forman's earlier work, that is?

Forman commented on his fondness for using non-professionals:
It's very interesting, the difference between a professional actor and a non-professional actor. The non-professional actor is not at all camera-shy. He's audience-shy, he doesn't like being watched by people, but the camera is an object: he doesn't mind to give himself, to strip his soul naked in front of an object. He minds reading in front of live people. Professional actors, it's the other way round: they love the audience, they are playing to the audiences. The camera is intimidating: the camera doesn't laugh, the camera doesn't express enthusiasm for them, they don't like it very much. So it was very interesting, the mixing of professional and non-professional actors helped both.
If I remember rightly, just two actors - Vladimír Pucholt as the male lead Milda, and Vladimír Menšík as Vacovský, one of the three hapless soldiers at the dance - were full-time professionals, although professional musician Jan Vostrčil was appearing in his third Forman film. Everyone else was a complete newcomer, although Hana Brejchová as female lead Andula and the extraordinary Milada Ježková as Milda's mother (initially spotted by Forman and his screenwriters ranting on a bus) later went on to develop acting careers on the strength of their debuts here.

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#19 Post by Drucker » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:13 am

Just watched this delightful film as I'm taking a sick day off at work. I really didn't know what to expect with it, having not seen any of Forman's Czech films. But it's an incredibly breezy, free-feeling film that really lets us get to know each character while still leaving plenty of unanswered questions. I believe those unanswered questions to be the greatest charm of the film, perhaps.

The wine bottle sequence is downright masterful, and really perfectly sets the tone for the film, to me. Awkward, funny, silly, and confused. The stiffness of not only the soldiers (reservists?) but the entire act of courtship is on display. It's really remarkable that a film that exudes such a cool atmosphere is able to have its characters and situations be so awkward. But again, that's the charm of being an adolescent isn't it? Adolescence is filled with ugly people, pretty people, music, dancing, courtship, all of which are on display at the hall. I also love the way its shot, with a mixture of being at the tables of certain characters, but also a bit distant, almost documentary-like.

The charms of youth continue as Milda meets with the boy from Prague, and this sets off another charm of the film. This boy is obviously cute, and certainly catches Milda's eye better than the three old men. Yet she is still unsure of him and herself. She seemingly likes the boy, and yet is so hesitant. The courting of these two is beautiful, and is a great display of that universal feeling where two people can be interested in each other, and still have trouble being romantic.

At that age, you are driven by feelings and emotion in love so much more than rationality. Why does Milda reject the boy who gives her the ring? Who knows. There really might not be a reason, but she is sick of him, over him, and doesn't want to see him anymore. But that's just another charm of the film, of following one's instincts in any given situation. Again, another great example of what it truly is like to be a kid and in love.

The parents at the end of the film cap off the charms. Why does the mother have all of these seemingly arbitrary rules? Haven't we all been there, with parents setting rules without what we feel is a fair rhyme or reason? And even the mother kind of gives away the game, as she worries "what other people will think."

The film's long scenes are perhaps its best strength. We get a great amount of insight into the entire span of a few events, and we are forced to live them through Milda's eyes, almost in real time. Overall, the film reminded me a lot of Il Posto. Every stage of adolescence is awkward in some ways, and right as you are at that point about to really be "an adult" but still stuck at home living with your parents, or right before you've grown up enough to know what you want in love, it can be so trying.

Gerald Mast in his book A Short History Of Movies does an excellent job summing up the charms of the film, to me:
The folly of youth for Forman is that it is so earnest and so clumsy. Sexual pursuit is the primary activity, but the pursuit is awkward, callous, and mechanical. Sexual success is the only emblem of human importance, and Forman's youths devote their lives to feeding their egos and vanities with this kind of food. Forman's adults, meanwhile, spend their lives in their apartments, conversing about nothing but the evils of their children, bored with the books they read, the television they watch and especially bored with one another.

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#20 Post by MichaelB » Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:17 am

It's probably worth mentioning that this was a colossal commercial hit in Czechoslovakia - at one point the second most successful domestic release ever. It clearly struck multiple chords right across the population.

