director Věra Chytilová
I’m having an odd streak in my “great movies I’ve never seen” movie-watching of late. I recently watched director Alain Resnais’ Last Year at Marienbad (1961) but sadly the director passed away just before I saw it, while I had the DVD at home from Netflix. And just now, planning to watch the Czech film Daisies, director Věra Chytilová passed away. I wound up watching it in memorium, if you will.
I suppose it is not so odd with these films from a similar era, directors in their eighties, it’s just strange coincidence. Not good news for other aging directors of great films that I’ve never seen.
Daisies is an irreverent, oddball, almost slap-stick comedy of the avant-garde. It features two young women, Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová, acting out in bizarre, surrealist ways, with an array of visual asides, camera effects, colors, cuts, weirdness, silliness, and lots of food and eating. What’s so refreshing about it is that it’s a feminist film but a feminist film with a great sense of fun and impropriety, but still quite polemical in its way.
It vaguely reminded me of aspects of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, perhaps the more abstract or animated sequences. That said, the comedy is less traditional and skit-like. It also resonated as a real contrast to a film like Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), a brilliant if intensely downbeat feminist movie.
An emblem of the Czech New Wave, it’s a wonderful, strange, and fun little film. It’s easy to see how one could dig into it for analysis, but I’ll just leave it at that for now.