Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Woman's Day

Woman's Day
Actress Rebel Wilson has given evidence at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Australia, after she sued the publisher of Woman's Day magazine for defamation. In its 25th May 2015 issue (published on 18th May 2015), Woman's Day revealed Wilson's real name, and claimed that she had lied about her age.

The magazine quoted a high school classmate's description of Wilson: "Her name is – or was – Melanie Elizabeth Bownds, and she's 36 – she was born in 1979 and we left school in 1997." The article also included photographs of Wilson from her high school yearbook.

Wilson launched her lawsuit on 16th May last year, and the article was deleted from the Woman's Day website on the same day. In the magazine's print edition, the article was headlined "Just who is the REAL Rebel?"

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Monday, 22 May 2017

(Un) Happy Birthday

(Un) Happy Birthday
(Un) Happy Birthday
Democracy Restoration, a new pro-democracy group, held a seminar marking the third anniversary of the 2014 coup yesterday and today. (Un) Happy Birthday, at Thammasat University in Bangkok, was subject to several restrictions imposed by the military government.

Participants were not permitted to use the words 'coup' or 'dictator', and they were not allowed to refer to the junta by name. The poster for the event was censored to remove the Thai abbreviation for the NCPO ("คสช"). To circumvent the restrictions, several speakers held up placards containing the banned words during their speeches.

Similarly, when an army spokesman participated in a discussion at the FCCT in Bangkok shortly after the coup, he asked participants to refer to the coup euphemistically as an "intervention". After initially pledging to hold an election in 2015, the junta has repeatedly delayed its 'roadmap', and an election is not realistically expected until 2018 or later.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Thailand's Political History

Thailand's Political History
The second edition of Thailand's Political History, by BJ Terwiel, was published in 2011 with a new subtitle (From The 13th Century To Recent Times). This edition contains new chapters on Thailand's political origins (the Sukhothai era) and contemporary events (the PAD protests, the nullification of the 2006 election, the 2006 coup, the disqualification of Prime Minister Samak, the dissolutions of TRT and the PPP, the UDD riots, the redshirt protests, and Black May 2010).

Terwiel, who has been writing about Thai history for forty years, takes a refreshingly skeptical view of the nationalistic accounts of early Thai history, which he calls "national myths." He debunks some of these legends in his opening chapter: "Some of these national scenarios were spectacular indeed and since they were flattering and generated pride in their nation they found their way into the standard history books and became part of national propaganda."

For example, Terwiel compares six different accounts of King Naresuan's elephant duel. While the objective truth remains lost in the mists of time, emphasising that these events are open to multiple interpretations is significant in itself: "It is doubtful whether anyone will unravel the details of this battle in a decisive way. Suffice to say that The Royal Chronicle version, which has had a monopoly in Thai history writing, is only one version among many."

The book's priorities are occasionally questionable - Thaksin Shinawatra's first term as Prime Minister is covered in only two paragraphs, followed by six paragraphs devoted to the 2004 tsunami -
and Terwiel's writing style is sometimes a bit clunky, especially in the new chapters. But the content is always fascinating. For instance, some hints that King Rama VI had "a decided preference for male company" and was "a confirmed bachelor who relaxed only within a circle of intimate male friends who readily accepted him."

What sets this apart from other histories of Thailand is its comprehensive treatment of the yellow-shirt and red-shirt protest movements. Terwiel provides a detailed chronology of the period from 2007 to 2010, and his account has the necessary objectivity missing from pro-yellow (The Simple Truth) and pro-red (A Kingdom In Crisis) interpretations. The book is also well illustrated, and has detailed footnotes and an extensive bibliography.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Nation

Myanmar Pongpipat, a Thai mining company, has filed a defamation lawsuit against The Nation and one of its journalists, Pratch Rujivanarom. The newspaper published an article by Pratch on 1st March (headlined "Thai mine 'destroyed Myanmar water sources'"), quoting local residents who claim that the company's Heinda tin mine has polluted the Myaung Pyo River in Burma.

