The Anarchic Banned Comedy At The Top Of The New List Of The Greatest Films Of All-Time
Sight & Sound magazine recently released their latest “Greatest Films of All Time” list, the poll that comes out every 10 years asking critics and filmmakers to name the movies they consider to be the greatest works in cinema history. This year’s list was topped by Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which bumped Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo to the number two spot, and sadly, found absolutely no room at all for Kangaroo Jack, the 2003 film that tricked us all into thinking it was about a rapping CGI marsupial.
As is often the case, comedies were given Rodney Dangerfield-levels of disrespect by those polled, as there are hardly any straight-up comedies represented on the list, except for a few Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films. But ranking even higher than those silent classics, at number 28 on the list, is Věra Chytilová’s 1966 Czechoslovak New Wave satire Daisies, a mostly plotless exercise in absurdity in which two young women (both named “Marie”) aimlessly float through life, pausing only to scam crusty old men into paying for fancy food and copious quantities of booze.
Celebrating Daisies on a list like this makes perfect sense; it’s a formally unique, visually beautiful work that has invited many different interpretations over the years. At the time, some saw it as “a satire (successful or otherwise) about consumerism,” while in later years, people began to interpret it as an “exercise in deconstructed gender norms and anti-patriarchal rebellion.” Others read its frenzied proto-punk anti-authoritarianism as simply an “enthusiastic call for greater vigilance against our complacency with social norms.”
It’s also – except for one unfortunate scene featuring blackface – extremely funny. The Maries are practically cartoon characters, as disruptive as the Marx Brothers and as sentimental as Neil Hamburger.
The final scene involves a gleefully anarchic dinner:
Which led to the movie being banned by the Czech government. On paper, it wasn’t pulled for its challenging themes or nudity, but allegedly for the food wastage, which officials claimed was “reprehensible” coming “at a time when our farmers with great difficulties are trying to overcome the problems of our agricultural production.”
So sure, it would be nice if more comedies were given the acclaim they deserve on snooty lists, but this is certainly a great one to honor – suck it, Taxi Driver (number 29).
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