Directed by Milos Forman
DVD by The Criterion Collection
This honest, yet affectionate, portrayal of innocent emotional expense got Milos Forman his first Academy Award nomination. Mingling poignant, subtle satire with an eclectic cast of characters that are as sympathetic as they are charismatic, the universal experience of one’s first crush as depicted in LOVES OF A BLONDE is still effective almost four decades later.
Forman chose a perfect simplicity of setting and action for a heart’s first surge and disappointment. Based in a population that isn’t exactly oppressive, but certainly “benevolently” manipulative, young women like Andula (Hanu Brejchovou) make the best of their droll existence in close quarters. Instead of concentrating any attention on possible competition between the bored adolescent girls desperate for male eyes with a 16 to 1 ratio, Forman wisely focuses on briefly defining the stark environment, and then the individual’s attempts to muddle through day by day. By remaining observant of a single woman’s journey through a handful of men, her relational skills evolve more naturally than had she just been set apart as different from other women her age.
Though it’s predictable that Milda (Vladmira Pucholta) will not return Andula’s newly acquired desires once he’s had his fill, there is still respect given to both youthful characters for each of their hormonal flaws. Andula is smart enough to stay away from someone who is obviously pushing boundaries by the inch, and yet as an attractive peer who strokes her ego, he’s still a better match than the middle-aged men she’s been stuck in the same room with so far. Milda may be a womanizer, but he’s also a charming lad who fully appreciates his prey. Most impressive is that the layered degrees of Andula’s succumbing to temptation are so sparingly laid out, without the slightest movement towards moral judgment.
LOVES goes on to explore societal avenues that ignorantly provoke and perpetuate sexual exploration by the very impressionable creatures that the powers that be hope will remain chaste. On the one side is the manager of the factory in which the women are coerced into working, encouraging that the women have play time with men as a balance to the long hours necessary to fill quota. But when you live a lifestyle of distracting play to offset drudgery, it’s also easy to end up the passionless parents that Milda is constantly escaping from through the embrace of others, and for which Andula has been used. The factory workers make verbal pacts with one another to keep their reputations intact so that they may find true love some day, sadly the only supposed form of happiness available to them. Despite the humor of this scene, Forman keeps these various ideals on a debatable level, never fully backing any specific path for the naïve to venture on.
Even with these divergent dogmas slithering to the surface that can often depress a viewer, there’s a hopeful sense of finding the proper balance of contentedness of heart and productivity in community through experience. It is part of the human experience to have your heart broken at least once in life. The inevitable occurrence will strengthen a person to become both more adept at noticing an eventual catastrophe, and enjoyment upon finding a gem. Andula has been taken advantage of, but she is also a resourceful girl who is wiser without having lost total emotional capacity, and that leaves a remarkable sense of hope, thanks to Forman’s careful handling of the subject matter.