Sunday, 27 May 2018

Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic

Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic
In their introduction to Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic, editors by Neil Holt and Nicola von Velsen argue that, despite the rise of digital media, paper retains its aesthetic value, and that its use in art and design deserves more consideration: "Such a history of paper has not, to our knowledge, yet been told." This is therefore the first book to provide a broad survey of paper as an artistic medium, with chapters on decorated paper, Japanese washi, pop-up books, origami, typography, marbling, and cartography (amongst other subjects).

As the editors recognise, most chapters "develop their themes in a rather cursory manner," given the book's wide scope, though some essays (on coloured paper, fine art, watermarks, and paper art) are more substantial. Many historical and contemporary illustrations are included. There is also a selected bibliography, to which could be added Marbling (by Phoebe Jane Easton), Marbled Paper (Richard J. Wolfe), The Papered Wall (Lesley Hoskins), History of Cartography (Leo Bagrow), and Printing Types (Daniel Updike). (Paper was translated from the German Papier: Material, Medium und Faszination; the English edition has an additional editor, Stephanie Jacobs.)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Democracy Restoration Group

The Democracy Restoration Group, which held a seminar last year to mark the third anniversary of the 2014 coup, today organised a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on the coup's fourth anniversary. Several hundred protesters gathered this morning at Thammasat University's football field, from where they intended to march to Government House, though they were blocked by police barricades. In the early afternoon, a group of around 100 people broke through the barriers and marched as far as Democracy Monument, though the protest leaders were arrested and the demonstration ended before 4pm.

During the past four years of military rule, there have been repeated assurances from the junta that democracy is just around the corner. On 28th June 2014, coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha pledged to hold an election by October 2015. Then, during a visit to Tokyo on 9th February 2015, he announced that an election would instead take place by February 2016. When that deadline passed, he announced on 9th August 2016 that an election would be held by November 2017. Then, on 10th October 2017, he pushed the election timetable forward to November 2018. Most recently, on 27th February this year, he said that an election will happen by February 2019.

Monday, 21 May 2018

लिंगम् Project 2018

Linga Project 2018
join #dark
Quasi una fantasia
Mountain Wind
A Season in Hell
लिंगम् Project 2018 is a collaboration between three Thai artists - Kornkrit Jianpinidnan, Santiphap Inkong-ngam, and Thunska Pansittivorakul - who have each made a short video and produced a book of photographs. The artists took part in a Q&A at Asian Culture Station in Chiang Mai on 18th May.

Kornkrit's monochrome, square images, titled join #dark and resembling Robert Mapplethorpe's Polaroids, are printed on a series of unbound white cards. Santiphap directed a music video, Mountain Wind; Whispering to a Wall (ลมภูเขา; กระซิบกับผนังปูน), with stills by Apichat Yimyong. Thunska's video, A Season in Hell (ฤดูกาลในนรก), includes footage from his upcoming feature film Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา).

लिंगम्, or 'linga', is the Sanskrit term for a phallic symbol (representing the Hindu god Shiva), and Thunska takes this literally in his book Quasi una fantasia (อัศจรรย์), which includes some hardcore imagery. There are also stills from his films Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), and The Altar (หมู่บูชา).

The three artists' books - join #dark, Mountain Wind, and Quasi una fantasia - are available in a signed and numbered set. (My copy is number 10.) The package costs ฿800, which is remarkable given that the edition is limited to only thirty copies.


Tuesday, 15 May 2018


There will be a free screening of Chatrichalerm Yukol's ครูสมศรี at the Thai Film Archive tomorrow. The film, like the director's earlier เขาชื่อกานต์, focuses on an eponymous central character fighting against corruption and bureaucracy. Chatrichalerm made several other equally groundbreaking socially conscious films, dealing with topics including prostitution (Angel/เทพธิดาโรงแรม), teenage drug addiction (Daughter/เสียดาย), and drug trafficking (Powder Road/ฮโรอีน).

Later, he switched gears and directed lavish royalist-nationalist epics such as The Legend of Suriyothai (สุริโยไท) and the Kingdom of War (ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช) series about King Naresuan. His career trajectory is similar to that of Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who made the banned Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂) though whose later films such as Hero (英雄) were effectively state propaganda.

Monday, 14 May 2018


Members of the punk/grindcore band Blood Soaked Street of Social Decay were arrested on Saturday after they burnt posters of Prayuth Chan-ocha at จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, an event marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup. (The event's full title includes the insult ไอ้สัตว์, though this was self-censored on the poster.) The show's organisers were also arrested, though no-one was charged.


