Loves of a Blonde
Hanu Brejchovou is a marvel as a romantically frustrated factory worker in this Milos Forman film that heralded in the Czech New Wave.
Reviewed by Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 22, 2002
Loves of a Blonde (1965)
D: Milos Forman; with Hanu Brejchovou, Vladimíra Pucholta, Vladimír Mensik, Ivan Kheil, Milada Jezková, Josef Sebánek, Antonín Blazejovsky. Several, all fruitless, would be the short answer to the film's open-ended title; the long answer would be this 87-minute long black & white charmer that heralded in the Czech New Wave movement and popularized its director, Milos Forman. His early Czech-language films are much praised, but not widely seen (something which the premier arthouse/foreign DVD outlet Criterion hopes to redress with its recent release of Loves of a Blonde and 1967's The Fireman's Ball); Forman is far better known for his English-language work, like the Oscar-winning One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. But this one feels like home: What Loves lacks in technical prowess, it compensates with a lovingness for the folklore, for the people, for their resilience. Andula (Brejchovou), the titular blonde, is a young factory worker in a distant burg where the women outnumber the men 16 to 1. Looking to even out that inequity, the shoe factory owner (Blazejovsky), like a benevolent father seeking matches for his hundred-some daughters, convinces army officials to bring a regiment to town. The little town gathers at the train station, a suitably off-key marching band plays, a banner unspools ("Welcome People's Army"), the women in their finest shift nervously. Then the train rolls up and out roll the promised men: middle-aged and lumpy -- reservists -- quickly stuffing their wedding rings in pockets. It's a scene that will replay throughout: hope, anticipation, then stinging disappointment. Still, Andula is persuaded to attend a social mixer, where she shrugs off the reservists' advances for the love of a womanizing pianist (Pucholta), a city boy who lures the country girl into bed. Later, she will travel to Prague to surprise him, and instead must cool her heels at his disapproving parents' apartment. As the parents squabble back and forth about the idiocy of both their son and this presumptuous girl, Andula's mortification is the very definition of shrinking violet. It's not all bleak, or at least, Forman plays that bleak for laughs, like the delightful set-piece at the mixer in which a table of factory girls are eyeing a table of reservists, who are eyeing a table of Andula and her friends, who are eyeing the door. But despite the film's humor and playful social satire (not too overt, mind the censors), at its core is the tender, exquisite pain of Andula. Like the earthy, sluttish Czech cousin of Claudia Cardinale, Hanu Brejchovou is a marvel; she can spin in a matter of moments from working-girl surly to wide-eyed innocent, from embittered to emboldened, from used-up to born-again. A split-personality, heartbreak case, just like Forman's film, which springs from bitter to sweet, then finally settles somewhere in the middle.