(Published on ARTSCLASH)
As we were compiling the list of films we’ve seen this year, we noticed a worrying statistic – of the 70-or-so films we’ve seen this year, only 4 of them were directed by women. They make up 51% of the planet, and yet only made just over 5% of the films we’d watched. We figured we must be missing a hell of a lot of great films, and so decided to set it right with this series dedicated to looking at films directed by women.
We could have started with the only Best Picture winner directed by a woman, but the more-masculine-than-masculine-films-directed-by-men The Hurt Locker didn’t seen quite the right place to start. Instead, let’s begin with one of the strangest films perhaps ever made, as far removed from Bigelow’s bomb disposal units as it’s possible to be: Czech director Věra Chytilová‘s 1966 comedy-drama Daisies.
I say comedy-drama because these are the words traditionally used for films, and yet neither of them really apply to this eyefuck of a movie. Around a skeletal plot of two young women searching for food and living in a world of their own making (already really your guess is as good as mine as to what’s going on), things happen. In fact, that’s all I can safely say about this film – films happen. The two cause havoc in a nightclub, perform a spontaneous catwalk show across a fully laid table, cut each other’s heads off with a pair of scissors – basically, it’s Thelma and Louise meets The Virgin Suicides meets Rugrats.
However, it is also heavily influenced by its time period, with the sixties providing not just its often psychedelic visuals and flower-plower imagery, but also its feminism. We can easily imagine the two leads burning their bras in a few years just as they burn a room full of paper streamers in one scene. The women throughout use men to secure them extravagant meals, but treat them with loving contempt throughout the rest of the rest. The message is clear: these women want men to satisfy their needs (in the film for food, but it’s easy to take the conceptual leap to sexual needs…), but have no real need for them otherwise. Samantha Jones, eat your heart out.
If this message wasn’t clear enough, they spend another scene slicing up a number of phallic food items. As sausages, bananas and gherkins get the chop, the message is clear: sistas are doing it for themselves, and are having a complete laugh riot doing it. These girls have their cake and eat it (literally on a number of occasions), and they show us how boring our male-dominated cinema can be, as Chytilová disregards geeky male rules about things like continuity and bathes in a pure cinematic experience.
Follow us on Twitter @ARTSCLASHdotCOM for more #FilmsByWomen