Friday, February 8, 2013

East European Film of the 1960s - Sedmikrasky (Daisies)

I´m thinking that over the next little while, I´ll write about films. Specifically films made in the 1960s in Eastern Europe. I can give three reasons for this.
1) They are not widely known or celebrated.
2) They are available for download over the internet and as far as I know, not subject to copyright (being produced in social countries.)
3) They are noteworthy for being made at a time of world-wide cinematic innovation and exploration in police states undergoing political liberalization.
In short they are unknown treasures that with only the slightest effort are there for the taking.

I´d like to start by introducing a Czech film made in 1966 by the director Vera Chylitova and her husband. It´s titled ¨Sedmikrasky¨ or Daisies in English. It´s available at the Pirate Bay here, so long as you have a bittorrent client. I use this one available here.

Sedmikrasky (I´ll refer to it as Daisies henceforth) is a film about two lively young women who, thinking about what a degenerate and destructive place the world is,  decide to become degenerate themselves. They do this mostly by inveigling older men into taking them out to dinner where they shamelessly over-indulge themselves in food and drink. It is bold, visually compelling, humourous, though without a solid narrative. It´s a Dadaist work that uses anarchic absurdity to attack bourgeois morality.

         Maria 1 and Maria 2 playing with scissors

Daisies was banned on completion and the director had a great deal of difficulty in making other films for a decade. The authorities cited the wastage of food depicted in the film as the reason for the ban. They saw the Dadaist attack on morality for what it was and they were not amused. Most of the commentary on the film I´ve seen on the internet makes the film out to be an attack on communism (mostly because it was made in socialist Czechoslovakia) or a feminist statement (mostly because the two protagonists, Maria 1 and Maria 2 are female.)

I prefer viewing Daisies as a Dadaist Potlatch. Like any Dadaist work, its target is the bourgeois tout court, and not restricted only to the socialist bourgeois of Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Potlatch refers to the gratuitous destruction of property practiced by the natives of the west coast of North America. The practice so offended the morality of the Canadian government of the time, that it was banned. In Daisies, the Dadaist sensibility is obvious in almost every frame, just like ritualistic destruction of the potlatch.

Daisies begins and ends with a credit sequence over scenes of actual footage of war time devastation. Finally there is a postscript which reads:

¨This film is dedicated to all the people indignant only when their salads are trampled¨

The English subtitles supplied with the file are less than perfect but the print of the film is excellent. Daisies has all the innovation and experimentation of European film of the 1960s with an absurd irreverence.
I hope you enjoy.

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