Back in the latter half of the 1960’s the burgeoning idiosyncratic group of alternative filmmakers coming out of (then) Czechoslovakia known as the Czech New Wave were taking art house cinemas in Western Europe and America by storm. The hour long films that came out of the infamous Barrandov production house played a competitive rival to that of the French and Italian New Waves with their very own immaculate and spellbinding takes on cinema verite, film noir, surrealism and cinema concrete. But after the Soviet Union invaded Czech in August 1968 the clampdown on non-conformist creative arts saw over 70 films either banned or withdrawn from production in a mass culling of film reels until 1970. It is not until recent years that the genre has become widely recognised as a veritable and virtually untapped source of inspiration for fans of experimental cinema, psychedelic cinematography, baroque costumes and scenery, music and graphic design.
‘Daisies’ pulls together what you might call the ‘Holy Trinity’ of the Czech New Wave – director Vera Chytilova, costume and set designer Esther Krumbachova, and cinematographer Jaroslav Kucera – arguably the three most forward thinking and truly experiMENTAL minds in the whole of the CNW collective.
Witness ‘Les Petites Margeurites’ (original French theatrical title) as they mischievously flutter through Prague’s finest restaurants accompanying middle-aged men on flamboyant double dates in gastronomic menage a trois – “If the world spoils itself, then we shall be spoiled as well” decide the two bikini clad button-cute Maries in the films opening scenes.
The radical and experimental nature of ‘Daisies’ is further enhanced by its erratic score which consists of the juxtaposition of various non-melodic elements and sound effects, laden with a broad palette of samples and snippets of choral and classical vintage recordings spliced with concrete effects, traditional brass band music, Disney style exotica. charleston dance standards and token 60’s beat tracks. For the bulk of the original score Chytilova enlisted the services of two Barrandov stalwarts Jiri Sust and Jiri Slitr who doubled up as an actor and composer in many CNW features (such as Menzel’s ‘Crime In The Night Club’ in which he played a key role alongside the radical jazz singer and close friend Eva Pilarova).
The relationship between Slitr and Pilarova stemmed from their careers performing cabaret music in Prague’s Original Semafor Theatre mixing comedy, spoken word and musical jokes (it was here that Slitr also formed a long running relationship with his sidekick Jiri Such with whom he enjoyed a long running commercial relationship releasing LP’s for labels like the state owned Supraphon company). As a music lover Chytilova was sad that her previous attempts to make a film inspired by Jazz & Blues and the Czech governments ‘Holy War’ against radical Western music never came to fruition, so after months of discussion with Eva Pilarova it was obvious that she should be given the musical role of the Jazz scat singer in the ‘Charleston Nightclub’ scene where the two girls cause havoc fuelled by high-jinks and copious amounts of Pilsner Urquell!.It turned out that uncredited film music would soon become Eva Pilarova’s only legal creative outlet after she was banned (along with Karel Gott and Waldemar Matsuka) from public performance and recording due to her frowned-upon commitment to jazz music and rock and roll. In a possible politically engineered set-up Eva was accused of illegal gambling after being spotted playing an innocent game of Monopoly and then rumoured to have urinated in public from a hotel balcony whilst on a national tour.
The re-appropriation of existing portions of music by classical composers such as Brahms and Wagner interspersed with original themes played by established Prague based ensembles such as Barrandov’s ‘Filmovy Symfonicky Orchestra’, ‘The Prazsky Dixieland’ (who would also record for Supraphon) and big-band conductor and arranger Frantisek Belfin marked musical territory as a primitive example of sampling. By utilising the live sound effects within the film such as clock pendulums, scissors and typewriters Sust and Slitr paid homage to the pioneering work of Pierre Schaeffer and his Musique concrete legacy.
Previously unprepared for public consumption and taken from the original reels this immaculate release has been compiled in close accordance to the original storyline and comes complete with unseen archive images, original international poster designs and new and extensive sleevenotes by Andy Votel and Professor Peter Hames.