BAMcinématek has become a reliable curator of Czech cinema with its annual contemporary surveys and its 2006 modernism excavation. All demonstrate life after (and before) Loves of a Blonde, but Milos Forman’s bittersweet 1965 sketch on the durable theme of getting laid behind the Iron Curtain is popular for a reason. Its instantly soluble charms are now on view at BAM, just as MoMA’s retrospective of the Oscar-winning expat begins.
While the bloc satire is gentle, urgent stakes do exist for factory girl Andula (18-year-old Hana Brejchová): her central-planned town withers under a 16:1 female-to-male imbalance. The equally ill-conceived stopgap, and the first of three setpieces, is a lackadaisical ballroom mixer with visiting, balding reservists (a mild precursor to Forman’s caustic allegory The Firemen’s Ball, banned with the Prague Spring). After she and her friends parry a trio of sad sacks, Andula shyly falls for the band’s lanky young pianist, who up in his room proves likeably sly far beyond his pale, beseeching appearance.
Forman’s near-Fellini-level flair for casting faces here goes with economic visual story-telling (and musical, sketching generational attitudes), but he also elaborates scenes through sequences of faux-candid shots. Sometimes he’s arguably just cloaking comic types in his nonprofessionals’ naïve-aggrieved delivery and an observational style. But there’s rueful beauty in the dorm seduction (lovely hands, backs, strewn hair, under frequent DP Miroslav Ondrícek’s soft B&W) and bare, unhappy irony when smitten Andula hitches to Prague to visit the (piano-)player in his grumbly parents’ unprivate flat.
After gaming Party censorship, Forman found an Oscar-friendly formula in the U.S. with tales of inspiring nonconformists, but Loves too was beloved, praised at NYFF ’66 and then scoring a foreign-language nom.
February 15-21 at BAM