Loves of a Blonde (1965, dir. Milos Forman)
My familiarity with director Milos Forman comes mainly from his work in English language cinema (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, Man in the Moon), but I have been aware for a long time of the movies he honed his craft with in his native Czechoslovakia. I didn’t know much about them, other than from reviews and criticisms they were akin to the French New Wave youth culture movies, but with a more anti-authoritarian bite. One thing I’ve found in art that is hard to translate between languages and culture is humor. Jokes are a product of the experiences and philosophies of a specific group of people, and the broader the joke (i.e. slapstick comedy) the larger the audience you can appeal to. Humor of language or subtle situations is much harder to get a foreign audience to laugh at. However, Forman conquers that challenge with expertise.
Hana lives and works in a rural Czech village whose economy revolves around a textile factory. The factory employs primarily women so the demographics are 16:1 in favor of women. The factory owner petitions the military to station some soldiers there as a way to provide some relief for the tension building amongst the workers. They get sent a group of thirty-something, slightly balding reservists and most of the girls decide to just go with the flow, despite their disappointment. Hana avoids the leers of these men, most of whom are married already, and ends up in the room of a visiting musician more her age. The problem with Hana is that every week she seems to have a new true love and these dreams and wishes get the best of her.
I found myself laughing many times at Loves, particularly in moments where the dialogue was greatly improvised. A trio of reservists looking to lure in some of the young women reveal themselves as inept buffoons as they waste most of their time debating how many of them should approach the table where their prey is sitting. They send a bottle of wine over, but it gets delivered to the wrong table and they tell it to take it from the women who believe they were picked. Soon after, one of the reservists slips off his wedding ring, its kicked across the dance floor and under the table of the spurned women which he must now crawl under.
It’s rare that I find a film from Europe during this period which doesn’t have sequences that seem to drag and pull me out of the picture. Here I was completely engaged from the start, due in part to some very skillful editing and language-transcendent humor. The circumstances that these characters experience are universal to all people: unwanted affections from suitors, allowing oneself to get caught up in what you think is love, and a general sense of dissatisfaction with mundane and repetitive life. Once again, Forman delivers a highly entertaining film with truly funny comedy.