Daisies [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Second Run
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (3rd November 2018).
The Film

Convinced that the world is going rotten, two women, a redhead (Ivana Karbanová) and a brunette (Jitka Cerhová), decide that they should go rotten as well. In a string of vignettes, the two girls – so interchangeable (and capable of interchanging personalities) that neither warrant a name, although some references christen them Marie I and Marie II – provoke reactions from "polite society" with unconventional behavior and manipulate members of the male sex, challenging them as push male notions of female manipulation to the extreme (buying the most expensive items on the menu before obliging a middle-aged lecher to take them to the station to make a train and then buying several magazines when he asks one of them to buy him a newspaper). Those who attempt to engage with their behavior become objects of ridicule, like a singing restroom attendant whose tips they steal behind her back. Their campaign of rottenness escalates from the surreal – in which director Vera Chytilová's husband/cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera utilizes a combination of in-camera effects and opticals to simulate the girls playfully lopping each other limbs and heads before slashing themselves to ribbons (in a sequence that might have inspired Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's later Hausu) – to the futile as they crash a feast before the guests, gorge themselves, and then smash the dishes; whereupon, the filmmaker must intervene – possibly acknowledging that her own approach to the script which held the actors to the original dialogue but otherwise free to improvise (along with Kucera with a variety of visual techniques) has obscured her original intent – and figuratively put them back in their place. Director Chytilová had come to international attention as the only female director of the Czech New Wave with Something Different with deftly shuffled verité documentary and stylized narrative in the parallel stories of a gymnast in training for the Olympics and a middle class housewife pondering an affair. Chytilová's anarchic feature debut Daisies made its bow in the West nearly a year after its release in its native Czechoslovakia's release; but, while the film was reaching more territories abroad throughout the end of the sixties, the momentum of the director's career would be derailed by the Communist crackdown following the Prague Spring of 1968, and her subsequent career in film and television would be hampered by government interference as well as the perception of her as not only an eccentric artist but also a "difficult woman." Although the film seems to exist outside a politicized world and free of any overt feminist statement, Daisies' anarchy for the sake of anarchy proved objectionable by those who failed to recognize Chytilová's criticism of such a stance. The film anticipates certain themes and stylistic ideas she, cinematographer Kucera, and scripting collaborator Ester Krumbachová would carry over to her next completed feature film Fruit of Paradise in 1970, but the differences in tone and approach to her subsequent films that have made her difficult to pigeonhole as a director may have as much to do with artistic growth and different interests as representative of the many stalled and abandoned projects in between each release.

Video

Released theatrically in the United States by Sigma III Corporation – a small distribution company that started out with a double bill of Jess Franco's The Awful Dr. Orlof and Riccardo Freda's The Horrible Dr. Hichcock and then went on to release Roman Polanski's Cul-De-Sac as well as Brian De Palma's Greetings and Hi, Mom! – and in the United Kingdom by Contemporary Films, Daisies was largely unavailable in the West in acceptable form, with Facets' typically poor, PAL-converted 2002 disc a make-do solution until a new restoration served as the master for a much-improved release from the Second Run in 2009 and Criterion in 2010 as part of their four-disc, six-film Eclipse Series boxed set Pearls of the Czech New Wave. Second Run's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.33:1 pillarboxed fullscreen Blu-ray is derived from a brand new Czech National Film Archives remaster – which may or may not have also been the source for Bildstörung's German limited edition and standard special edition Blu-rays from 2012 – and the film's skin tones are now healthily pink and while the more saturated colors in the wardrobe are more vibrant – and even psychedelic in some of Kucera's opticals – while some rare specs and scratches remain.

Audio

The Czech LPCM 2.0 has been cleaned up, with clear voices, music, and some eccentric sound effects that are as straining on the ears as intended. The optional English subtitles are free of errors.

Extras

Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Samm Deighan of Diabolique Magazine and the Daughters of Darkness podcast. The pair acknowledge the research and analysis of the previous DVD commentary featuring Daniel Bird and Peter Haines and direct listeners to that track for background. Ellinger and Deighan instead focus specifically on the collaboration between Chytilová and Krumbachová – as well as the latter's less-heralded but equally important contribution to the Czech New Wave as the scenarist behind Witchhammer, A Report on the Party and Guests, ...and the Fifth Horseman Is Fear, and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders as well as her own single directorial effort Killing the Devil – Chytilová's earlier career as a model and themes of female objectification, as well as the influence of her own marriage and motherhood on her films, and the film's "weaponizing of female sexuality" as one of the qualities of this anarchic film (qualifying the director as a precursor to the Punk movement) that attracted them both to it. Also included is the aforementioned audio commentary by film historians Daniel Bird and Peter Haines which frames the film within the context of her prior shorts and the longer Something Different and A Bagful of Fleas and how the rabid experimentalism of the film was motivated as much by the "freedom to fail." They also discuss the contributions of Krumbachová and Kucera, and describe the film as a "philosophical statement in the form of a farce." Also carried over from the DVD is the 2004 documentary Journey" (55:01) on Chytilová seen at home filming her grandson and others in attempts to capture reality and also seen teaching filmmaking. While she discusses the difficulties of getting films made under the communist government – who were displeased at the surprise success at The Apple Game (1977) – she was also well aware of her reputation as difficult woman and that the threat of a scene could work to her advantage. The disc also includes the film's theatrical trailer (2:10). Also included is a twenty-page booklet with an essay by Peter Haines which discusses the film episode by episode as well as the film's philosophical discussions which take the form of throwaway dialogue.

Overall

 


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