Lechery, lepidoptery, an apartment full of pin-ups — who isn’t wrapped up and plastered over in the news of the day? What are you contributing to the struggle to build communism? Nobody understands anything, so improvise. Stick it in your craw and smoke it. Do it tonight, at the Brattle.
Alongside Jaromil Jireš’ VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (1970), Vera Chytilová‘s DAISIES represents the ne plus ultra of the Czech New Wave. A still dazzling (although, of course, dated) cautionary picaresque of psychedelic nihilism, DAISIES is the darker of the two films. VALERIE, for all its grotesquerie, concludes with a consoling vision of agrarian countercultural utopia; DAISIES, despite being the earlier film, is bleak in its assessment of the possibilities for escape or transformation. Although often and understandably cast as a classic of early second-wave feminist cinema, DAISIES, while formally (even giddily) radical, is not politically “progressive.” It is, rather, a black comedy about a couple of clowns — a pair of young women, both named Marie (and possibly virgins, fresh as an etc.) — who decide that “if everything is going bad, then we’re going bad as well.” They are going to have fun, damn it, which mostly means eating food, and what better way to secure a regular supply of gourmet victuals than to con wealthy older men into buying them dinner on the implied pretense that it’s a prelude to fucking?
After DAISIES was banned by Czech authorities as decadent and “wanton,” Chytilová began work on a follow-up, another experimental parable — this time riffing on the story of Adam and Eve — called FRUIT OF PARADISE (1969). But funding was difficult to come by, and the demoralized director didn’t make another film for several years. When Chytilová died this past March at the age of 85, it was DAISIES, by far her best-known film, that served, essentially, as her epitaph. Hardly an advertisement for consumer capitalism as an alternative to Soviet-style “socialism,” it partakes — whimsically, deliriously — more of the knowing fatalism of Dame Edith Sitwell‘s Valse, which may or may not have been one of its germs:
So Daisy and Lily,
Lazy and silly
Walk by the shore of the wan grassy Sea,
Talking once more ‘neath a swan-
Of their shade in their train follow.
Ladies, how vain, – hollow, –
Gone is the sweet swallow, –
8/27 // 10PM
$10 General Admission // $8 Student/Member // $7 Child/Senior
40 Brattle Street
Cambridge MA 02138