Criterion Review: Czech Masterpiece DAISIES

The surreal Dadaist work hits Blu-ray just in time for the latest 50% off sale!

Daisies (Czech: Sedmikrásky) the Dadaist Czech masterpiece, just hit Blu-ray last week thanks to Criterion in a new restoration, which recently premiered at Cannes. This was great for fans of the film like myself because it was previously only available in their Pearls of the Czech New Wave DVD set. At long last, the film is finally getting its own well deserved HD release. The 1966 film by Věra Chytilová is a feminist masterwork that follows two women both named Marie, (Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová), who after lamenting at how terrible the world is decide to go out and be terrible themselves. The pair could be perceived as simply two women who’ve had enough, or two divine beings on a rampage if you’d want to dig a bit deeper here. This has the pair going out and just all around raining chaos throughout the film’s 76 minute runtime. These acts are contrasted with quieter moments that have the pair pontificating on their reality, politics, love and life.

Riddled with metaphors the film is a layered work that at times is a literal metaphor utilizing a visual collage style employing stock footage, color timing and even practical effects to echo its point. The women are seen eating apples throughout, a call out to the tree of knowledge, while they destroy eggs and mutilate a number of phallic objects metaphor for the film’s anti-patriarchal message. Men are also presented as singular minded and the pair fleece a number of older men for free meals throughout the film. The women are treated like children by the men around them, probably due to attitudes towards women and models during the 60s. They in turn weaponize these attitudes cooing like babies as they use this to get away with everything from public drunkenness, to straight up robbery. The film concludes with a massive food fight that had the film banned in its home country of Czechoslovakia for its images of wanton women and excessive food wastage.

Given where the film was shot, I think it’s ironic that the film was banned, because it was probably banned by the same socialist government that footed the bill. The film is presented newly restored from the original negative and given the nature of the film, some sections show this better than others. Unlike other HD presentations the color tinting and timing has been preserved and carried forward with this new master. Compared to the original DVD it’s night and day. Along with the film, you get a documentary that really gets into the production and themes of the film, to help unlock this surreal watch. There is also a great commentary that explores some of the more contextual meanings in the film that may not be readily readable to those just starting their journey in surreal cinema. All these extras help to exhaustively unlock the film, which may confound those on its initial watch.

Daisies is a film whose subtext has only been amplified over the years and it’s truly remarkable that this film was made to begin with. I personally love its chaotic nature and its rather unconventional surrealist political approach. It uses imagery that is dadaist and surreal, but it still manages on the surface to be extremely engaging and entertaining to someone just watching it without the historical, social or political context. But what I truly love about Daisies is just how deep you can go into this film that says so much with its feminist chaos. It’s very reminiscent to Deathgame another film about two women on an anti-patriarchal rampage that no doubt was inspired by Daisies and would go on to inspire Knock Knock. I am just glad more folks will get to experience this film not only in the better transfer, but without the bar of buying an entire set to own the film.

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