film fatales #3: daisies (vera chytilová, 1966)

(Suggested by The Film Fatales)

Here’s something I know next to nothing about: the Czech New Waves of the 1960s. I recognize some of the names ... Miloš Forman (who later directed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus), Ivan Passer (Cutter’s Way), Jiří Menzel ... and I’ve seen some of the movies (the Oscar-winning Closely Watched Trains). or at least recognize the titles. And I assume pretty much every country had its New Wave. But I stumbled onto Daisies, and thus stumbled onto one of the key films in the Czech New Wave. (The impetus for watching is that Criterion was featuring movies from 1966 on Hulu.) Daisies existed at the time just prior to the Prague Spring ... it came out a bit more than a year before Alexander Dubček took power. Immediately on its released, it was famously banned in Czechoslovakia for “depicting the wanton”. That may have warranted a ban according to the authorities ... the truth is, they described the film quite accurately. It does indeed depict the wanton.

Daisies is a delightful movie, as if someone dropped the Broad City women into the middle of a film revolution 50 years ago in Europe. Jitka Cerhová and Ivana Karbanová play two teenage girls who see emptiness in the world around them and resolve to fill their own lives with pretty much anything they want. They scam a series of sugar daddies, cadging expensive meals, they burst into a dance hall and wreak havoc. Most famously, they discover catered dinner before the guests have arrived, and proceed to randomly eat until they fall into a food fight. It sounds frivolous, but in the context of mid-60s Czechoslovakia, it’s a breath of fresh air. Cerhová and Karbanová perfectly express youthful abandon ... that the two were amateurs at the time is remarkable, and suggests Chytilová not only had an excellent eye for budding talent but also knew how to extract just what was needed from the actresses.

In a later interview, Chytilová said:

I think that Vera also wanted to explore the idea of destruction. So she showed these two young women who thought: if the whole world is so depraved, why not do the same thing, why not grant ourselves the same freedom to provoke, to go further and further? You can’t imagine how these scenes, where we threw down the table and the platters of a sumptuous banquet, were shocking in a country where people waited on line for hours in front of grocery stores.

The style of Daisies is, quite properly, abundantly excessive. Chytilová will do anything and everything, breaking rules left and right (pun not intended, but there it is). The sound editing is particularly impressive. The film is mostly lacking in narrative thrust, and that’s for the best ... often, experimental films will fart around with narrative, leaving an inscrutable mess, but Chytilová steamrollers over the idea of narrative, just presenting a collage of scenes of the two girls being wanton.

I had so much fun watching this movie. It reminded me of the first time I saw Breathless ... I loved it so much, I sat through it a second time right away. I want to say Daisies is unforgettable, but then I looked it up on the IMDB, and found something interesting. Apparently, I’d seen it before and given it a 9/10. I’ve never written about it until now, and I certainly don’t remember seeing it. So I guess it isn’t unforgettable. I’ll settle for saying it’s wonderful. As for a rating, who am I to argue with myself? 9/10. #407 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time.


music friday: middle class streaming bandwidth

Hat tip for this week’s Music Friday goes to Nick Farruggia, who posted this in the Expert Witness FB group:

You die and go to Heaven. Things are pretty sweet, but the Koch brothers are still in charge. You're granted Middle Class Streaming Bandwidth, which means you can only listen to three artists from each decade, 1950-2010. "When you stop to consider it, that's unbelievably generous. 21 partial discographies!" Who ya got?

It’s something of a desert-island disc thing, only way more complicated. I’m not going to just pick my 21 favorites, because I have to consider that this is all I will listen to for eternity. I’ll want to mix things up a bit. Also, I’ll probably change my mind on a lot of these choices before this even gets posted. Here goes ...

1950s: Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard. Sample: “Johnny B. Goode

1960s: The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, The Velvet Underground. Sample: “Dr. Feelgood

1970s: Bruce Springsteen, The Clash, Patti Smith. Sample: “Because the Night” and “Because the Night

1980s: Prince, Hüsker Dü, Madonna. Sample: “Dirty Mind

1990s: Sleater-Kinney, Nirvana, Tupac. Sample: “One More Hour

2000s: Pink, Eminem, The Gossip. Sample: “Sober

2010s: Kendrick Lamar, Adele, Chantel McGregor. Sample: “Voodoo Child


sing me a song: windows 10, day one

The first noteworthy thing about Windows 10 is that the opening screens look exactly like Windows 8.1. While I have a feeling the deep changes in the OS will manifest over time, at first glance, Windows 10 looks kinda like Windows 8.2. That is, while Windows 8 was a startling change from Windows 7, there is little about Windows 10 that is startling at all.

I think that’s a good thing. But the truth is, as I ran through the usual stuff I do on the computer, the most common thought I had was that I had no thoughts at all.. Everything ran the same as it did yesterday.

There are two major changes, though. I’m giving the new web browser, Edge, a tryout. I don’t know if I’ll stick with it ... I spent a lot of time just making it act like Chrome, which makes me wonder why I would bother to change at all.

But then there’s Cortana. First seen in Windows Phone 8, this is Microsoft’s answer to Siri. You talk to it, it responds. It does useful stuff, it does goofy stuff. It is integrated into Bing search, and it learns your preferences over time. It will set reminders or notes, play music, all sorts of things.

Here’s the Microsoft promo:

I’ll be honest, the most fun we had was playing with Easter eggs. We asked Cortana to sing us a song, and she gave us “Frère Jacques”. We asked her to tell us a joke, and she did.

As the video suggests, Cortana works best when integrated across machines, so you can tell her something on your Windows phone and it will be there when you move to your Windows computer. And this leads to an interesting problem.

For I’ve had something resembling Cortana for some time now. It’s Google Now, which as you might guess is Google’s attempt to enter this market. It works in a similar fashion ... you can talk to it, it knows your preferences, it integrates with your calendars and stuff like that. I’ve rarely taken advantage of the voice-recognition software ... I felt funny talking out loud to my device. But that seems more natural when talking to my desktop, for some reason, so maybe I’ll get used to this interface.

Which is where that problem comes in. Google Now knows everything about me that exists in the Google universe. And that’s pretty big ... it’s my email, it’s my calendar, it’s my Google searches, it’s all the things I do with my Android phone. it works with what I’d call Google Steven, and it’s pretty accurate for what it tries to do.

But Cortana will only know me by my actions on my desktop. It won’t know what I do on my phone. If I use Bing for searches, it will know that about me, and maybe my Bing searches are different somehow than my Google searches. The point is, Cortana will work with Windows Steven.

I can’t wait to see how the two Stevens differ.