The Ever-Growing Daisies

Miloš Forman was nominated for an Academy Award in 1966 for Loves of a Blonde—but fellow Czech New Wave filmmaker VÄ?ra Chytilová wasn’t so lucky. Her film from the same year, Daisies, was banned by the government after its release—explicitly for its imagery of its two heroines, Marie I and Marie II, wasting food; implicitly for its lack of narrative and the artistic, yet frivolous and defiant, actions of its heroines. Chytilová found herself without access to Prague’s major film studios, unable to work for 10 years before being granted an appeal by the President in 1975.

Thankfully, times have changed: Daisies, which plays this week at BAM, is now considered groundbreaking feminist and New Wave cinema. The film follows the trail of the two Maries, a pair of avant-garde brats, as they blaze through one visually remarkable scenario after another. Using the non-violent destruction of their own environments to produce aesthetic experiments all the more grand, the Maries light fire to colored tissue paper strung about their room, consume everything from rich meats off the bone to raw corn stalks (sometimes spitting them to the ground along the way), and roll each other up in a dozen different fabrics in a playful effort to exile each from the other’s bed space. They also spend a lot of time pontificating on the world’s problems—in their bikinis, no less.

Marrying the psychedelic with the surreal, Chytilová is playful with her medium, moving between black and white, full color, and single tints of rose or green—as if switching out the audience’s tea shades at her discretion. Frosted cakes and thousands of butterflies are used as textural elements, set against a changing soundtrack of classical music and quirky sound effects. Gorgeous, rebellious, and impossibly hard to follow, Daisies stands as a radical document of 1960s art, fashion, and burgeoning feminist performance and filmmaking.