Cinema Winehouse

Reservoir Dogs
All About Eve
Once Upon a Time in the West
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse continues its weekly screenings of movie classics. This week, they will be showing Reservoir Dogs on Wednesday, followed by Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il west) and All About Eve on Thursday. (Once Upon a Time in the West was previously shown at the Italian Film Festival 2012.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand

The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand will take place later this month. As in previous years (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017), there will be a week of screenings at the Lido and Scala cinemas in Bangkok. This year's event opens on 24th May with a gala screening of Carl Dreyer's masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) at Scala. (It will also be shown at Lido, on 30th May.) The other films will all be screened at Lido, and in fact this will be Lido's swan song, as the cinema will close down permanently on the last day of the Festival, 31st May.

"I'm not gonna try to
sound like Winston Churchill..."

The latest episode of The Kubrick Series podcast is an interview Stanley Kubrick gave on 10th June 1987 to Tim Cahill, a magazine journalist. Cahill supplied his two-hour Dictaphone recording of the interview, and it was uploaded yesterday. The interview was first published in the 27th August 1987 issue of Rolling Stone. In the article, Cahill described Kubrick as "entirely unpretentious. He was wearing running shoes and an old corduroy jacket. There was an ink stain just below the pocket where some ball point pen had bled to death."

Comparing the tape and the published transcript, it becomes clear how much Kubrick's answers were compressed and paraphrased in the printed version. The article also includes several quotes that are not on the tape, such as "truth is too multifaceted to be contained in a five-line summary." These bon mots were clearly written later, and at one point on the tape Kubrick asks for some time to review a draft of the transcript: "Give me at least a day to have a crack at it... I'm not gonna try to sound like Winston Churchill, but I'd like to just tidy it up." He even specifies that he'd like a triple-spaced manuscript: "I've gotta have room to write, to change the words." (The Kubrick Archive has dozens of pages of interview transcripts similarly revised by Kubrick.)

This is the third posthumously-released Kubrick interview recording. Alison Castle's book The Stanley Kubrick Archives included a CD of Jeremy Bernstein's interview with Kubrick, recorded in 1966. The French radio series A voix nue broadcast Michel Ciment's Kubrick interviews from 1975, 1980, and 1987. (The archive of film critic Alexander Walker, at La Cineteca del Friuli in Italy, has two recordings of Walker's interviews with Kubrick, from 1980 and 1987.)

Monday, 7 May 2018

Cinema Winehouse

A Clockwork Orange
Gone With the Wind
Seven Samurai
The Exorcist
From tomorrow until Saturday, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be screening a classic film every evening. Tomorrow, it's Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, followed by Gone With the Wind on Thursday, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (七人の侍) on Friday, and The Exorcist on Saturday.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Space Odyssey

Space Odyssey
Michael Benson's Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece provides a new production history of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the film's release. Benson's previous book was the excellent Cosmigraphics, and Space Odyssey benefits from his dual interests in cosmology and visual art.

There are, of course, many books on the making of 2001, including 2001: Filming The Future, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001 Memories, Moonwatcher's Memoir, Are We Alone?, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001: The Lost Science, The 2001 File, and The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 500 pages, Space Odyssey is the most exhaustive account of the making of the film.

Through a Different Lens

Through a Different Lens
Lou Jacobs
Donald Albrecht (co-editor of Only in New York) and Sean Corcoran curated Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, an exhibition opening today at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY). They also edited the exhibition's lavish and comprehensive catalogue, published in folio format by Taschen.

Stanley Kubrick became a staff photographer for Look magazine in 1945, straight out of high school. Five years later, he quit in order to become a director. I have compiled a complete list of Kubrick's published photographs, which is included in the Stanley Kubrick Archive and was reprinted in Fotografie 1945-1950.

The images in Through a Different Lens are drawn from the MCNY's collection of thousands of Kubrick's photos. (Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine is also based on the MCNY's collection.) The photographs are almost exclusively black-and-white, though there is a colour portrait of the clown Lou Jacobs. In their introduction, the editors argue that Kubrick's photography "honed his skills as both a storyteller and an image maker, albeit through a different lens."

There have been several previous catalogues of Kubrick's photographs: Ladro di sguardi, Still Moving Pictures, Drama and Shadows, Fotografie 1945-1950, Visioni e finzioni. A limited selection also appears in Art by Film Directors. To a greater or lesser extent, these surveys all have similar limitations: they decontextualise the images (presenting them out of sequence, either retitled or untitled), and they recycle a limited selection of photographs.

