Milos Forman's Loves of a Blonde is a wonderful movie...sweet and awful. Sweet, because Forman gives us no one we can dislike as he tells us the story of Andula (Hana Brejchova), a young factory worker in the depressing town of Zruc, making endless pairs of shoes alongside dozens of other young women. Not Milda (Vladimir Puchott), the young piano player who comes to town with a band, seduces Andula, and then leaves for Prague. Not the factory bosses, or the other young women who are bored and eager for husbands (they outnumber the men 16 to one). Not even the regiment of aging, smoking, unattractive soldiers who were based in Zruc to lower the odds a bit. Not Milda's parents, who one day find Andula at their apartment door, suitcase in hand, because she gave her heart to Milda and took him seriously when he told her to come visit him in Prague sometime.
And awful, in a desperate sort of way, because Forman let's us see the lives all these people live in a Communist society that is petty, officious and incompetent. We can smile at a lecture an older woman gives the young factory girls about maintaining their honor and dignity with boys; we can even smile when two young leaders stand up and call for a vote to dedicate all of them to this idea; and we can smile when every girl in the room raises her hand to vote in favor, none against and none abstaining. Then we realize it might not be a good idea to snicker at a vote in favor of honor when a boss thinks it would be a good idea.
There are two long, outstanding set pieces in the movie. The first is a dance in town, held by officials so that the soldiers can meet the girls. We move around with the camera, listening in to the appalled girls as they really see these desperate, coarse men, and watching the men as they eye the girls, drink for courage and, in one case, surreptitiously remove a wedding ring and then dropping it on the floor for all to see. There's that safe, chirpy dance music...the angling to get a girl to take a walk in the woods...the possibility that the bored girl will agree.
The second set piece is in Milda's apartment in Prague. Andula has arrived unannounced. Milda is playing with the band at a nightspot and there are only Milda's parents to welcome her. Welcome they don't. They've heard nothing about her. It's clear Milda is in for a surprise when he gets home that night. Milda's mother is not someone you'd want for a mother-in-law. Milda's father is more realistic but not exactly comforting. Their apartment is a living space of ancient appliances, chipped paint and lace doilies. The nagging opinions of the mother and the exasperated gruffness from the father make us smile. Of course, they have the opposite effect on Andula, who now is close to tears. Forman seems to be quietly pointing out to us what living in Communist Czechoslovakia has come to mean.
Poor Andula. Will she have a happy future with Milda? Or will she return to Zruc...wiser, perhaps, but with nothing better ahead for her. Watch the movie and hope for the best. Andula a nice person.
Loves of a Blonde is so poignant and sweet it hurts a little. Forman used mainly non-actors for most the roles and he had a genius for either eliminating their self-consciousness or for making it work in the context of the story. The movie at the basic level of story-telling is effective because the people, from Andula to the bit parts of people at the dance, look and act like people who aren't acting. We wind up liking most of them and feeling indulgent toward the rest.
The Communist regime eventually caught on to the picture of life in Czechoslovakia which Forman presented with such apparent good humor in Loves of a Blonde and The Firemen's Ball. It was happy to see Forman leave the country during the crackdown in 1968. Anyone who thinks Forman, when he came to America, lost his subversive sympathy for people who are at the mercy of institutions and governments needs to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ragtime or The People vs. Larry Flynt.