The article appeared to endorse the claims, which it inappropriately presented as facts rather than allegations: "Tailings from the mine have drained directly into the river for many years, clogging it with a large amount of sediment and contaminating the village's water sources with heavy metals from the mine." Also, the article failed to include any clarification from the mining company, and there is no indication that the journalist even contacted the company before publication.

The Bangkok Post newspaper's Spectrum supplement ran a cover story on the mine on 19th March. The Spectrum article quoted residents complaining about the mine's impact, though unlike The Nation it distanced itself from the claims, treating them as allegations rather than facts. Also in contrast to The Nation, Spectrum included a lengthy statement from the MPC managing director, who "rejected accusations that the company had caused the water contamination."

The company's lawsuit against Pratch and The Nation accuses them of defamation and violation of the Computer Crime Act, as the article was also published on the newspaper's website. Defamation (like lese majeste) is a criminal offence in Thailand. Last year, the Tungkum mining company lost a defamation case against Thai PBS for reporting that a mine had caused water pollution in Loei, Thailand.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant
Alien: Covenant is Ridley Scott's sequel to Prometheus, and both films are prequels to Scott's original classic, Alien. After a prologue featuring Guy Pearce minus his old-age Prometheus make-up, Covenant has more in common with the original Alien, to the extent that it feels like a retread of the earlier film. (It also has references to Scott's Blade Runner, including the line "That's the spirit!" used in similar circumstances, and alien POV shots inspired by It Came From Outer Space.)

Covenant's action takes place several years before Alien's storyline, though Alien really needs to be seen first, not for narrative reasons but to fully appreciate the original 'chestburster' sequence. In that respect, Prometheus and Covenant are similar to the (inferior) Star Wars prequels: they provide convoluted and largely unnecessary backstories, they depict 'older' worlds that paradoxically seem more advanced, and they disclose the plot twists in the earlier films.

Covenant's final revelation, involving Michael Fassbender's two characters, was far too predictable. (Revealing it to the audience sooner would have led to more Hitchcockian suspense.) Covenant benefits from Scott's typically superb production design and cinematography, though ultimately it's Alien without the tension or (Fassbender excluded) the depth of character.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The Art Of The Hollywood Backdrop

The Art Of The Hollywood Backdrop
The Art Of The Hollywood Backdrop, by Richard M Isackes and Karen L Maness, is a history of Hollywood studio backdrops (scenic trompe l'oeil backgrounds). There have been a few books on related aspects of film-making, such as matte paintings (The Invisible Art, by Mark Cotta Vaz and Craig Barron) and production design (Caligari's Cabinet & Other Grand Illusions, by Leon Barsacq; and Designs On Film, by Cathy Whitlock), though this "DEFINITIVE HISTORY" (as the back cover justifiably proclaims) is the first survey of film backdrops.

Whereas theatrical backdrops are often stylised, cinematic backings are (like matte paintings) designed to deceive the audience: to create a realistic 2D simulation of a 3D environment. As the authors explain, "backings created for the movies of Hollywood were rarely recognized for what they were - nor was that their purpose. These special effect backings, the largest paintings ever created, were breathtaking in their artistic and technical virtuosity." (In this respect, they are also related to painted Victorian panoramas.)

Aside from double-page photographs of Georges Melies and Fritz Lang, The Art Of The Hollywood Backdrop is devoted entirely to films from the American studio system. A 100-page introduction traces the development of the Hollywood backdrop during the first 100 years of cinema, and subsequent chapters profile individual backdrop artists. This is a substantial and comprehensive book, lavishly presented in a slipcase. It has 300 illustrations, many of which are stunning full-page photographs.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Puppetry: A World History

Puppetry: A World History
Puppetry: A World History, written by Eileen Blumenthal and published by Abrams, is the first comprehensive global survey of puppetry. It includes 300 striking photographs, and features puppetry as tribal ritual (African fertility dolls), children's entertainment (Punch and Judy; Kermit the Frog), and even political satire (Spitting Image). The book was published in the UK by Thames & Hudson, under the alternative title Puppetry & Puppets: An Illustrated World Survey.

The Meaning Of Life

The Meaning Of Life
Irish police have announced that they are investigating a complaint of blasphemy in relation to comments made by Stephen Fry in a television interview. The interview, for an episode of The Meaning Of Life, was broadcast by RTE One on 1st February 2015.

