Sunday, 16 September 2018

Fear

Fear
Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House is the latest book on the Trump presidency, after Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. Whereas Wolff's book was a gossipy account of palace intrigue, Woodward focuses on policymaking (and unmaking), though both writers portray a chaotic White House led by a president unfit for office. Both books were also instant bestsellers; Fear has already sold over a million copies, only a few days after publication.

Fear begins with Trump's former chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, taking a draft letter from the Oval Office, to stop Trump withdrawing from a bilateral trade agreement with South Korea: "I stole it off his desk... He's never going to see that document. Got to protect the country." In case this seems far-fetched, Woodward reproduces the actual document, and adds that Cohn, and former staff secretary Rob Porter, also removed similar letters that would have pulled the US out of NAFTA and the Paris Agreement on climate change.

These incidents confirm the gist of the anonymous op-ed published by the New York Times on 6th September, which revealed an internal Trump resistance campaign: "many of the senior officials in his own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations." (Although, despite the efforts of Cohn, Porter, and the "senior official" who wrote the op-ed, Trump's nationalist instincts ultimately prevailed, and he withdrew from NAFTA and the climate accord.)

Such attempts to subvert a president's agenda are not completely unprecedented. Ron Suskind's book Confidence Men claims that President Obama's Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner ignored Obama's directive to restructure Citibank after the 2008 financial crisis, and that Obama's authority was "systematically undermined or hedged by his seasoned advisers." Suskind's book has been criticised for its errors and exaggerations, though whatever the truth about the Obama administration, the West Wing's challenging of Trump's decision-making is much more blatant.

Unlike Suskind (and Wolff, whose book also contained mistakes), Woodward's journalistic reputation is second to none. He investigated Watergate with Carl Bernstein, and has covered Washington politics for almost fifty years; his previous books include two studies of the Obama administration (Obama's Wars and The Price of Politics).

Woodward also relies on contemporaneous documents, such as the South Korea letter, adding even more credibility to his account. Another document obtained by Woodward, the minutes of a security meeting, is an official summary of the West Wing's concerns about Trump (and it reads like a preview of the op-ed): "many of the president's senior advisers... are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views."

Fear quotes senior staffers expressing these feelings more directly: former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (as previously reported) calls Trump "a fucking moron," and according to Chief of Staff John Kelly, "He's an idiot... He's gone off the rails. We're in crazytown." The book ends with Trump's former lawyer John Dowd calling him "a fucking liar" though the quote's impact is slightly diluted because it also appears a few pages previously. ("He could not say what he knew was true: "You're a fucking liar." That was the problem.")

Woodward conducted interviews on 'deep background', though his key sources are fairly identifiable. White House meetings and conversations are transcribed at length, in quotation marks, though the dialogue is presumably reconstructed rather than verbatim. (This is problematic, though it's become standard practice in memoirs.) Dowd, for example, provides extensive quotes, most notably from his meetings with Robert Mueller. These are the first insights yet into the leak-proof Mueller investigation, and Dowd quotes Mueller twice asking about any "corrupt intent" on Trump's part.

Trump declined to be interviewed for the book. Woodward released a recording of a phone call with Trump last month, in which Trump initially denied, then admitted, being asked to participate. Wolff did interview Trump, though he overstated his access. Trump also spoke to Ronald Kessler, for his hagiographic The Trump White House, in what Kessler claimed was "the only interview for a book Trump said he has given or will give as president".

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Someone from Nowhere

Someone from Nowhere
[Spoiler alert: this review reveals the film's ending.] Prabda Yoon's directorial debut, Motel Mist (โรงแรมต่างดาว) was a study of sexual politics and power dynamics, though it also had a political subtext, signalled by a shot of Bangkok's Democracy Monument in the wing mirror as a car drives away. In Prabda's more compelling second film Someone from Nowhere (มา ณ ที่นี้), the entire plot, location, and characters are all political metaphors.

The film takes place in a condo called Liberty Land, which becomes a microcosm for the country (as 'Thai' means 'liberated'). The condo's apparent owner, a young woman, goes about her morning routine: swimming, greeting various neighbours, and taking a shower. But then she discovers an injured man outside her front door, and phones the condominium staff and the police for help. Meanwhile, the man claims to be the condo's rightful owner, demanding: "The only thing I want is to have this place back." She insists that he's lying, and replies: "I won't let you people get away with this atrocity."

