Daisies

“Am I tough? Am I strong? Am I hard-core? Absolutely.
Did I whimper with pathetic delight when I sank my teeth into my hot fried-chicken sandwich? You betcha.”
― James Patterson

Daisies

I watched another Czech New Wave movie on The Criterion Channel – “Daisies” – a very odd and unique film.

Two somewhat attractive young women decide that since the world is going to hell in a handbasket they will do whatever they want. A lot of what they want is to convince older men to take them out to expensive restaurants where they eat and drink wine to excess – then take the men to a train – pretend to go with him – then jump off and run home without.

The movie is surreal and jarring – there is a scene where the women cut up the very film stock with scissors – until it is reduced to a jerky collage of heads and body parts. There is no plot – only the two women messing around. There is one scene with one of the two covering her naked body with the display cases of a Lepidopterist who is passionately in love with her.

At the “climax” of the film (such as it is) the two ride a dumbwaiter up through a series of odd tableaux viewed through a tiny grimy window until they arrive at a giant hall set with a log table – chairs for twenty or so – and a sideboard groaning with food. They start out sampling here and there before graduating to gorging themselves and finally a full-blown food fight where they destroy the feast. Then they appear wrapped in twine and newsprint trying to clean up their mess as best as they can – in apparent penance for their chaotic destruction.

They finish – happy and satisfied – stretched out on the table amidst the broken crockery and stained cloth until….

But that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it?

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

“The moment we cry in a film is not when things are sad but when they turn out to be more beautiful than we expected them to be.”
― Alain de Botton

Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Waiting on a workman to come by and cut up a downed tree – I wanted to rest a bit and take in a film – something streaming from the Criterion Collection. I decided to dive back into the Czech New Wave and chose what is often regarded as the last movie in that movement (It was released after the Soviets invaded the country and clamped down on artistic freedom and everything else) – Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.


The movie has been described as a fantasy film, as a horror film, as a coming-of-age film, as a vampire film, as a fairy tale, and as soft-core pornography. It is all that and… maybe… more.


What it is not is a linear consistent plot-driven film. It is a hallucination inside of a dream, jumping around, people change identities, die and come back to life. There are elements of lesbianism, incest, rape, reincarnation, magic, and eastern European folklore.


Valerie is a beautiful thirteen-year-old that comes of age (symbolized by drops of blood on blooming daisies) and is then thrown into a mystery of magical pearl earrings, a vampire grandmother, an evil presence that might be her father or her uncle or an anthropomorphic polecat. I guess what we are seeing is the symbolic introduction of the young girl to the mysterious world of adult sexuality – seen through a warped and horrific kaleidoscope.


It obviously is not a movie for everyone – but I’m not everyone and I liked it. It was a fun way to wile away a bit of time while waiting for something else to happen.

Marketa Lazarová

Those who do not suffer can not experience delight.

—-Marketa Lazarová

Crepe Myrtle trunk in the snow

It was a long weekend and I had some time and decided to check out The Criterion Channel’s streaming collection and, for some reason, chose Marketa Lazarová. The blurb did say it was voted the best Czech film of all time – and that seemed to be enough reason to watch it.

It was not an easy film to get into. It is a three hour historical epic set in the late Middle Ages, full of snow and symbolism as early Christianity battled with the dregs of paganism for the hearts and minds of the peasantry. It is a brutal film – the initiating incident is the robbery of a coach in the winter by a band of bandits led by two brothers. A neighboring clutch of cutthroats tries to muscle in on the action. This sets up a three-way power struggle between the crown (a high ranking bishop is in the coach) and the two rival groups of bandits.

There is kidnapping, rape, dismemberment, a preternatural pack of wolves, a lamb’s head bouncing down a hill… and plenty of brutality and human humiliation.

I’ll spoil it for you – it doesn’t end well.

Still, if you have the patience for it, it is a great movie and an educational, emotional, and entertaining experience.

I think about this movie and try to compare it to… say, Avengers Endgame. Which is the better movie? What does that even mean? How can you compare the two?

I prefer Marketa Lazarová. The plot is not predictable. The characters are real (they act like real… if really nasty… people). The movie forces the viewer to think. I know that scenes from the film will haunt me for a long time (I know I watched Avengers Endgame… maybe twice… but I have no memory of anything that actually happened in it other than some fighting and Doctor Strange’s transportation fireworks circles).

So there are a whole bunch more Czech films on Criterion. I’ve seen Fireman’s Ball ( I have always been a huge fan of Milos Forman) and I think I’ll add a few more to my viewing queue.

So many movies, so little time.