Rick Baldwin: The director has a name

Published 8:08 am Friday, April 20, 2018

Greetings, my fellow cinephiles of Winchester!

In our world of viewing films, we always remember the stand out titles, the celebrities attached, but unfortunately, a majority of the standard movie-viewer only appreciates what they see in front of the camera on the big screen.

What about the crew members behind the scenes such as the cinematographer, writer or director?

Email newsletter signup

Too many talented individuals behind the camera, who are essential to the film getting completed, never are recognized for their talents except by their peers, in-the-know critics and film buffs.

Today, we will explore a man who many of you may not know or have ever heard of, and passed away this week at the age of 86.

That man is the award winning filmmaker Milos Forman.

Forman was born in 1932 in Czechoslovakia, and resided with his extended family after tragically losing his parents in concentration camps during the Nazi occupation because of their ties with the resistance movement.

From a young age, Forman lost himself in the magical world of storytelling, yearning to be a theatrical producer. As he matured in age, this dream of working in the arts motivated Forman to enroll in film studies at the Academy of Arts in Prague.

Upon graduation, Forman took up screenwriting and directing films, which were instrumental in birthing the Czech New Wave Film Movement of the 1960s.

“Black Peter” (1964), “Loves of a Blonde” (1965) and “The Fireman’s Ball” (1967) were solid low-budget flicks which warranted the attention and disdain of Communist authority in his homeland all the while gaining favorable attention from Paramount Studios in 1967.

Hollywood flirted, and Forman ventured to the U.S. to follow his dreams and leave behind the nightmares of Nazis, Communism and his ties to his homeland.

Forman struggled for several years to find cinematic success and what a success it was, when he helmed the screen adaptation of novelist Ken Kesey’s famous 1962 book, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”(1975).

“Cuckoo” is the counterculture New Hollywood classic starring Jack Nicholson portraying a repeat offender to the legal system who pleads insanity in hopes of riding out his time with ease in a mental hospital.

As time goes on, Jack meets his match and is involved in many tense showdowns against the strict medical menace, Nurse Ratchet played by Louise Fletcher.

“Cuckoo” was a box office success, won five Academy Awards and has deemed as one of the best films ever made by the American Film Institute (AFI).

Forman, always pushing himself against the constraints of society and authority, directed the screen adaptation of the popular 1968 Broadway musical, “Hair” (1979).

“Hair” features prolific actor John Savage as Claude, an Okie who leaves the dustbowl behind for the bright lights of New York. Upon his arrival, he is introduced to the antiwar hippie scene while falling for rebellious rich girl Sheila played by Beverly D’Angelo of “National Lampoon’s Vacation” fame.

Not a huge success like the musical, the film has become a cult film favorite for devoted fans over the years. Some people always feel it’s the Age of Aquarius.

Forman’s next award-winning success came in 1984’s hugely popular, “Amadeus.”

This period piece displays the life, erratic geniu, and tragedies of Mozart, played by Tom Hulce. The narrative is shared by his onetime jealous contemporary Salieri, masterfully carried out by actor F. Murray Abraham. “Amadeus” was a huge hit, has won 40 international awards and is included on AFI’s top 100 films list.

Later, Forman directed the biographical drama, “Man on the Moon” (1999), about the life and untimely death of the eccentric comedian Andy “Taxi” Kaufman.

Though this film was met by mixed reviews from critics and viewers alike, one thing was agreed upon by all: Jim Carrey’s performance was remarkable.

Carrey’s portrayal down to every minute nuance and mannerism of the late comedian was eerily dead-on. Yes, Jim gave a great performance, but there had to be a driving force to marry his performance with the other key elements to pull off this film. That’s where the director comes in.

Next time you love or hate a movie, remember the popular star on the screen is not 100 percent the reason why you have those feelings.

Take the time to read or learn of the director as they are the ones responsible for getting the celluloid in the can.

The mentioned movies should be checked out for they are worth viewing because of a talented director who deserves credit. His name was Milos Forman.

Have a filmtastic day! That’s a wrap.

Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker and film/music historian. He is president of the Winchester-Clark County Film Society (facebook.com/WCCfilmsociety). Find more from Rick on Facebook at facebook.com/ricksrhetoric/ and online at theintestinalfortitude.com/category/reviews-editorials/ricks-rhetoric. He is on Twitter @rickbaldwin79  and can be reached by email at rickbaldwiniii@hotmail.com.