Inspired by fairy-tales such as Alice in Wonderland and Little Red-Riding Hood, "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" is a surreal tale in which love, fear, sex and religion merge into one fantastic world.
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A woman returning home falls asleep and has vivid dreams that may or may not be happening in reality. Through repetitive images and complete mismatching of the objective view of time and space, her dark inner desires play out on-screen.
A lonely widowed housewife does her daily chores, takes care of her apartment where she lives with her teenage son, and turns the occasional trick to make ends meet. However, something happens that changes her safe routine.
Oldrich "Fajolo" Fajták (Marián Bielik), a student who directs quasi-existentialist verbal abuse at his girlfriend Bela Blazejová (Jana Beláková), takes off to a formally volunteer summer work camp at a farm where he meets her grandfather.
Two teenage girls, both named Marie, decide that since the world is spoiled they will be spoiled as well; accordingly they embark on a series of destructive pranks in which they consume and destroy the world about them. This freewheeling, madcap feminist farce was immediately banned by the government. Written by
Fiona Kelleghan <email@example.com>
To take this film way out of context, I've got to believe that nine out of ten Miranda July fans would enjoy this film made in 1966 well before Little Miss Moviola was born. Indeed, I would recommend this film for anyone in the mood for a non-linear romp. The film is a cut-up, not just comical...but even as sort of visual equivalent of Brion Gysin's dreammachine.
In particular there is a scene with scissors that was captivating, not in being a "cutting edge" special effect, but in embracing the hands-on art-for-art sake editing. Through out the film Colors come and go, blossoming and wilting like the "Daisies" of the title. Or perhaps "Daisies" are cited for their ability to sprout up under peculiar conditions. An antidote to the bummer that face trummerflora in the midst of any upheaval.
That director Vera Chytilova was doing this under the watchful, and at best blind, eye of Comrade Censor, I think can attribute to the film's non-linear approach. Perhaps part defense-mechanism, perhaps part lyrical lysergic reaction to the disciplined times, the film surely wants to defy something, but settles for defying classification. Ironically, that might be what makes these well cut "Daisies" fresh to this day. A silent film with sound. A black and white film that bursts into colors.
I went in knowing nothing about the "Czech New Wave" and in now reading around, it seems this is the wrong film from which to build a center about. I still know nothing, but I am at least intrigued. Indeed, I was certain one of the two main Marie's was the filmmaker herself. Wrong! The fact that Chytilova made this when she was 36 or so is almost as impressive as making it in the political climate of the time.
The film is extremely playful, and the actresses deserve much praise that has heretofore been lacking. If you enjoyed the film, and clearly I did while others at IMDb did not, a key is that there is something about the two leads, beyond their costumes that snares our attention. Although I do think garlands and veils should find themselves into more femme's fatal fashion... Oh and since I'm older than this film, I kept seeing the two actresses as Carol Burnett and maybe Joanne Worley?!?! Any ways the two seem to be truly delighting themselves, and one wonders if some of the madness was improvised on the spot. Or were they really just puppets as the initial scene suggests??
Anyways, this film is as artful as it is ambiguous. I was enjoying my modern-day interpretation, knowing full well that it was wrong. That interpretation is that women have replaced their sex drive with a food urge, but must leverage the less evolved male's sex drive to satisfy their advanced needs. And again, I confess to crimes against the state and more importantly the film, I *know* I am wrong. Stamping my own ideas on the fragile frames of the film.
Similarly, the flower-power of the 60's in the US could pollinate the film and be seen a diatribe against that which is drab. But again, that appears to be all hippy, and none too hip to the intention.
The film maker, in a 1975 letter addressed to "Comrade President" (her phrase for Gustav Husak) wrote
"Daisies" was a morality play showing how evil does not necessarily manifest itself in an orgy of destruction caused by the war, that its roots may lie concealed in the malicious pranks of everyday life. I chose as my heroines two young girls because it is at this age that one most wants to fulfill oneself and, if left to one's own devices, his or her need to create can easily turn into its very opposite."
By the way, the full letter was on the DVD.
I don't know, I still think this is a film that begs to be taken out of context...and certainly plucked off of dusty shelves and seen by many today. Show it to kids, I bet they'll laugh at this like they would at "Laurel and Hardy" or "Buster Keaton."
7/10 Thurston Hunger
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