—Reviewed entries by Lance Goldenberg unless otherwise notedDVD Pick Daisies Take the final explosive moments of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point — or maybe the instrument-smashing finale of an adrenaline-soaked Who concert circa 1967 — expand it to feature-film length, cross it with a little Marx (both Karl and Groucho), a lot of Alice in Wonderland and a hit or two of acid, and you'll likely wind up with something very close to Vera Chytilova's 1966 masterpiece Daisies.
The Czech director's film is a grand experiment in form and style, a nihilistic lark so radical and blatantly artificial that it's hard to see it as anything but a love-it-or-hate-it proposition (London's Time Out critic sniffed, As an allegory it lacks any resonance; as a movie it stinks.). As much as the film is about anything, it's about two bored teenaged girls, both named Marie, who spend their time manufacturing chaos and devising elaborate jokes and scams; they delight in conning middle-aged men, breaking every rule they can find, making monumental messes (both literal and metaphoric) and then rubbing those messes in the collective face of society.
The tone of Daisies is absurd, unpredictable and often quite silly, because what the two Maries (Jitka Cerhova and Ivana Karbanova) and the film seem to be shouting from the rooftops is that the world makes no sense, and neither will we. Some say neither does the film, but that's exactly the point. Daisies marries anarchy and a big, juicy pop sensibility decades before punk will have made that fusion fashionable — and it does it with style. Chytilova went for broke with her film, resulting in a riot of striking color, odd effects, imaginatively designed sets and compositions, experimental editing techniques and other wild flourishes years ahead of their time.
The film breaks additional ground in light of its proto-feminist tendencies, what with its merry prankster grrrl provocateurs devoting themselves to all manner of patriarchal subversion, not excluding the extensive slicing and dicing of sausages, pickles and various other phallic foodstuffs. It will probably come as no surprise to learn that Daisies was banned not long after its release — the Czech parliament even passed a special motion condemning Chytilova for, among other things, wasting food during the film's production — but, as with so many other lost treasures from cinema past, it's now available again, looking better than ever, on a smashing new DVD edition. The Facets DVD of Chytilova's surrealist fantasy features a lovely transfer of the uncut, 74-minute version of Daisies, with a few scattered scratches but with an exceptionally sharp image and bright, crisp hues. A biography and filmography is included for Chytilova (who, along with Milos Forman, was one of the pioneers of the Czech New Wave), as well as a selection of documents related to the banning of this very strange and wonderful film.