Loves of a Blonde
Released in the United States in 1966 and nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, Loves of a Blonde proves to be a fine little film that isn't quite as good as everyone used to think it was. Though still of historical importance as a gateway to a handful of now world-famous Eastern European directors, today the story of Loves of a Blonde is too slight. Andula (Hanu Brejchovou, sister of Forman's then-wife) has been relocated and lives in a dormitory in Zruc, where she works in a shoe factory under the benevolent supervision of Prkorny (Josef Kolb, who also appears in Forman's The Firemen's Ball). Like the rest of the girls, she is guy-hungry. But the town has a severe man shortage, and Prkorny urges the Communist administration and the army to arrange to install a base nearby. Although Andula already has a boyfriend, she seems dissatisfied, and when Prkorny succeeds and a group of soldiers show up in town, Andula goes to a ball welcoming them, even though the men are a disappointing collection of old, balding hacks. Instead, Andula ends up flirting with Milda (Vladimira Pucholta), the visiting Prague pianist for the band on stage. They spend the night together and Andula gets it into her head that Milda wants her to move in with him back in Prague. Milda, however, is a rougé-type familiar from Eastern European literature and films, who has no intention of settling down. Loves of a Blonde is very much in the spirit of the French new wave. Shot in realistic, almost documentary-style black and white by Miroslav Ondricek, with a narrative presented in series of large, lengthy scenes, the film is more intent on wandering off on tangents than on concentrating on the main thread of the story. The principal problem with Loves of a Blonde is that, at least today, it isn't funny enough to elevate its slight material to a higher level. In addition, the film withholds a lot about the characters while letting scenes play on at length without going anywhere. Ultimately, we don't really know that much about Andula and her motivation.
Criterion's DVD release of Loves of a Blonde is a fine addition to the series of Eastern European films (derived from its sister Janus Collection) the company has released recently, including The Shop on Main Street and Closely Watched Trains. Neither this film nor The Firemen's Ball ever made it to Laserdisc, so the company had an opportunity to do some groundbreaking restoration work. In the case of Loves of a Blonde, it's a new, clean digital transfer of the black and white, full-frame (1.33:1) film, with an adequate Dolby Digital 1.0 track, and newly revised digital English subtitles. Subsidiary material includes a 16-minute video interview with Forman that throws some light on the making of the film (though not as much as in his autobiography) and a deleted scene, which fits in chronologically just before chapter 11 on the disc. It's a nice, and nicely acted, little scene that reasserts how much Milda is an untrustworthy louse. Also included is a six-page booklet with an informative essay by David Kehr. Keep-case.