Gender Combat Oratorio Slips Genesis a Microdot


The other New Waves never had anyone resembling Czech cine-anarchist Vera Chytilov whose movies represent a radical disruption of narrative and cultural values just as they maintain coherence just enough to skewer social convention. Her justly celebrated Daisies (1966) is an epochal exercise in individualistic (and feminist) resistance, executed with a frenetic degree of norm meltdown that’s still exhilarating to watch. Never released in this country, Fruit of Paradise (1969) is a partner-film-in-crime, beginning with a 10–minute Eden overture of tripled images, rotting textures, and crazed editing that would’ve made Stan Brakhage stomp his foot and yowl. After that, the movie is an entrancing hippie-dippie oratorio on gender combat that doesn’t retell Genesis so much as slip it a microdot, mocking societal structure and masculine imperative under a wary owl’s stare. There are even Svankmajer-esque moments (a disconcerting dresser drawer full of sea urchins) and the pioneering use of backward filming to create a sense of perverse forward motion. Luridly subversive without resorting to violence, sex, or anti-clericalism and co-written with unsung Czech New Wave script queen Ester Krumbachov Fruit is impossible to summarize and hard to resist.

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