In the programme, presenter Gay Byrne asked Fry what he would say to God if there was an afterlife. Fry, who has been a life-long atheist, didn't mince his words: "I'll say, 'Bone cancer in Children? What's that about? How dare you! How dare you create a world in which there is such misery that is not our fault. It's not right, it's utterly, utterly evil. Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?'"

Irish law states that anyone who intentionally "publishes or utters blasphemous matter" is guilty of criminal defamation. The 2009 Defamation Act defines "blasphemous matter" as "grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion," though there are exemptions for content of "literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value".

The law of blasphemy was abolished in the UK in 2008. Famously, in 1977, the editor of Gay News was prosecuted for blasphemous libel after he published James Kirkup's poem The Love That Dares To Speak Its Name. Extracts from the poem subsequently appeared in Socialist Challenge magazine (14th July 1977); The Observer newspaper (17th July 1977); Geoffrey Robertson's memoir, The Justice Game (1998); Bound & Gagged, a history of obscenity by Alan Travis (2000); and an episode of Joan Bakewell's TV series Taboo (12th December 2001).

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Thursday, 4 May 2017

"Delete the picture..."

Royal Plaza
Royal Plaza
A commemorative plaque has been removed from its position in Bangkok's Royal Plaza. The brass plaque commemorated Thailand's transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy in 1932, and was a symbol of Thailand's democratic revolution. It has now been replaced by a new plaque with an inscription promoting prosperity and happiness.

The original plaque was installed in 1936, next to a statue of King Rama V. Apart from a hiatus from 1960 to 1963, it had remained in place until approximately one month ago, when it was removed by persons unknown. The plaque's current whereabouts, and the reason for its replacement, have not been revealed. According to the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority, the CCTV cameras in the area were not operational when the plaque was removed.

Early last month, the plaque's removal generated plenty of critical comments on social media. However, that debate has since died down, as the military government has discouraged any commentary on the issue. A panel discussion on the subject, which had been due to take place at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand last night, was cancelled by the police.

Even a month after the replacement, a policeman still stands guard near the new plaque, to prevent photography, as I discovered today. The police officer was friendly, yet insistent: "You can delete? Delete. Delete. Delete! Delete the picture! OK, you delete."

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Tuesday, 2 May 2017

German Film Week 2017

German Film Week 2017
Fritz Lang
M
The fifth annual German Film Week will take place from 23rd to 28th May at Paragon Cineplex. Organised by the Goethe Institut, it includes a screening of Fritz Lang's classic M, starring Peter Lorre, on 25th May. M will also be shown on 3rd June at the National Film Archive in Salaya, near Bangkok.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Veep

Veep
Veep, created by Armando Iannucci, stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as US Vice-President (and subsequently President) Selina Meyer. The fifth season of the sitcom, released on DVD last month, includes an episode titled C**tgate, in which a White House staff-member causes a minor scandal by calling Meyer the c-word.

C**tgate (a pun on Watergate) was broadcast by HBO on 29th May 2016. It was co-written by Will Smith, who presented The C Word (2007), a documentary about the word 'cunt'. In the DVD audio commentary for the episode, director Brad Hall says: "I have a feeling this particular episode is going to set a record for the amount of times the word 'cunt' has been said in an audio commentary!"

The plot of the episode, with Meyer trying to identify the person who called her a cunt, is similar to an episode of 30 Rock (2007), in which the main character overheard one of her staff calling her the same word. Iannucci's UK series The Thick Of It (2005) also included a similar plot device in one episode, with an investigation into which staff-member called another a cunt in an email.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Polish Arts & Culture Week

Polish Arts & Culture Week
Apocalypse Now
Polish Arts & Culture Week, which began on 23rd April and finishes tomorrow, will include a screening of Francis Coppola's classic Apocalypse Now today at BACC. The film was inspired by Heart Of Darkness, a novella by Polish writer Joseph Conrad.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Czech New Wave Month II

Czech New Wave Month II
Closely Observed Trains
The Firemen's Ball
Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host its second Czech New Wave season next month. The opening film, on 3rd May, will be Jiri Menzel's superb Closely Observed Trains (previously shown during the 5th World Film Festival of Bangkok, at a screening introduced by the director himself). Czech New Wave Month II concludes on 31st May with Milos Forman's The Firemen's Ball.