To all intents and purposes, the condo is hers, though her deeds of ownership are blank pages, and the assistance she called for never arrives. The analogy to the 2014 coup is clear: like Yingluck Shinawatra, the woman is intimidated by a powerful intruder (the man, representing the military reclaiming its traditional rights); she has no legal defence (her deeds were erased, just as the constitution was abrogated); and she receives no external support (Thailand's judicial system and police force didn't intervene to prevent the coup). The film's political subtext becomes increasingly direct, culminating with the national anthem playing as the man and woman stab each other.

Like Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก), the film's repetitive structure highlights the cyclical nature of the military's interventions. The man places the woman's unconscious body outside, and assumes occupancy of the condo, going through the same morning routine as she did. He then discovers her outside the door, whereupon she claims to be the rightful owner and he insists that she's mistaken. By implication, the two protagonists have relived the same debate, with alternating roles, many times over (symbolising Thailand's transitions between military and civilian rule). Their apparent amnesia echoes the national tendency to gloss over repeated acts of political violence (as the title of Napat Treepalawisetkun's short film We Will Forget It Again also implies).

Someone from Nowhere's title ostensibly refers to the injured man, as the woman occupies the condo when the film begins and the audience's sympathies initially lie with her. But there are also suggestions that the woman is the interloper: the neighbours didn't acknowledge her during her morning routine, for example, while they readily converse with the man. One neighbour tells him that there's been no good news for eighty years, suggesting that the condo's residents harken back to the pre-democratic era before the 1932 revolution, and therefore that they accept him (the symbol of authoritarianism) rather than her (a disruption of the status quo).

Motel Mist

Motel Mist
Motel Mist (โรงแรมต่างดาว), the directorial debut of writer Prabda Yoon, was dropped by its distributor, TrueVisions, the day before its scheduled release date. Apparently, the studio hadn't anticipated such a risqué drama, and Prabda organised an independent release a month later. The studio's name was removed from the credits, though the film still includes plenty of product placement for the company, as an entire subplot is told via TNN, the TrueVisions news channel.

The title refers to Motel Mistress, the 'love motel' where the majority of the film is set, and there are knowing references to Psycho, with the motel clerk's peephole hidden behind a painting. The standout scene, though, is the journey to the motel (driving symbolically away from Bangkok's Democracy Monument): a middle-aged man picks up a teenage prostitute, and their awkward fumble is choreographed to Bizet's Carmen.

After more kinkiness at the motel, the revenge plot kicks in, as the young woman humiliates the man who exploited her. But this is the film's least effective sequence, as it's tacky (with slow-motion shots of wobbly dildos) and lacks any suspense.

Concept, Context, Contestation

Concept, Context, Contestation
The Concept, Context, Contestation: Art and the Collective in Southeast Asia (มโนทัศน์ บริบท และการต่อต้าน: ศิลปะและส่วนรวมในเอเชียตะวันออกเฉียงใต้) exhibition was held at BACC in 2014. The scholarly exhibition catalogue, edited by Iola Lenzi, features essays on art in Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The plates section includes rare reproductions of Vasan Sitthiket's Blue October (ตุลาลัย), recreating photographs of the 1976 Thammasat massacre; Paphonsak Lao-or's Loss of Hearing (สูญเสียการได้ยิน), commenting on lèse-majesté by self-censoring books on page 112; Sutee Kunavichayanont's History Class (ห้องเรียนประวัติศาสตร์), with sensitive historical events carved onto school desks; and Manit Sriwanichpoom's The Election of Hatred (การเลือกตั้งแห่งความเกลียดชัง), defaced 2011 election posters similar to Thai Politics III.

Thai Politics III

Thai Politics III
Miti Ruangkritya's Thai Politics III is part of his Thai Politics series inspired by Thai political polarisation. The exhibition catalogue, in an edition of 500 numbered copies, features reproductions of defaced posters from the 2011 election, in which Yingluck Shinawatra defeated Abhisit Vejjajiva. The cover has been die-cut to simulate a slashed poster of Abhisit. Manit Sriwanichpoom's series The Election of Hatred (การเลือกตั้งแห่งความเกลียดชัง) also featured photographs of defaced 2011 election posters.

Thai Politics VII

Thai Politics VII
Artist Miti Ruangkritya published Thai Politics VII last year in an edition of 500 numbered copies, as part of his Thai Politics series of works inspired by Thailand's recent political polarisation. The booklet consists entirely of photographs (sourced from social media) of televisions showing NCPO announcements after the 2014 coup, indicating the omnipresence of military propaganda. (Danaya Chulphuthiphong's short film Night Watch made a similar point, showing a television with the NCPO logo on almost every channel.)

