Forman writes that being a movie director requires ``innate arrogance,'' but the power and charm of his autobiography, written with Prague novelist Novak, lies in the absence of arrogance. He tells his astonishing life story with self-deprecation and a sense of the ridiculous. At the same time, the mind behind One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Ragtime is passionately preoccupied with the fate of his fellow Czechs and their torn country. Born in 1932, Forman grew up in a totalitarian state where all art, especially cinema, was perceived as a propaganda vehicle or a threat. He lost both his parents in the Second World War. From then on, Milos was on his own, building his artistic life with his trademark use of little-known actors and allowing the film to make its own mark. From camping out in a bureaucrat's office in Prague to receiving the Oscar for Amadeus , Forman's is a wonderful political and artistic odyssey. He never loses sight of the contributions made by others to his career, creating loving portraits of Twyla Tharp, James Cagney, Jack Nicholson and Peter Shaffer, among others. The memoir is a treat for movie buffs, cultural historians and lovers of the American dream. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb.)
Not many movie people can say they went to school with Vaclav Havel and had Milan Kundera as a teacher. But film director Forman can, and his experiences growing up in postwar Czechoslovakia constitute the liveliest part of this memoir, written with the help of Prague novelist Novak. Like most foreign-born directors who later make it big in the States, Forman's early movies-- Loves of a Blonde, Audition , and The Firemen's Ball-- are his most compelling. While the films he made here after he defected in 1968 are stellar (they include Oscar champs One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus ), his recounting of these shoots never achieves the excitement generated by his descriptions of dodging the Communist censors. Film buffs will enjoy the gossip around the bigger-name movies, and more serious students will glean some directorial insights but none to equal the more comprehensive and theoretical efforts by Bergman and Truffaut. For larger film collections.-- Judy Quinn, formerly with ``Library Journal''
In his depiction of his experiences directing the movie "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest", Forman characterizes the story as a vivid dramatization of "the never-ending conflict between the individual and the institution"--a description that aptly lends itself to both his story and his account of it. As a young boy growing up in Czechoslovakia, he lost both his parents to the Gestapo terror. After the war, he attended Podebrady Castle, a school established for boys who were victims of the war, and then the Prague Film Academy, where he met many of the people who would influence him artistically. Forman's account of the early years of his career reflects the struggle between his artistic vision and the restrictions of the Communist system. His emigration to the U.S. offered both opportunity and freedom, but his account of these years makes clear they, too, had a cost. "Turnaround" is the story both of one man's personal success and of the individual's struggle against the odds to achieve individual goals.
Warmblooded memoir by Americanized Czech filmmaker Forman, whose world went into turnaround when he decided to leave Communist Prague for capitalist Hollywood. Forman's childhood in wartime Czechoslovakia was spent not upsetting the adults who cared for him once his parents had been killed by the Nazis. His young manhood among drunken filmmakers and humorless state-controlled film czars, as he rose from writer to director, is drawn skillfully here, as are his first two marriages, the impossibility of finding an apartment, and the need for the new couple to live for three years in his office. Stories of deranged Czech life take up half the book, focusing on the making of Forman's first two documentary-styled films, Loves of a Blonde (1965) and The Fireman's Ball, which feature nonactors working with real actors. This mix became essential to Forman's spirit, and when he later filmed such Hollywood works as Hair and Ragtime, he filled them largely with unknowns. Even when Forman landed Jack Nicholson for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, he filled the film's mental wards with unknowns and nonactors to help him keep a grip on the real world. As time passed, he found that he was locked into making historical films (Amadeus, Valmont, Ragtime) and that even Cuckoo's Nest was a psychoanalytic period piece based on outmoded lobotomies. What's more, these enclosed worlds, with free spirits and geniuses drowning amid mediocrities, mirrored his earliest experiences under the Nazis and then the Communists. The book's highlight is Forman's return to Prague as an Oscar-winning capitalist to film Amadeus amid the bugs and informers of state security. And the winner is...Milos Formanand hiscoauthor, Prague novelist Jan Novak. (B&w photo insertnot seen)