Jam's first Czech New Wave Month took place in November 2016. Jam's previous seasons have included Derek Jarman Month, Seduction Month, Dreams Month, Forking Paths Month, Resizing Month, Banned Month, Doppelganger Month, American Independent Month, Anime Month, 'So Bad It's Good' Month, Philip Seymour Hoffman Month, and Noir Month.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bangkok Screening Room

Tears Of The Black Tiger
Next month, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Wisit Sasanatieng's debut film, Tears Of The Black Tiger. A combination of Italian Spaghetti western and Thai 'lakorn' melodrama, it has become a cult classic due to its uniquely over-saturated colour palette. It was also one of the first films of the Thai 'new wave' of the 1990s.

Wisit has also directed Citizen Dog, The Unseeable, The Red Eagle, and รุ่นพี่. His short films include เราเป็นคนไทย (a music video for Petch Osthanagrah), Norasinghavatar (part of a project honouring King Rama IX), and ทัศนา (a segment of the anthology film Sawasdee Bangkok). He was also the screenwriter of Nonzee Nimibutr's 2499 and Nang Nak, wrote the treatment for Kongkiat Khomsiri's Slice, and designed the posters for the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2008 and 2009.

Tears Of The Black Tiger was shown at the National Film Archive in 2009 and 2010, and at BACC (introduced by Wisit and the cast) in 2012. It will be playing at Bangkok Screening Room on 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 21st, and 24th May.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

"Here's why they go ape at Ross"

The Sun
Kelvin MacKenzie, columnist for The Sun newspaper, has been suspended following complaints about his description of Everton footballer Ross Barkley. The article has been deleted from The Sun's website. In the column, published on 14th April (and headlined "Here's why they go ape at Ross"), MacKenzie compared Barkley to a gorilla: "There is something about the lack of reflection in his eyes which makes me certain not only are the lights not on, there is definitely nobody at home. I get a similar feeling when seeing a gorilla at the zoo. The physique is magnificent but it's the eyes that tell the story."

The Mayor of Liverpool has accused MacKenzie of racism, a charge now being investigated by Merseyside police. MacKenzie is a notorious controversialist, and his deliberately provocative comments often generate criticism. MacKenzie was editor of The Sun throughout the 1980s, during which time it published numerous homophobic and xenophobic editorials. MacKenzie and The Sun have particularly low reputations in Liverpool, as he was the newspaper's editor when it blamed Liverpool FC fans for the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989.

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

"We apologise to Mrs Trump..."

Daily Mail
Daily Mail
The Daily Mail newspaper has paid damages to Melania Trump, the US First Lady, in settlement of a lawsuit she filed last year. The damages are undisclosed, though the total settlement paid by the Mail is rumoured to be $3 million - a large sum by UK libel standards, though less than the $150 million originally sought by Trump's lawyer, Charles Harder (who had previously sued the gossip website Gawker into bankruptcy).

Trump sued the Mail over an article it published on 20th August last year, headlined "Racy photos and troubling questions about his wife's past that could derail Trump". The article, written by Natalie Clarke, discussed allegations that Trump's former modelling agency had provided escort services, and suggested that Trump had worked as an escort. The Mail quoted the owner of the modelling agency denying the story, though this was overshadowed by the insinuations in the headline.

After Trump filed her lawsuit, the Mail went to unusual lengths to remove all traces of the article online, including having it deleted from Google's cache and the PressReader digital archive. The Mail also printed a lengthy response to the lawsuit on 2nd September last year, though this repeated the claims in the process of retracting them: "To the extent that anything in our article was interpreted as stating or suggesting that Mrs Trump worked as an 'escort' or in the 'sex business'... it is hereby retracted, and we regret any such misinterpretation."

