Once upon a time there was, and still is, a blog called Assez Vu. It is my personal blog and it’s kind of a digital collection of odd pictures and other finds from the past whose name literally means ‘I’ve seen enough’. Pretentious enough you might think, but Rimbaud made me do it. He said it first, not me. Well, where did the idea come from? Assez Vu was born out of another blog, or rather, out of a curious ‘visual experiment’ called Silent Ladies’ overemphasized facial expressions. The idea behind it was to find and post pictures that showed actors from silent movies in the act of ‘over-expressing’ themselves. Silent divas were the best: they could easily change from sophisticated smiles and languishing looks to raging and revengeful faces in a handful of seconds. They used their bodies and faces to make up for the lack of sound. Some of them looked realistic, others a bit odd! Today, one thing is for certain, they are still very amusing.
This film from 1974 by John Cassavetes is without doubt one of my all time favourites. Gena Rowlands immediately became my idol after seeing it. I really don’t want to say much more about it, I just hope this clip below encourages you to watch it!
The dying swan scene:
Daisies was made in 1966 by the Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová and was considered a key film of the Czech New Wave. It was banned in 1968 shortly after the “Prague Spring” by the Soviet Communist regime, as was Chytilová from making any new films in Czechoslovakia until 1975.
The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact stopped the creative and social freedoms of “Prague Spring” when they decided to invade Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968. Therefore, many Czechoslovakian artists’ reactions were to employ metaphors, humour, and radical narrative play to express the dangers and hypocrisies of life under a repressive regime. In order to make subversive political statements, ambiguity was a necessity.
Daisies depicts the two female protagonists Marie and Marie, who are claiming that the world is “bad” and therefore they will be too.
The story is structured with a non-linear narrative, and via jump cuts we are thrown between incoherent scenes, never quite knowing what will come next. The film consists of montages of contradictory imagery, a baffling dialogue, asynchronous sound, colours that change from full to monochrome to psychedelic, anti-naturalistic optical effects and sudden accelerated motion.
The Maries want to go against the norms of society, and act out as they see fit. They do this when they date older men, get particularly drunk in a fancy nightclub and steal food, drinks or money from other people.
Many aspects of Daisies make it appear like a feminist film. The Maries are constantly sexually teasing older men, making them pay for expensive dinners only to send them away in trains afterwards. At one point the Maries cut up phallic-looking food with a pair of scissors and eat it. Many of the men they meet seem like symbols of the patriarchal society, and the Maries’ actions therefore become a symbol of how they “castrate” it.
The main thing the Maries like to do is to eat, and they do this in a manner that also goes against the norms of society. They eat almost all the time, and if not, they ask people for food or talk about it. They even seem to confuse the meaning of love with food, and they question why men do not simply say “egg” instead of “I love you”.
Daisies is a film with many possible interpretations, and Chytilová is concealing an important message underneath the veils of ambiguity. The veil Chytilová has chosen is highly Dadaist. With Daisies Chytilová challenges our conventional understanding of ourselves and the world we live in.
In a nod to the Maries’ challenge of societal norms, the final title of the film reads: “This film is dedicated to those who only get upset over a “messed-up trifle””. It is a stab at the passivity of the bourgeoisie society, underlining Chytilová’s belief that instead of being provoked by a step outside of the rigid borders of etiquette, they should be provoked by much more pressing issues such as the Soviet occupation, the constant threat of violence that follows with the occupation, destructions of war and the lack of freedom of speech.
Watch it here:
One can be born with a talent. Miss Grete Stern’s talent was that she could turn dreams into reality. Not bad huh? I know you wish you had this power too. But it was not always easy I tell you. Professor Freud would have found a lot to get his teeth into…because Grete Stern’s ‘reality turned-into-dreams’ are made up by surreal images of eyes detached from their face, pretty female bums, a giant tortoise-man in a suit and endless ladders, just to name a few. Now I bet you would like to know a little more about this German-born lady who used to wear round glasses.
She moved to Argentina because of the Third Reich and there she contributed to a local women’s magazine, Idilio, with her photo-collages for a column entitled “Psychoanalysis will help you” (see, I knew our friend Sigmund must have had something to do with it!).
Her photomontages, called Sueños (dreams), are an ideal conjunction between Dada collage and surreal photography and she had this peculiar ability to make the impossible possible, to release feelings and fears that, when looking at her work only once, is far more relieving than 10 psychologist sessions. In a row. Seeing is believing…