Czech director Vera Chytilova’s 1966 film “Daisies” is an art-house classic. An absurdist, almost dadaist call to rebellion and perhaps the crown jewel of the Czech film new wave. I’d seen stills and snippets from the film before I first saw it sometime in 2020. The Criterion Collection first released the film on DVD a decade ago as part of a box set from their Eclipse line of releases “Pearls of the Czech New Wave.”
The print included in that DVD, which is what I first saw, looked fine. But the film looked a bit washed out and rough around the edges. Now part of this I assumed was the intended look of the film. “Daisies” has a unique visual pallet that makes it stand out right off the bat. Often shifting from color to black and white, to stock footage, and strangely cut-out images. Now out on blu-ray for the first time, Criterion revisits “Daisies” and releases it on its own for the first time in a truly stunning edition from a brand new 4K restoration of the film.
“Daisies” is about two young women, both named Marie, who come to one simple conclusion. If the world is so bad, then why shouldn’t we be bad as well? The two Maries decided to set out on a course of hedonism and gleeful breaking of all norms. Often conning men for elaborate meals. As the two Maries go about their brand of anarchic rebellion, the film does stop to ask “What happens when the party is over?”
The visual language of “Daisies” is one of the most striking things about the movie when you first see it. As I said earlier, I thought the film had a sort of “washed out” look to it on purpose. Not so. This new blu-ray from Criterion shows a film that looks almost radically different from the prior print they released.
The new 4K restoration this blu-ray is sourced from was made from a scan of the original 35mm camera negative. The results are mind-blowing. I knew “Daisies” was a film shot in color and used the color to good effect, but I never thought of it as a “colorful” film before. The depth and clarity this new restoration brings to the film is a revelation. That washed-out appearance is gone. In its place is an image that is clear, sharp, and gritty when it’s supposed to be, but imbued with a vibrancy that I’ve never seen this film have before.
The Czech audio track is clear and sharp as well, remastered from the original optical sound negative and magnetic mixing tapes. Another plus is a brand new English subtitle translation. It doesn’t affect the film too much but does change a few words here and there. To be honest, I found the new translation makes the film a bit easier to follow. This is still a surreal film we’re talking about.
Bonus material begins with a very good commentary track with scholars Daniel Bird and Peter Hames. A new interview with film programmer Arena Kovarova, two documentaries about the filmmakers, and two short films from Chytilova is included as well. They’re capped off by the new restoration trailer and an essay by critic Carmen Gray.
The new blu-ray of “Daisies” is a revelation of the actual quality of how the film looks. Well over 50 years after its debut the remains a unique, wild ride of a film that is both a work of art and weird as hell. Its influence is far-reaching to, even to a music video by one of my favorite bands Ex Hex. This new disc is highly recommended and well worth your time. See you next week.