Following the settlement of the case yesterday, the Mail printed an apology on page nine of today's paper. This time, it did not repeat the claims, instead referring euphemistically to "allegations that she provided services beyond simply modelling." The statement also included an unequivocal retraction and apology: "We accept that these allegations about Mrs Trump are not true and we retract and withdraw them. We apologise to Mrs Trump for any distress that our publication caused her."

500 Must-See Movies

500 Must-See Movies
Total Film magazine has published a new film list it describes as "the essential selection every film fan should watch". 500 Must-See Movies is divided into five genres: comedies, thrillers, action, horror, and sci-fi. Three of the individual genre lists have been published previously as Total Film magazine supplements: science-fiction and fantasy (Summer 2016, issue 247), thrillers (August 2016, issue 248), and comedies (September 2016, issue 249).

Only five genres are represented, though films from excluded genres such as musicals, westerns, and animation have not been omitted. Instead, they have been reclassified: Singin' In The Rain appears in the comedies section, Snow White becomes science-fiction, The Searchers is designated an action movie, and Citizen Kane is apparently a thriller.

Other lists of 500 films include Empire magazine's The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2008) and The Telegraph newspaper's 500 Must-See Films (2013). (I've also compiled my own list of 500 Classic Films.) Total Film's previous film lists are: The 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time (2005), The Top 100 Movies Of All Time (2006), The 67 Most Influential Films Ever Made (2009), and 100 Greatest Movies (2010).

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Broken Vows

Broken Vows
UK politician Nick Brown is suing author Tom Bower over a sentence in Bower's biography of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bower's book, Broken Vows (2016), includes a reference to Brown's relationship with another man: "Nick Brown, the new minister of agriculture, was accused by the News of the World of paying £100 to rent boys in order to be kicked around a room, and admitted his sexuality."

Bower's description of Brown being "kicked around a room" was presumably based on Alastair Campbell's book Power & The People (2011), the second volume of his political diary. Campbell wrote that the News Of The World newspaper gave him advance notice of the story it was planning to run on Brown's private life: "They said they had the confession of a self-confessed rent boy who had been paid £100 a time to beat up Nick and kick him around a room." Campbell's diary includes denials from Brown about the beating, kicking, and payment, making clear that they are untrue.

In its article (published in 1998), the News Of The World also included Brown's denials, and made no reference to the unsubstantiated beating or kicking claim. However, Bower's book does not include any denials; it also distorts the facts (using the plural "rent boys") and implies Brown's guilt (noting that he "admitted" his sexuality). Bower misrepresents the issue by reducing it to a single sentence, and an earlier edition of Campbell's diary, The Blair Years (2007), was similarly misleading: "The News of the World had apparently trapped Nick Brown with rent boys".

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Orbit Festival

Orbit Festival
A nightclub manager has been arrested in Tunisia after a DJ included a sample of the Islamic call to prayer as part of his set at the Orbit Festival. The nightclub, El Guitoune in the town of Hammamet, has been closed down by the local authorities.

Dax J, a techno DJ based in Berlin, was one of the headliners on 31st March, the opening night of the two-day event. The call to prayer, which begins with the expression "Allahu akbar" ("God is great"), was also featured on the single Metal Hammer (1990) by And One.

[Quotations from the Koran have previously caused controversy when they have appeared out of context in non-Islamic songs. Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabate; Arab Money by Busta Rhymes; Maya by Joey Boy; Ana Yousef, Ya Abi by Marcel Khalife; and Noor-Un-Ala by MF Hussain all feature extracts from the Koran.]

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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Wood

Wood
St Henry's Chapel
Wood, by William Hall, is an international survey of wooden architecture, published by Phaidon. Like his previous books - Concrete and Brick - it has an embossed dust jacket, full-page photographs with extended captions, and chapters themed according to concepts such as form, light, and scale.

The book includes buildings dating from the Middle Ages, though the emphasis is on modern and contemporary architecture. Most of the 170 examples are wooden structures, though there are a few exceptions, including some bamboo buildings and wooden facades.