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#21 Post by Sloper » Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:40 pm

MichaelB wrote:Vladimír Menšík as Vacovský, one of the three hapless soldiers at the dance
...whom we recently saw playing the monk (and sheep enthusiast), Bernard, in Marketa Lazarová. I didn't recognise him at first, without the beard.
Drucker wrote:It's an incredibly breezy, free-feeling film that really lets us get to know each character while still leaving plenty of unanswered questions. I believe those unanswered questions to be the greatest charm of the film, perhaps... Why does Milda reject the boy who gives her the ring? Who knows. There really might not be a reason, but she is sick of him, over him, and doesn't want to see him anymore.
I think your excellent post touches on some of the key things that make this such a great film. As you say, there is a sense of intimacy with these characters, and yet they remain opaque and inscrutable in many ways. Ken Loach sums up this sense of non-intrusive intimacy in terms which reveal a lot about how and why this film exerted such a huge influence on him: 'it was very detailed, very intimate, you felt that every frame had been closely observed...'; but at the same time, 'there was a real sympathy, a sense that the picture was at the service of the subject, not imposing on it. It's all become rather hostile more recently - there's a tendency to turn the subject into an object. You felt that the characters were part of their background.'

Andula, in Forman's film, reminds me a lot of the protagonists in Kes or Family Life. The film is attentive and sympathetic to her situation, but never presumes to pluck out and interpret her thoughts and feelings. There are many extraordinarily powerful moments, especially in the scenes in Milda's home towards the end, where we just watch Andula listening while other people discuss her or attempt to control her, and it's impossible to infer her emotions on the basis of what we see - or at any rate, I think it would be misguided to try and come up with any definitive interpretation.

One thing I disagree with you about is the breezy tone, but again the ambiguity here is one of the film's strengths. It does seem very light-hearted at first glance, and the jokes do get funnier with each viewing. But I'm also finding the film more and more sad, more Loach-ian I guess.

It begins with that rather glum young woman sitting against some depressing '60s wallpaper and singing a song which adopts a male point of view, and appears to be about the man's courtship rituals being repeatedly shot down by a woman who just wants to have sex. It's a Czech song, but in an American style, so perhaps suggests a compromised sense of cultural identity; and it's a woman singing, but a male perspective on love-making. We will later see this same woman suggesting that her fellow workers vote to make the 'honour pledge', which is itself founded on the principle that men's abusive behaviour ('hooliganism' in the terms of the song) is a response to women's promiscuity. The irony here is neatly encapsulated by the film's over-arching narrative, in which the state supplies the women of Zruč with an abundance of men for the specific purpose of providing for the women's presumed sexual needs, then sternly warns these same women that allowing such needs to dictate their actions will cause men to treat them badly...

The song, like the pledge and the vote, is part of the process whereby these ideas are propagated and drummed into the women's heads. The film seems primarily interested in the de-individualising effect of such ideas. A close-up of a shabby floral decoration on a patch of wallpaper accompanies the opening credits as the 'hooligan' song plays out, and it's an effective way of establishing this film's stance on the insipid clichés, received ideas and oppressive cultural norms that operate in every scene.

The title, 'Loves of a Blonde', is very telling. In the UK it's called 'A Blonde in Love', which places less emphasis on the various men Andula works her way through than on Andula herself and her journey (if that's the word for it). Michael Brooke, in the booklet accompanying the Second Run release, says that the American title is the more literally faithful, 'but neither English version catches the bookending rhyme of "lásky" (loves) and "vlásky" (hair)'; he goes on to call the film a 'rueful, sobering study of the deadening effect that one's environment can have on one's prospects'. Even the title of the film pigeon-holes Andula as 'a blonde', aligning her love life with her hair-colour. When Milda finds her asleep in his parents' flat and fails to identify her, it is because he 'didn't recognise her hair' - the fact that she is a blonde conveys nothing about her identity or her capacity for love.

What I like most about the film, at the moment, is that it could be read as tracing a fairly conservative narrative in which a young woman fools around with a ne'er-do-well, a married man, and some middle-aged losers, before tentatively finding her way into a nice, unpretentious, respectable family with a healthy sense of morals. At the end, Andula tells her friend that she will be visiting Milda and his family 'from now on' ('pretty often' in the Second Run version), suggesting that this time she may have found someone to go steady with, and may also have a stabilising influence on Milda himself. The film could be read this way - but there are lots of subversive little moments undermining this narrative.

Note Andula's persistence in saying she doesn't trust Milda when he's trying to bed her: when we cut to the two having sex, moments later, she is saying 'I do trust you, I trust you completely', but she's crying as she says this. Why? Tears of joy and cathartic relief? Or is her trust for this young man just a story she's telling herself while being coerced into what Milda clearly regards as a one night stand?