Storytellers of the Town

Storytellers of the Town
Storytellers of the Town, edited by John Clark, was published to accompany a 2014 exhibition by Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook in Australia. The catalogue includes stills from videos in which Araya addresses female corpses (Conversation I, I'm Living, and The Class), though it also features images of her more recent work, The Treachery of the Moon. For this twelve-minute video, Araya projected footage of the 2010 UDD protests onto her surroundings as she sat watching a lakorn (soap opera) on television. Araya's work was also included in Art and Words (ศิลปะกับถ้อยความ), though Storytellers of the Town has a more comprehensive bibliography.

Khaki Capital

Khaki Capital
Khaki Capital: The Political Economy of the Military in Southeast Asia, published last year, examines the military's tendency to exert its influence beyond the barracks, into national economics and politics. The book includes chapters on Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Editors Paul Chambers and Napisa Waitoolkiat chart the history of the Thai military's state interventions, and the reasons behind its impunity: "The symbiosis of monarchy and military has created a sense of entitlement among the armed forces, especially to its right to influence decision-making regarding national security and national development." They also provide a detailed analysis of the 2014 coup.

Although the book is available in Thailand, some of its contents (such as its assessment of "the most remarkable instance of military corruption under the NCPO junta") cannot be cited online. Its editors also contributed to Military, Monarchy and Repression, an anthology of essays on Thailand's judicial, military, and political tensions.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Chronicle of a Summer

Chronicle of a Summer
Bangkok's Doc Club Theater will be showing the classic Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d'un été) this month at Warehouse 30. This self-reflexive documentary is an experiment in filming truth, which director Jean Rouch readily acknowledges is a contradiction in terms. It is also the first example of cinéma vérité, a style that developed in parallel with the non-participatory 'direct cinema' movement pioneered in the US with documentaries such as Primary and Dont Look Back. Chronicle of a Summer will be shown on 14th, 20th, 22nd, 24th, and 30th September.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

J-Anime Movie

J-Anime Movie
Spirited Away
Bangkok's TK Park will host a weekend of Japanese animation at the end of this month. The event, J-Anime Movie (อนิเมะ...อันนี้มันส์) will take place on 29th and 30th September, and will open with Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し).

Monday, 3 September 2018

Bangkok Screening Room

Tokyo Story
Suspiria
Bangkok Screening Room will shortly be showing two polar opposite classics of world cinema. Yasujirō Ozu's Tokyo Story (東京物語) is a masterpiece of visual restraint, with its measured pace and stationary camera, and it appeared on Sight and Sound's decennial film poll in 1992, 2002, and 2012. Dario Argento's horror film Suspiria, on the other hand, is an exercise in Baroque excess, with stylised violence and Expressionist set designs. Tokyo Story will be shown on 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, and 29th September. Suspiria opens on 18th October.

Thursday, 30 August 2018

The Exorcist

The Exorcist
The World Class Cinema season has been running since the start of the year, with screenings on selected Sundays at Bangkok's Scala cinema. In a departure from the regular schedule, the Scala will be showing the horror classic The Exorcist to celebrate Halloween, on 31st October.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Alliance Française

Les diaboliques
Citizen Dog
Bangkok's Alliance Française will show two classic films next month: the French thriller Les diaboliques and the Thai indie fantasy Citizen Dog (หมานคร). Henri-Georges Clouzot's Les diaboliques is a superb example of Hitchcockian suspense, and was a major influence on Psycho. Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog is too self-consciously quirky, though it's still a charming film and its anti-plastic theme was ahead of its time.

Les diaboliques will be shown on 11th September, and Citizen Dog will be screened on 18th September. Both screenings will be at Alliance Française's new location: last month, the centre moved to a new building in an adjacent street, to make way for a gentrification project.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Pulp Fiction
This Sunday, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will show Quentin Tarantino's postmodern masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. The film has some of the most quotable dialogue in cinema history, including Samuel L. Jackson's Biblical monologue, which was taken from the prologue to the Japanese action film The Bodyguard (ボディガード牙) and recently performed by Madonna in the music video for Ariana Grande's God Is a Woman.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Motel Mist

Motel Mist
Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Motel Mist (โรงแรมต่างดาว) on 2nd September, followed by a Q&A with its director, Prabda Yoon. The film was dropped by its distributor (TrueVisions) the day before its original release date, and was subsequently released independently.