Architecture In Wood is more comprehensive than Wood, though its photographs were all taken by its author, Will Pryce. Hall's book, on the other hand, features images from various sources. Wood: The World Of Woodwork & Carving, by Bryan Sentance, is a guide to wood as a medium for art, craft, and design.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Book From The Ground

Book From The Ground
Book From The Ground: From Point To Point, by Xu Bing, is a novella composed entirely of emoji, pictograms, logos, and other symbols (including 7x8mm reproductions of Marcel Duchamp's Fountain). Though there have been previous translations of texts into emoji, this is the first example of original fiction in emoji form.

The book contains no text (except on the back cover), and punctuation marks are its only concession to conventional typography. The concept is original and fascinating, though the potential for emoji as literature seems limited. The first wordless novels, with narratives depicted in Expressionist woodcuts, were created by Frans Masereel after World War I.

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Osamu Tezuka Story

The Osamu Tezuka Story
The Osamu Tezuka Story, by Toshio Ban, was originally published in Japanese (手塚治虫物語) from 1989 to 1992 as a weekly serial in Asahi Shimbun magazine. Last year, it was translated into English for the first time, by Frederik L Schodt, who introduced manga to Western readers with his excellent Manga! Manga! and wrote the introduction to Manga Kamishibai. (Schodt's The Astro Boy Essays and Helen McCarthy's The Art Of Osamu Tezuka are among the few English-language surveys of Tezuka's life and work.)

As Schodt explains in his introduction, "Tezuka was the main force in the creation of the long-arc, story manga format... and in 1963, by animating his own Astro Boy manga for television, he also created the framework for Japan's entire modern manga-anime". He also notes that, in Japan, Tezuka is known as "manga no kami-sama" ("God of Manga"). In Cartoons, Giannalberto Bendazzi calls Tezuka "the 'God of comic-strips'." In The World Encyclopedia Of Comics, Maurice Horn calls him the "King of Japanese Comics".

At more than 900 pages, The Osamu Tezuka Story is a comprehensive biography of Tezuka in manga form. One of Tezuka's recurring characters, the mustachioed Higeoyaji, appears as a narrator. Interestingly, excerpts from Stanley Kubrick's 1965 letter to Tezuka are included, translated from Tezuka's autobiography, Baku Wa Mangaka. There is an invaluable appendix listing the Japanese titles of Tezuka's manga and anime works.

Schodt writes that, although the book "could have turned out to be a crude hagiography - a biography depicting Tezuka in only a heroic light", it offers instead "a realistic portrait of a very complex and unique individual." However, because it's an official Tezuka Productions release, created as a posthumous tribute to Tezuka, an element of hagiography is unavoidable.

The translation of The Osamu Tezuka Story (unlike the Astro Boy Omnibus series, Schodt's translation of Tezuka's Mighty Atom) preserves the original Japanese format, without the Westernised 'flopping' (left-to-right conversion) of some manga translations: "Pages and panels are read in Japanese order from right-to-left, but text in word balloons is read from left-to-right. And "sound effects," especially when part of the original art work, are often left as-is, with unobtrusive translations."

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Cat People

Cat People
Cat People, directed by Jacques Tourneur in 1942, was the first in a cycle of atmospheric horror films produced for RKO by Val Lewton. The studio had recently cancelled its contract with Orson Welles - after releasing his first two films, Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons - and was looking for a commercial horror vehicle to compete with Universal's cycle of monster films (Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.).

The result is a suspenseful B-movie about Irena, a sexually repressed woman who transforms into a panther when she experiences arousal or jealousy. (Almost fifty years later, Michael Jackson transformed into a panther in his Black Or White music video.) The film begins with a meet-cute at the zoo, and compresses the couple's courtship and marriage into a few hurried minutes. Irena's husband, Oliver, is impossibly patient despite her rejection of any intimate contact. Eventually, and more realistically, he falls for his co-worker, Alice, who describes herself as "the new type of other woman" and is the film's only truly likeable character.

The film's Expressionistic lighting is by Nicholas Musuraca, who also photographed the Film Noir classics Out Of The Past (directed by Tourneur) and Stranger On The Third Floor. There are several striking visual moments: Irena scratching a sofa with her claw-like nails, Oliver in silhouette holding a T-square as a crucifix, and Irena's face under a psychiatrist's spotlight. The sound design is also impressive, especially the use of silence and subtle animal noises. These elements are all combined in the film's most effective sequence, when shadows on the wall and a growling panther frighten Alice in a swimming pool.

