Milos Forman

I know… I know… as you’re reading this you are probably wondering if I ever go to any author readings or if I’m just on the sidelines when movie directors come to town.  As a matter of fact, I get to do both; I just haven’t been to an author reading in a while. 

Last Friday I saw Milos Forman’s first American movie, Taking Off, at the Wexner Center for the Arts.  He was there to introduce the film and afterwards he participated in a discussion.  I had no idea what to expect from the evening and I must say it was amazing.

Going into the event, I had no familiarity with the movie but I knew the basic plot.  It was a very funny movie.  Early scenes led into later jokes.  It was a bit like life in that respect. 

Milos’ English wasn’t very good yet and after every scene he would look at Buck Henry.  If Buck Henry nodded his head, Milos moved on to the next scene.  If Buck Henry shook his head, then Milos complimented everyone and asked for another take.  When asked if Milos considered himself an independent filmmaker his response was, “I don’t think so… I have a wife and four children!”  After much laughter he continued, “Other than that… yes.” 

Someone from the audience asked him which films or filmmakers influenced him.  Prior to the war, he’d only seen two movies.  The first was Snow White and sadly, he didn’t name the second one.  It was a silent black and white movie of Czechoslovakia’s most famous opera.  The lights went down, the movie played on the screen and everyone around him was singing it.  He thought everyone went to the movies and sang. 

Milos shared why James Cagney agreed to do the part in Ragtime, seeing Hair performed for the first time on stage, and how it’s preferable to have a Communist government ban a film for life (though it was only twenty years in actuality) than to have the studio heads edit and release a film.  It was very much like listening to a beloved uncle or grandfather.  The pictures he puts in your head from his stories are even better than what he puts on film.

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