Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): The Colors of Daisies (video for Fandor Keyframe)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Colors of Daisies (video for Fandor Keyframe)


Near the end of March, I was finally able to create something I've been anticipating forever: a video essay on one of my favorite films, the anarchic Czechoslovakian masterpiece Daisies, by Vera Chytilova. If you've been following this blog for a while you probably know my affection for this movie. I have written a full-length review for my "Sunday Matinee" series, included it on my Favorites list (with the accompanying capsule entry coming up in a few months), devoted a visual tribute to its smorgasboard (with bonus images in the mix here), recommended it as part of my Hulu round-up, featured a clip in my "32 Days of Movies" series, and awarded it best editing and runner-up for best picture of '66 in my "alternate Oscars". In fact, Daisies marked my first semi-popular post on this blog back in 2008, when I proposed a set of double features (I paired Daisies with Pandora's Box) and topped the entry with a picture of one of the Marie's floating heads - which has since become my YouTube icon. Aside from Fire Walk With Me and Fists in the Pocket, Daisies is the most-featured title on this site. So yeah, I love this film!


Nonetheless I had no idea what approach I wanted to take for my video beforehand, and the whole thing came together very quickly. Seeking an organizing principle, I was reminded how dazzling and varied the color palette of this movie is. Looking for music to cut to, I randomly stumbled across Bow Wow Wow's "C30, C60, C90," which I didn't even realize I had on my computer. The cheerfully defiant pro-piracy lyrics and persona of singer Annabella Lwin were a perfect match for Chytilova's images. This is probably my shortest video (just about a minute) but it packs a lot in and bears re-watching. I'm pleased to see that by the time it was promoted a few weeks ago (Fandor had to wait in respect to the other filmmakers they were honoring each day of the month), it had already racked up a decent audience and received notice on Indiewire and FilmStage. If you haven't seen the film yet, please let this be your gateway.



Here is the description I wrote for Fandor Keyframe:
"When I saw Daisies for the first time, about a decade ago, I had never heard of the film, nor its director Vera Chytilova. So I entered blind, and received a dazzling, unexpected vision as my reward. There were so many things to adore about Daisies: the sociopathic charisma of its two heroines (helpfully dubbed Marie I and Marie II); the casual free association of the montage, leaping across time and space; the propulsive drive of the film, which carries the viewer through a virtually narrative-less 72 minutes on the sheer energy of its imagination. But if anything epitomizes Chytilova's fearless trapeze act, it's her use of color. Every shade in the spectrum appears in short succession, not only through props and costumes but via monochromatic filters that drench the whole screen in red, or blue, or purple.

After the movie was over, I felt as if I was drunk on color, so it's not surprising that my first video tribute to Daisies focuses on that element. "The Color of Daisies" is a quick, whimsical take on the kaleidoscopic texture of the film, organizing the shots by dominant color from lush green (perhaps the movie's most striking hue) back around the wheel to cool turquoise. It is scored by a pop song as energetic and playfully disruptive as the movie itself and the whole thing lasts only a minute, channeling the film's own sense of anarchic brevity. If you've yet to experience the movie yourself, hopefully this will encourage you, and if you have, the video can serve of a reminder of how masterfully Chytilova utilizes her palette moment-to-moment.

Like many Czechoslovakian films of its period, Daisies was immersed in controversy, a relic of the brief New Wave that climaxed with the Prague Spring in '68 and was crushed by Soviet tanks soon after. Daisies, however, was censored even before the crackdown (humorously, the only official charge the authorities lodged against it was that it wasted food, certainly an accurate accusation). Not only stodgy bureaucrats objected to the film - Jean-Luc Godard grumbled that it was "apolitical and cartoonish." That isn't fair (at least the first part; the film IS proudly cartoonish) but the film's rebellious ferocity is a matter of visceral sensation rather than cerebral contemplation. Fifty years old this year, Daisies remains iconic because its spirit is so deeply embedded in its style. Even a glimpse at its wonders assures us that Chytilova was a master."

Vera Chytilova, director of DAISIES & Annabella Lwin, lead singer of Bow Wow Wow

Images from the full spectrum follow the jump.

YouTube upload:


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