Cat People has interesting connections to a couple of other films of the period: it utilises the staircase set from The Magnificent Ambersons, and it was parodied in The Bad & The Beautiful, with Lewton as the model for the Jonathan Shields character. Kim Newman wrote a BFI Film Classics monograph on Cat People in 2001: "each viewing has revealed some new aspect, some unnoticed detail carefully crafted, some resonance perhaps unintended. I would happily watch it again this evening, which may well be the highest praise I can give any film."

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Visions Of Music

Visions Of Music
While there are numerous histories of album covers (including Album: Classic Sleeve Designs, The Art Of The Album Cover, and Art Record Covers), sheet music design is a relatively niche field of interest. Visions Of Music, by Tony Walas, is a history of sheet music covers.

Despite its subtitle (Sheet Music In The Twentieth Century), the book includes examples from the Victorian era onwards, demonstrating that illustrated sheet music covers existed long before Alex Steinweiss designed the first pictorial record sleeves. The covers in the book are only from the author's collection, though it's the first survey of the subject to feature covers from all genres.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

World Class Cinema

World Class Cinema
Gone With The Wind
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Rebel Without A Cause
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Following the Festival Of Classic Movies (2007) and เมื่อครั้งเสด็จฯ ทอดพระเนตร ภาพยนตร์ (2016), there will be another season of Hollywood classics showing in Bangkok this year. World Class Cinema will feature nine films, all screened at the Scala cinema, beginning with Victor Fleming's Gone With The Wind on 12th March. Other highlights include Howard Hawks' Gentlemen Prefer Blondes on 9th April; Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without A Cause on 2nd May; Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey on 17th September; and Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly on 15th October.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Art Record Covers

Art Record Covers
Art Record Covers, written by Francesco Spampinato and edited by Julius Wiedemann, features over 500 album covers designed since 1955. Rather than a guide to the greatest album covers (such as The Art Of The Album Cover by Richard Evans, or Album: Classic Sleeve Designs by Nick de Ville), it's the first survey of covers created by artists as opposed to graphic designers. Appropriately, this lavish and comprehensive book is almost the same size as a 12" LP.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

"BECKS C-WORD FURY..."

The Sunday Times
The Sun
An injunction against The Sunday Times has been partially lifted after details of the case appeared in other publications at the weekend. The injunction, granted in December 2016, prevented The Sunday Times from revealing that David Beckham's email account had been hacked. On 5th February, the newspaper printed a brief notice on its front page: "The Sunday Times has been gagged by an injunction preventing it from reporting details about a celebrity's personal and professional life. The judge anonymised the individual using initials."

Beckham's emails were among thousands leaked to the German news magazine Der Spiegel earlier last year, and Beckham's publicist applied for an injunction after The Sunday Times planned to publish them. Like other anonymised injunctions (such as those relating to PJS, NEJ, RA, and D), the restriction applied only in England and Wales. Unusually, the injunction was granted solely against The Sunday Times, enabling The Sun (despite being owned by the same company) to publish the story on 4th February.

On its front page, under the banner headline "BECKS C-WORD FURY AT 'SIR' SNUB", The Sun wrote that Beckham had criticised the committee recommending new year's honours as "a bunch of cunts" and "unappreciative cunts". This was then reported by other UK and European news websites later that day. The terms of the injunction against The Sunday Times were subsequently relaxed, allowing it to report information already in the public domain.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Daily Dose

The Daily Dose
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has ordered Voice TV to suspend broadcasting The Daily Dose for seven days. In a majority decision, the NBTC ruled that The Daily Dose, a daily current affairs programme hosted by Nattakorn Devakula, featured politically divisive content in violation of an order issued to the media by the NCPO.

The episode in question, broadcast on 23rd January, began with an assessment of the need for reform of the judiciary. (Contrary to a report in the Bangkok Post newspaper, the programme's 6th February episode was not the reason for the NBTC's ruling.) Voice TV, a digital terrestrial channel, is owned by Panthongthae Shinawatra, son of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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