Through a Different Lens is the first book on Kubrick's photography to avoid these shortcomings. It includes more than 300 photographs, making it the most extensive collection in print. The arrangement is chronological, and Look publication details are also included.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Cinema Winehouse

The Godfather
The Third Man
The Wizard of Oz
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be showing a trio of classic films this week. The Godfather is screening on 2nd May, followed the next day by The Third Man and The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

สุดยอดภาพยนตร์ไทยในสมัยรัชกาลที่ ๙

Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Mae Nak Phra Khanong
Over the next four days, Bangkok's Scala cinema will be screening ten classic Thai films, chosen from a poll of the seventy greatest films from the reign of King Rama IX. The short season, สุดยอดภาพยนตร์ไทยในสมัยรัชกาลที่ ๙, begins this evening with Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง), one of the films that launched the Thai New Wave and revived the national film industry. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ) is showing on Thursday, along with Mae Nak Phra Khanong (แม่นาคพระโขนง), the first colour version of the popular Mae Nak ghost story. All screenings are free.

Cinema Winehouse

Citizen Kane
Some Like It Hot
Toy Story
There are five classic films showing this week at Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse. Inception is screening tonight, followed tomorrow by two masterpieces: Citizen Kane and Some Like It Hot. On Friday, it's the cult thriller Oldboy (올드보이), with Toy Story on Saturday.

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Four

The Four
The New York Times
Financial Times
The Economist
Financial Times
Scott Galloway's new book The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google analyses the impact of the 800-pound gorillas of online technology: "Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are the four most influential companies on the planet." Galloway calls them "the Four Horsemen," and Nick Bilton (author of Hatching Twitter) made the same point in Vanity Fair last November: "The four horsemen of the coming economic apocalypse - Amazon, Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook - have already flattened entire industries."

Galloway's book is similar to Charles Arthur's Digital Wars: Apple, Google, Microsoft and the Battle for the Internet, and in case anyone was wondering about Microsoft, Galloway argues that it was "the original horseman." (MS Office, Internet Explorer, and Hotmail have been superseded by Google's Docs, Chrome, and Gmail, and computing is shifting from Windows to Android and iOS.)

Referring to the same tech oligopoly, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt called them the "gang of four" at the D9 conference in 2011: "Obviously, one of them, in my view, is Google, the other three being Apple, Amazon, and Facebook." Schmidt and Jared Cohen discussed the same four brands in The New Digital Age: "We believe that modern technology platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, are even more powerful than most people realize". The Wall Street Journal (on Boxing Day 2012) assessed the rivalry between the same four firms ("Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon").

The Economist (on 1st December 2012) also highlighted the same quartet: "THE four giants of the internet age - Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - are extraordinary creatures. Never before has the world seen firms grow so fast or spread their tentacles so widely." In a cartoon for the magazine's cover, David Parkins depicted the companies as giant squid. Continuing the cephalopod metaphor, an article by Galloway in the March issue of Esquire features an illustration by Andrew Rae representing the four companies as a giant octopus. A cartoon by Matt Kenyon in today's Financial Times shows the so-called FAANG group (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google) as a mechanical octopus.

Farhad Manjoo has also written extensively about this group of 'big tech' giants, initially in a Fast Company (November 2011) cover story: "Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon battle for the future". Adding Microsoft to the mix, Manjoo calls them "the Frightful Five" and his 6th May 2017 New York Times column featured an illustration by Doug Chayka showing a raft formed from the five logos. A photomontage by James Ferguson in the Financial Times on 15th November 2017 showed the same five as UFOs over New York.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

The History of Cinema

The History of Cinema
The History of Cinema: A Very Short Introduction is, as its subtitle suggests, a brief guide to film history. In only a hundred pages, it provides concise summaries of cinema technology, the studio system, and international film movements. Author Geoffrey Nowell-Smith previously wrote Making Waves, and edited The Oxford History of World Cinema, a definitive text which remains the gold standard for film-history books. The History of Cinema is a slim volume in comparison, though it has a useful annotated bibliography.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Lawrence of Arabia
The Shining
After the Songkran holiday, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse is showing more classics this week. David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia is screening tonight. (It was previously shown in 2015.) Tomorrow, it's Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo (用心棒), previously shown as part of the Kurosawa retrospective at CentralWorld. On Saturday, it's Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (last shown during the Cinema Scarehouse season).

