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Friday, July 6, 2012

Daisies: An Epic of Anarchic Tomfoolery and Food Wastage

Following two young female protagonists on a marathon of decadent, unladylike behavior, Vĕrá Chytilová’s Daisies remains one of the Czech New Wave’s boldest acts of rebellion, a middle finger to the political forces that had worked to repress the country’s thriving arts scene throughout the 60s. At a time when Miloš Forman and Jiří Menzel had already emerged as two of the industry’s most successful exports, and had even won Czech cinema unprecedented Oscar legitimacy with Loves of a Blonde and Closely Watched Trains, Chytilová courted the censors with this aggressively experimental dismemberment of film form. With its revelry in perverse gastronomic consumption, reckless nightclub-hopping, and the gleeful laceration of phallic objects, the film has won a cult following for its hedonistic sensibility, but the anger at the core of its proto-punk radicalism is pretty hard to ignore.

Much has already been made of Daisies’ anti-establishment, anti-patriarchal spirit, but the film is also a milestone collaboration between Chytilová and some of the most prominent Czech talents of the era. Among them are Jiří Sust and Jiří Šlitr, who composed the score, and Eva Pilarová, a jazz singer who Chytilová enlisted for a cameo in one of the film’s nightclub scenes.

Sust had a career writing music for such classics as Closely Watched Trains and Pearls of the Deep, while Šlitr became one of the most celebrated singer-songwriters in Czech pop music. Together they created a score as restlessly inventive as the film it accompanies. The music blends various Western popular genres (including rock and jazz) that the Czech government had long viewed as a threat to social order, but it also incorporates dissonant elements and sound effects that pay homage to musique concrète. Andy Votel details some of the fascinating history behind Chytilová’s collaboration with these artists in the liner notes of the soundtrack, available here.

Don’t miss the special week-long run of Janus Films’ new 35mm print, starting tonight at BAMcinématek! At both the 6:50 and 9:15 screenings on Friday and Saturday night, Daisies audiences will have a chance to win copies of the soundtrack from Finders Keepers Records and the “Pearls of the Czech New Wave” DVD set from the Criterion Collection.

Take a listen to a snippet from the Daisies score below:

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