A factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have ... Read allA factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have been conscripted. The army sends reservists, mostly married middle-aged men - and the loca... Read allA factory manager in rural Czechoslovakia bargains with the army to send men to the area, to boost the morale of his young female workers, deprived of male company since the local boys have been conscripted. The army sends reservists, mostly married middle-aged men - and the local beauty Andula, spurns those bold enough to try to win her, for the jazz pianist, newly c... Read all
But first. Watch it once straight through because it's funny as hell in that gentle way the Czech know so well, just light and bitter enough to be like getting tipsy on life, delighted at the tipsiness. It's well made and well acted, you can see why Milos Forman was quickly tapped by Hollywood.
Watching it once, you'll have this as your template—a teenage girl's impressionable drift through male sexual whims, and bittersweet realization in the end of heartbreak every time. Now bring all these other things to it:
The guys are only looking to get laid, this isn't about them.
It's a story the blonde girl tells to her girlfriend using the photograph of a boy, both real and imagined. Knowing this, is knowing everything else including the seduction is her exploring by allowing herself to be explored.
The gaffe with the bottle of wine sent by horny soldiers to the wrong table, the ugly ducklings instead of the pretty blonde. But it makes its way to the right one, and we have the two soldiers go after the two girls (but not the blondie), and that subplot abandoned with inviting glances.
Now her seduction (remember, still a story she will tell) but we actually skip sex, and go straight to the intimacy and youthful joking around on the bed which is what she yearns for, connection. And as she leaves the room, she meets the ugly duckling coming back to her room after her parallel night with the soldier.
The lecturing by a teacher on girls guarding a woman's honor, and she boards the first bus out of there. Is she mad? Looking for answers?
The cut from her alone in a country road boarding the bus, to a dance floor in the city filled with young couples, to TV footage of dancing girls in the parents' home. Amazing storytelling, because it is not of the story but the air around the girl lifting her from that road to wait for him in his house.
Her being 'locked' in the house, falling asleep to the mother's incessant nagging. Waking up again, now the boy is there but he's not who she would like him to be—she watches heartbroken through a peephole (a cinematic device) as the pettiness of family life is revealed.
So this is wonderful. It ends with her telling this story better than it is.
I would change a single detail—we'd never be shown who is in either of the two photographs.
It would be about any of these girls dreaming up all we've seen. (we see them all asleep in the end)
Sex safely explored inside the fantasy, and the fantasy both 'real' and imaginary, helter skelter so you wouldn't know where last day's glances end and the pillow book starts. The ugly duckling as the blonde. It can support all that and more, excellent, excellent stuff.
In order to appreciate why this is special, watch another Czech film called Daisies (Sedmikrásky), more inventive on the surface, more irreverent on the same subject, but it doesn't hit deep. It has the images but not the life that gives rise to them, there are both here, and how.
It's so good, it rivals Celine and Julie Go Boating on my list of great films, a similar film on the layered dreaming of a girl.
- Feb 24, 2013