Monday, 16 April 2018

About Heroes

Bangkok Joyride I
Bangkok Joyride II
Cinema Oasis, the arthouse cinema that opened last month in Bangkok, will begin a season of political documentaries this month, after the Songkran holiday. The About Heroes season features Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์), a documentary directed by Ing K. The film, divided into two chapters, is a record of the PDRC's protests in 2013 and 2014 against former prime ministers Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chapter one, How We Became Superheroes (เมื่อเราเป็นยอดมนุษย์), covers the first stage of the protest, when Suthep Thaugsuban campaigned against a proposed amnesty bill. The amnesty was a blatant attempt to exonerate Thaksin of his corruption charges, and was unanimously rejected by the Senate. The film also features extended clips of a parliamentary no-confidence debate against Yingluck. Emboldened after defeating the amnesty bill, Suthep called for the dissolution of parliament and the establishment of an appointed government.

Chapter two of the documentary, Shutdown Bangkok (ชัตดาวน์ประเทศไทย), covers the escalation of the PDRC's protests. Following the playbook of the PAD, the PDRC shut down major roads in central Bangkok and occupied government buildings, yet were unopposed by the police. The anti-democratic nature of the protest was revealed when the PDRC sabotaged the 2014 general election (which may be included in the forthcoming third episode, Singing at Funerals).

Ing has also directed the banned films Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย) and My Teacher Eats Biscuits (คนกราบหมา). Her documentary Censor Must Die (เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย) was not banned as, according to section 27(1) of the Film and Video Act, "films of news events" are exempt from classification.

When I interviewed Ing in 2016, she said: "this ruling has set a marvellous legal precedent for all documentary films. I'm going to use this ruling to exempt my next film (another cinéma vérité documentary, called Bangkok Joyride) from the censorship process. Then it's a matter of finding a cinema." She solved the problem of finding a cinema by building Cinema Oasis.

Citing the "news events" exemption, she didn't submit Bangkok Joyride to the censors, which explains why she was able to include a protester saying "I love the King" in chapter one and a snippet of the royal anthem in chapter two. Boundary (ฟ้าตํ่าแผ่นดินสูง) was muted to remove a chant of "We love the King", which was regarded as politicisation of the monarchy, and the royal anthem was cut from Soi Cowboy (ซอยคาวบอย) for commercialisation of the monarchy.

Both parts of Bangkok Joyride are showing on 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th, 28th, and 29th April; 4th, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th, 24th, and 27th May; and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, and 17th June. Part one is also showing on 2nd, 9th, 11th 17th, 23rd, and 25th May; and 7th, 13th, and 15th June. Part two is also showing on 25th and 27th April; 3rd, 10th, 16th, and 18th May; and 6th, 8th, and 14th June.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

100 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

100 Movies You Must See Before You Die
DOIY, a Spanish design company, created a poster in 2016 featuring a hundred classic films. The poster (100 Movies You Must See Before You Die) is similar to an Advent calendar, as each film title has a flap that can be opened to reveal a stylised image from the film.


Monday, 9 April 2018

A Century of Thai Cinema
Exhibition's Handbook

A Century of Thai Cinema Exhibition's Handbook
A Century of Thai Cinema Exhibition's Handbook [sic.] (คู่มือนิทรรศการหนึ่งศตวรรษภาพยนตร์ ไทย 2440-2540) was published by the Thai Film Archive in 2013. It provides a concise history of Thai cinema, and includes photographs of souvenir programmes and other film memorabilia. The book also serves as a catalogue for the Archive's permanent exhibition on Thai filmmaking, for which guided tours are available. ("Visitors aren't allowed to wander around by themselves," the foreword explains, rather ominously.)

Author Dome Sukwong, who founded the Archive, is the foremost authority on Thai film history. His other English-language book is the folio-sized A Century of Thai Cinema. The only other books on Thai film history in English are Thai Cinema (Le cinéma thaïlandais; edited by Bastian Meiresonne) and the forthcoming Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide (edited by Mary J. Ainslie and Katarzyna Ancuta).

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Making Medieval Manuscripts

Making Medieval Manuscripts
Making Medieval Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel, was published late last year. The book is a revised version of Scribes and Illuminators, and explains how manuscripts were written, illustrated, and bound. It includes glossy, full-page reproductions of manuscript pages, and a limited bibliography (which, perhaps out of misplaced modesty, omits de Hamel's previous books A History of Illuminated Manuscripts and Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts).