World cinema classics continue with tales of love, but not romance in the classic sense. Don't expect anything mushy or lovey-dovey here. These darker tales of love are unconventional to say the least, and for some may well be heart-wrenching. Desire can take many forms, and the things we do for love reveal much about who we are. Not as citizens of any particular nation, mind you, but as human beings.
In 1962, at the time of its release, Mamma Roma was highly controversial. It is the story of an ex-prostitute (the title character, played by Anna Magnani) who has retired to run a fruit stand. Now able to provide a better life, she brings back her son to live with her. Despite her best efforts, she finds raising an upstanding young man is no easy task, particular when the red-light districts can cast long shadows from the past.
Oddly, the film suffered backlash over its foul language rather than the obvious sexual overtones. Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the film reflects a dark, if poetic, view of the things we do for love. The cinematography in Mamma Roma at times hint at how alone we all can be, no matter how hard we try. It reflects also a grim view of humanity as a whole, depicting post-WWII Italy as a place populated by pimps, whores and other criminals. An indictment of the Mussolini era, Pasolini was attacked by Fascist protesters at the film's premiere. These reactions contributed to his bleak outlook in his poetry and cinema, culminating in 1975's infamous film, Salò. In his career, Pasolini illustrated sad realities where he hoped passion and love could overcome the horrors of mankind.
Over the past few decades, Miloš Forman has directed several acclaimed Hollywood films: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, The People vs. Larry Flynt and others. But before he came stateside, Forman was at the forefront on the Czechoslovak New Wave of the 1960s. A pioneer of Czech cinema that countered the oppressive Post-WWII Communist society of his country, Forman's films featured dark humor and a balance of optimism versus disappointment. They usually feature outsiders, characters fighting against the system that suppresses any counter-culture expression.
Loves of a Blonde was one of Miloš Forman's early films, yet still features nearly all of these trademarks. Released in 1966, it is the story of Andula (Hana Brejchová), a young woman in a blue-collar Czech town. When the local factory manager bargains to bring in male Army reservists to balance a disproportionate female population, Andula finds herself spurning the advances of the imported suitors. Eventually, she finds herself drawn to a young musician and subsequently drawn into discussions from others about her questionable virtues. She finds that the misadventures in love can often lead down paths with no map, and Forman paints her world as one where sexuality is depicted as an antidote for totalitarianism. Alas, it remains one that can still reveal disillusion once the paint dries.
Nominated for Best Foreign Language film, Loves of a Blonde turned a spotlight on Czech cinema and also jumpstarted Forman's career.
Exposure to other cultures is always a fine way to prevent an ethnocentric view of one's world. Foreign classics like these help open on eyes to both universal plights of the human condition, but also to situations we have the luxury of rarely encountering here in the U.S. Hardships appear everyday, regardless of if spawned by love, hate, emotions or apathy. Most often, it's our passions that drive us to action, and there lies the cautionary tale. Passion can hold the key to our very hearts, but also to Pandora's box.
Showtimes for the films:
Tuesday, Aug 16th
Wednesday, Aug 17th
Loves of A Blonde
Tuesday, Aug 16th
Wednesday, Aug 17th
Final Notes about the screening:
$2 discount for Austin Film Society members at the box office for all "World Cinema Classics" films!
"When two movies are grouped together under the same thematic heading, one ticket is good for both features when viewed back-to-back on the same day." (cha-ching!)
"Hassle-free downtown parking available for $6 at the One American Center for all summer films! Since you’re also supporting the theatre when you buy parking, they're giving you a free small soda each time you park there for a film. Buy online with your film tix and print out your confirmation e-mail or buy directly from the garage attendant (cash only). Attendant will have your soda ticket as well."