I say 'clearly', and this would have been clear if the deleted scene (included on the Criterion disc) had been kept in the film - the one where we see Milda trying to bully his way into another woman's home, being tricked into climbing through someone else's window, and then being chased away by the police. Without this scene, we just see him having drinks with a woman and refusing to buy her a flower, and he doesn't come across as quite so much of a womaniser. Still, look at his subtly shifting facial expressions as he cradles Andula's head and reassures her that he's just been out with his friends - and especially when he says he's glad to see her, then asks how long she plans to stay. As I said above, I think it's a mistake to be too definitive in interpreting these kind of gestures, but my point is that his reactions upon finding her in his home are deeply ambiguous.

And then there's the moment when Andula eavesdrops on the family's bickering as they settle into bed. This is an extended comic scene, and Andula's behaviour seems to contribute to the farcical tone. But then, as the mother complains that this girl has ruined her evening, we see Andula kneeling outside the door, sobbing bitterly. Again, the tears are ambiguous. Is she just having a penitent cry over her own thoughtless behaviour, and is this a sign that she is growing up and taking responsibility and becoming a good girl? Or is she crying because another attempt to find love has come to nothing, and because once again she finds herself out of place, unwanted and un-recognised (in the most profound sense)?

When we see her talking to her friend again in bed, the emphasis could be more on continuity than on progression: the romantic fantasies of the dorm room have petered out twice before, and this time will be no different. For all the well-meaning efforts of the factory director to help these women get a social life outside the factory, Andula's social life is still limited to her circle of girlfriends in the dormitory, and this doesn't exactly seem like a very tolerant, supportive community. Indeed, the journey to see Milda was clearly an attempt to escape the confines of the factory accommodation. Andula refuses to vote for or against the pledge, and when they ask for abstentions, we cut to Andula hitch-hiking and raising her arm in the air, as though to signify her abstention from that whole stifling community.

And what about the apparently benign social director at the factory? Is he really all that benign, or are his over-zealous attempts at instigating social interaction more than a little bit creepy? Notice the way Andula glances at him after he inspects her work and pats her on the shoulder in the factory. Does she look grateful for his attentive, friendly behaviour? Or a little uncomfortable? At the very end of the film, she's back in the factory again, and we see her glance at the director as he passes behind her. It seems like a furtive glance, perhaps signifying nothing more than the worker's anxiety as the supervisor walks past, but perhaps signifying the same kind of discomfort Andula and her friends seem to feel when subjected to the attentions of the other, equally over-zealous and over-attentive, men in this film.

Does anyone else see the film in this way, or do you think I'm reading a bit too much doom and gloom into it?

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#22 Post by jindianajonz » Tue Apr 15, 2014 4:38 pm

Some great thoughts. I agree with you that the film ends up being much more melancholic than breezy. The comedic bickering of the family at the end only emphasizes how unfunny Andula finds her own situation. I'd side with your second interpretation of this scene, that Andula is in a place of loneliness rather than a sign that she is growing up. The fact that she is back in bed talking about her relationships with her friend imply to me that she really hasn't grown that much.

And yes, the plant manager definitely gives off a creepy vibe.

Since you bring up the deleted scene, I have to mention that I'm not sure why it was cut. Not only did it add another dose of humor (even if the police chase felt like it was taken from a different kind of comedy) but it added some nice resonance with earlier scenes. Milda gets a bit of comeuppance when he tells the girl "I trust you", and like Andula, ultimately finds that trust betrayed. There is also a nice callback to the party, with Milda's girl teased Milda from behind a locked glass door, just as Andula's friends mockingly waved goodbye to the bottle toting soldier when he is locked out of their dorm.

Why do you think this scene was cut? Even if the police chase was a bit much, it could have still worked by ending with Milda jumping out the window.

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#23 Post by warren oates » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:45 pm

I agree with Drucker about the wine bottle sequence. But, really, that whole dance is great once it gets going. And the bit with the married reservist's ring is laugh out loud funny, from the moment he struggles to remove it and bury it in his pocket (which looks like he's doing something else in his pants from the POV of the girls approaching him!), to the final bit where he's humiliatingly forced to grope under the homely girls' table for the ring, which he finally reacquires.

There's another tiny throwaway moment I liked almost as much -- the "walk of shame" when Andula and another girl sneak back to their rooms in their new boyfriends' oversized coats. It's played at first like farce, where they both do a quick double take and duck back inside doors on opposite ends of the hallway. Then they sort of buck up and go for it anyway, heads held high, expressions muted. But as they pass each other they both offer little knowing smiles of mutual acknowledgement. It's such a natural true little moment, handled with such a perfectly light comic touch and just the right amount of humanity. It's the sort of thing -- universal to dorm life -- I feel like I ought to have seen in a film about college before. But of course almost no one anywhere ever has made a good film about college.*

I also liked the long takes in the parents' apartment, the ones at the table especially, which really reminded me of the natural state of bickering that, say, Scorsese's parents display in Italianamerican.

