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DAISIES [Sedmikrasky] (1966).

Whether you're got a taste for early, experimental Czech cinema or not, this amazing pic belongs at the top of your Must See List. Because instead of the usual dreary political rhetoric and actors who look like they were pulled out of a sweatshop, this Eastern Bloc film has a sense of humor and stars a pair of rebellious teenaged babes! Though barely remembered outside of college film courses, director Vera Chytilova helmed over two dozen features since the '60s, and DAISIES is one of the few to get a respectable U.S. release. While the plot is deceptively simple, the style is anything but. Two young Czechs, both named Marie, come to the conclusion that since everything in their world is "spoiled", they too should become spoiled. So this brunette (Jitka Cerhova) and blonde (Ivana Karbandova) get decked out in their best dresses and hit the road for 75 minutes worth of disjointed, hedonistic adventures. Vignettes include scamming fancy dinners from a veritable parade of old farts, disrupting a prissy nightspot by climbing over tables and stealing drinks, setting fires in their bachelorette pad, and even when Blonde Marie tries to commit suicide by gas, it turns into a joke because she forgets to shut her windows. Essentially, these girls just wanna have fun, and the film is so disarmingly childish that the two teases (who, in any other case, would seem like self-serving li'l bitches) are thoroughly winning. Meanwhile, the film is loaded with never-subtle double entendres, such as when the gals indulge in a phallic snack of pickles, sausages and bananas -- blithely slicing them up with scissors. In one fantasy sequence, they even begin chopping off each other's body parts, giggling, even as disembodied heads float about the room. This playful destruction culminates when they invade a posh dinner party set-up (via the dumbwaiter), chug the liquor, paw at the food, and toss deserts a la Mack Sennett. In addition to incorporating stock footage, distorted lenses and bizarre dance numbers, the film continually flips between b&w and color -- shifting from silent film homages, to surreal, color-coordinated backdrops and costumes. 30 years after its initial release, DAISIES still seems just as weird and fresh today, making for avant garde cinema at its most accessible.

© 1996 by Steven Puchalski.