Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Film Club and Daisies

Sunday night found the Film Club regulars (minus Frankenkeith, who's off again performing unfeasible feats of derring-do) settling down to take a peek at Czechoslovakian writer/director Vera Chytilová's 1966 "comedy" Sedmikrásky.

Helpfully, for those of us with little or no Czech to call upon, Sedmikrásky translates as "Daisies". Or so I'm led to believe by the film's English title.This one split opinions within Film Club, and that's not at all surprising. It's billed as a comedy but it could never be thought of as riotously funny. The storyline (such as it is) concerns the two young women in the shot above who constantly change their names according to who they're with (the credits bill the characters as Marie I and Marie II).

In the opening scene the Maries decide in a pastiche of mechanical movement to "go bad" and therefore to challenge the world in which they live; their world is a collage of imagery: war, work, dance, theatre...

There are several scenes in which the Maries are wined and dined by older men who are then comprehensively sent packing amid gales of girlish giggling.The film continually changes flavour and scenery in a surrealist montage: impossible shifts of location with continuous action; flickering between colour, black and white and inaccurate tinting. The overall effect is akin to stumbling into a disorienting art gallery and being unable to understand the exhibits; just as something starts to make sense, the audience is jolted into another piece of surrealism and non-sense takes over again. The whole is punctuated with insanely irritating girly giggles.The Maries eventually descend (or more accurately ascend in a goods lift) into an orgy of food wastage and gorging in a fantastical banquet during which they break or destroy almost everything in sight.In the film's finale, we get a blunt reminder of how everything can be made "good" again; even if it's actually still entirely broken and of no use to anyone or anything. I took this as a metaphor for governmental stupor and dishonesty, but you might well draw other conclusions. Whatever Chytilová's actual intention, I thought the film to be quite deeply subversive; my knowledge of Czech society and politics in 1965/66 is pretty scant but the authorities saw fit to ban this film for a while - so it must have been doing something right.So - the film club scale: Dong took one fag break but probably would have taken a dozen more if the film had been even four minutes longer (a thumbs down from Dong, then); Shazzerooneypoos made no wuffly noises, but was pretty well perplexed by the whole thing (and who wasn't?); Slocombe found it absorbing and in ever optimistic fashion decided that he liked the montage shots of several dozen padlocks (yes, really); Mrs The Millbrooker was very much of the same opinion as yours truly.

I'd like to watch it again after doing some reading about Czech 20th century history - it might make more sense. Take from this review what you will. I liked it - perhaps you will, too, but you'll need an open mind and a nice full glass of wine.

This 9 minute clip gives a pretty good idea of what to expect from the film should you find yourself in front of a screen and someone announces that you're about to see "Daisies" (do stay with it at least until after the railway journey!):

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