It was striking to me how similar the lives of the women in the film are to many of the migrant factory workers in the present day industrial boom in China. Their isolation, which means there's pretty much nothing else around but the factory, and so nothing to do but work and then take whatever brief time off they have right there. The dormitory life, with crowded communal rooms and cramped bunk beds. And the way the women still doll themselves up on a daily basis, if only for each other. How very much they justify their labor with hopes/dreams of a better life later elsewhere, usually involving a man, coupling, marriage.

It's just that, from the Chinese films I've seen -- the fiction/nonfiction hybrids of Jia Zhangke and documentaries like Last Train Home -- you'd never guess that any of this was in any way their choice or a relatively good option given the other choices available in their world or a source of any experience except exploitation, degradation, misery and tragedy. It's not as if the massive scale of industry there doesn't lead to abuses. But everyone was so willing to believe the dominant narrative that even This American Life got suckered into producing a false report. Here's a TED talk I heard recently that upends much of that conventional wisdom.

So I'm kind of surprised that not a single noteworthy Chinese film comedy has come out of this situation. At least no breakout hit of the stature of, say, that satirical masterpiece of mismanaged village bureaucracy The Story of Qiu Ju. And in retrospect, to me, that makes it all the more impressive that Forman manages to find authentic comedy in the lives of his workers in an even more tightly controlled system with fewer, worse options and much narrower hopes for the future.

Someone above asked "Why does Milda reject the boy who gives her the ring?" If I'm remembering right, I thought it was, at least in part, because he had previously made a date with her that he blew off? And about that factory director: for me his creepiness didn't cross the line into outright lechery. I saw him as more single-mindedly doing whatever he had to do to keep his workers just happy enough to be productive but not so happy that they'd give way to thoughts/plans of leaving.

*Poison Friends and The Rules of Attraction excepted

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Sloper
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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#24 Post by Sloper » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:20 pm

jindianajonz wrote:The fact that she is back in bed talking about her relationships with her friend imply to me that she really hasn't grown that much.
Maybe, although I think a sense of immaturity/inexperience is the keynote of the two 'bed' scenes at the start of the film; at the end, I think the tone is more one of conscious self-delusion (if that makes sense), as though Andula knows that these conversations are just fantasies and that this latest relationship is just like the others.
jindianajonz wrote:Since you bring up the deleted scene, I have to mention that I'm not sure why it was cut.
I agree with you that it adds a great deal to the film, and indeed that whole sequence is missing something without it (we see Milda playing at the dance, then chatting someone up; we need the third vignette where he attempts a seduction). If it had been included, it would have been crystal clear that what happened to Andula in Zruč was just part of Milda's typical M.O. And I do think that's probably why it was cut out. It would inject a more profound and less ambiguous tone of cynicism into the reunion of these two lovers in the flat, and close off a certain (optimistic) way of viewing the film. That wouldn't make it a less effective film, in my view, but it would make it less palatable.
warren oates wrote:There's another tiny throwaway moment I liked almost as much -- the "walk of shame" when Andula and another girl sneak back to their rooms in their new boyfriends' oversized coats. It's played at first like farce, where they both do a quick double take and duck back inside doors on opposite ends of the hallway. Then they sort of buck up and go for it anyway, heads held high, expressions muted. But as they pass each other they both offer little knowing smiles of mutual acknowledgement. It's such a natural true little moment, handled with such a perfectly light comic touch and just the right amount of humanity.
That is a lovely moment, particularly because the other woman has just come from sleeping with one of the reservists who initially snubbed her the previous night - remember we saw the social director getting her together with a reluctant Vladimír Menšík.
warren oates wrote:And about that factory director: for me his creepiness didn't cross the line into outright lechery. I saw him as more single-mindedly doing whatever he had to do to keep his workers just happy enough to be productive but not so happy that they'd give way to thoughts/plans of leaving.
Yes, that sounds right to me - and I agree that he doesn't come across as lecherous exactly, just creepily over-solicitous and disingenuous; or rather, perhaps it's his very earnestness that makes him a slightly unsettling figure.

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Re: Loves of a Blonde (Miloš Forman, 1965)

#25 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Apr 17, 2014 2:28 pm

> Yes, that sounds right to me - and I agree that he doesn't come across
> as lecherous exactly, just creepily over-solicitous and disingenuous; or
> rather, perhaps it's his very earnestness that makes him a slightly
> unsettling figure.


Sounds sort of like Noriko's boss in Early Summer?

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