Milos Forman

Requiem for Miloš Forman

Cult. The director of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestHair or Amadeus passed away saturday, April 14th. Throwback to the career of a counterculture’s giant.

By Jacques Braunstein

«It’s not enough to have a main character and a good actor. Every face in the crowd is important. » explained Miloš Forman. Author of twelve feature films, the American director with Czech origin died of illness at 86 years old in his home in Connecticut. This does not mean he was an honest craftsman. Through his incredibly different films, he has built a work dedicated to freedom fighters.

Born in Čáslav in 1932, he became an orphan during the war. Miloš Forman moved to the West in 1968, through the Prague spring repression. His first three movies on the other side of the Iron Curtain (Black Peter, Loves of a a Blonde, The Firemen’s Ball) were feminine social satires that could not be imagined anymore. In the US, he makes Taking Off (1971), a film focusing on runaway children during the hippie years who draws attention to the lake of communication between generations in his adopted country. Then, he adapts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey, the counterculture guru novelist. The movie won five Oscars in 1976, including best picture, best director and best actor for Jack Nicholson. Milos Forman put an end to his hippie trilogy with the feature film adapted from the musical Hair in 1979.

Followed by Ragtime, fresco in the ‘belle époque” segregationist America, Amadeus, portrait an immature and Whimsical Mozart’s portrait confronted to the writing of his Requiem and to death… The movie wins eight Oscars including the second as best director in 1985. In 1989, he pursued in this historical vein with Valmont. But another adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons directed by Stephen Frears and released a few months earlier wins the critical and public setting.

Seven years later, new revolution in his cinema with Larry Flint, portrait of the porn magnate (Husler Magazine), that questions freedom of expression in the US and earned him the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 1997. Then, he directed Man on the Moon (1999) tracing the career of the comedian Andy Kaufman, Saturday Night Live’s stalwart camped by Jim Carey. The 70s, a film in costume and a biopic… The three axes of Forman’s career seem to be summed up by this penultimate movie. A new paradoxical portrait of America that he loved and knew so well but that he had not ceased to scrutinize with his foreign eyes’ slight shift. Since then, he had directed Goya’s Ghosts in 2006 and played in Les Bien-aimés by Christophe Honoré.