Monday, 16 April 2018

Godspeed Milos Forman

Milos Forman, who directed such films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Ragtime (1981), and Amadeus (1984), died April 13 2018 at the age of 86.

Milos Forman was born on February 18 1932 in Cáslav, Czechoslovakia. The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. He was only eight years old when his father was arrested by the Gestapo. His mother was arrested not long afterwards. Both were killed in death camps. During part of World War II he lived with his aunt. He was later taken in by the director of the local gas company in Cáslav. Following the war he attended a boarding school for orphans of the war. He attended film school in Prague.

In the late Fifties he served as assistant director on Dedecek automobil (1957) and Stenata (1958). He received his first directorial credit on the documentary Laterna magika II (1960). In the early Sixties he was an assistant director on Tam za lesem (1962).  He directed his first feature film Cerný Petr (1964 Black Peter). It was followed by Lásky jedné plavovlásky (1965 Loves of a Blonde) and Horí, má panenko (1967 The Fireman's Ball).  It was following the Soviet invasion of the Czech Republic that Milos Forman migrated to the United States.

Although it received the Grand Prix at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, Milos Forman's first film made in the United States, Taking Off (1971), did so poorly at the box office that Mr. Forman owed the studio $500. This was not the case with his next film. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) not only did well at the box office, but it also won the Oscars for Best Picture, Actor in Lead Role, Actress in Lead Role, Director, and Screenplay (becoming the first film to do so since It Happened One Night). One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was followed by Milos Forman's adaptation of the Broadway musical Hair (1979), which received mostly positive reviews, but did not perform well at the box office.

Milos Forman began the Eighties with Ragtime (1981), which was nominated for the eight Oscars. It was followed by Amadeus (1984), which won eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture and Best Director).  He ended the decade with Valmont (1989).

In the Nineties Mr. Forman directed The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) and Man on the Moon (1999). In the Naughts he directed Goya's Ghosts (2006) and Dobre placená procházka (2009).

Milos Forman was a remarkable director. He had a gift for making movies about outsiders and nonconformists, from McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to Mozart in Amadeus. He also had a gift for making period pieces. Among his best films numbered Ragtime and Amadeus. He was also very versatile. During his career he directed documentaries, comedies, a musical, and dramas. The setting of his films varied as well. His movies were set in such diverse places as a mental hospital, a hippie commune, Turn of the Century New York City, and 18th Century France. What is more, he handled all of these diverse genres and settings with a skill and finesse most directors lacked. Few directors were as talented as Milos Forman.

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