Daisies (Vera Chytilová / Czechoslovakia, 1966):

Psychedelic sisterhood in the Eastern Bloc "like a message from another world," just about the most ticklish barrage of nihilism in cinema. To out-spoil the spoiled world is the declared goal, Marie I (Jitka Cerhová) and Marie II (Ivana Karbanová) reject the masculine grinding of war and set out to bombard society with their caprices, a fizzier form of demolition. As blissfully selfish and impudent as children, the pixies scamper through as if civilization were their private set of trampolines, gorging voraciously on food and magazine cutouts and Carrollesque wordplay. Patriarchy is but a slew of befuddled sugar daddies, driven to tears in pricey restaurants and packed off in trains. (The camera is mounted on the swerving locomotive for a minute of Len Lye iridescence.) Emerald-green apples and bathtubs overflowing with milk, Nabokov butterflies filmed à la Brakhage and plastered over the girls’ naughty bits, the dumbwaiter ride to Eden and the pastry fight that brings down the chandelier: "Can’t you smell how volatile life is?" The blur of Brecht and Sennett is similar to concurrent hellzapoppin’ visions (The Running Jumping and Standing Still Film, Hallelujah the Hills, Zazie dans le Métro), yet Vera Chytilová’s singular revue outdoes them by pushing its slapstick fragmentation beyond mere larkiness and towards an exhaustive dismantling of strictures both social and cinematic. Reality from shot to shot is whatever the protagonists make it, their apartment is wallpapered with snapshots of their conquests one moment and gleefully set ablaze the next; the editing is so prankishly disjunctive that at one point the very concept of a "cut" literally scissors the two Maries into floating paper dolls. "We can try anything once," a credo uttered by the destructive-liberating heroines as well as by the director contemplating them with delight and horror. The posies of anarchy, their blooming and wilting, a picture of fury and enchantment. The "trampled lettuce patch" of Czech censorship was not amused, though Rivette (Céline et Julie vont en Bateau) and Campion (Sweetie) certainly were. Cinematography by Jaroslav Kucera.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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