Queer Film Festival

Queer Film Festival
Vous vous souviens de moi?
This month, Bangkok's Museum Siam is hosting a Queer Film Festival. There will be free outdoor screenings of contemporary gay films on 12th, 18th, and 25th August. The event begins with Queer DigiThaized, five short films shot on digital video, including Thunska Pansittivorakul's Vous vous souviens de moi? (ในนฝนตกลงมาเนสส). The five films were selected by Nontawat Numbenchapol, director of Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), who will take part in a post-screening discussion with Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, director of Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด).

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Bangkok Joyride III

Bangkok Joyride III
The third part of Ing Kanjanavanit's epic documentary Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์) opened last week at Cinema Oasis. Chapter three, Singing at Funerals (เพลงแห่ศพ), covers the PDRC demonstrations from 15th to 26th January 2014, when Suthep Thaugsuban escalated the protest with his 'Bangkok Shutdown' campaign. The forthcoming chapter four, Becoming One (เป็นหนึ่งเดียว), will cover the PDRC's sabotaging of the 2014 general election.

Singing at Funerals follows the same format as the first two chapters, How We Became Superheroes (เมื่อเราเป็นยอดมนุษย์) and Shutdown Bangkok (ชัตดาวน์ประเทศไทย). Filmed on Ing's iPhone, it features excerpts from PDRC rallies (including speeches by Vasan Sitthiket and Ing herself) and extensive footage of street processions. The coverage ultimately becomes excessive: the camera follows Suthep for half an hour as he collects donations from an endless line of protesters. There are also numerous shots of Thai flags being waved, and this fetishisation of the national flag has been a consistent feature of Bangkok Joyride.

Family Flicks Month

Family Flicks Month
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
This month is Family Flicks Month at Bangkok Screening Room, with a season of classic family films including Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (also shown earlier this year during Scala's World Class Cinema season). Snow White is showing on 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th, and 12th August, and tickets are free for children.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Full Metal Jacket
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be screening Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket on Saturday. (They showed Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and The Shining earlier this year.)

Sunday, 15 July 2018

3D: Double Vision

3D: Double Vision
3D: Double Vision, edited by Britt Salvesen, is the catalogue to an exhibition of 3D art currently on show in Los Angeles, though it's also an in-depth (no pun intended) history of stereoscopic imagery. The book includes a chapter on stereographs by Errki Huhtamo (author of Illusions in Motion) and a detailed chronology of stereographs, holograms, and lenticular images by Zach Rottman.

The stereoscope viewer and stereograph cards were Victorian inventions, which later influenced devices such as the View-Master. The first feature-length 3D film, The Power of Love, was released in 1922, though 3D cinema's heyday was in the early 1950s, with films such as Bwana Devil and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Look magazine published a lenticular image ("the first three-dimensional photograph ever produced in mass quantities by any publication anywhere") in its 25th February 1964 issue. The first printed hologram appeared in Science Year 1967: The World Book Science Annual.

There have been previous books on 3D cinema (3-D Movies by R.M. Hayes) and holographic images (Holograms by Sean F. Johnston), though Salvesen's fascinating catalogue is the first comprehensive cultural history of 3D. The exhibition plates are reproduced in 3D, and the book comes with two pairs of glasses to view stereograph and anaglyph images.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Cinema Winehouse

The Maltese Falcon
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be screening The Maltese Falcon this evening. John Huston's debut film is a classic thriller and a perfect film noir.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Preacher

Preacher
Dirty Little Secret, an episode of the second season of Preacher, begins with Jesus having sex with a woman after the Last Supper, on the night before Good Friday. Afterwards, his disciples arrive, and he leaves with them for the Garden of Gethsemane. Later, the episode reveals that the woman gave birth to his child, thus continuing his bloodline. The latest descendent is Humperdoo, a mentally disabled man worshipped as a living messiah. The Preacher is based on a comic series written by Garth Ennis. Dirty Little Secret was broadcast on 21st August 2017 on the US cable channel AMC.

The myth of a divine bloodline was popularised forty years ago by Donovan Joyce's The Jesus Scroll, and more recently by Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. Nigel Wingrove's short film Visions of Ecstasy depicts Saint Theresa's fantasy of sex with Jesus during his crucifixion. Martin Scorsese's film The Last Temptation of Christ caused controversy with a dream sequence in which Jesus has sex with Mary Magdalene. A sexual relationship between Jesus and Mary was also featured in the D.H. Lawrence novella The Escaped Cock (retitled The Man Who Died) and Fernando Bayona's photographic exhibition Circus Christi.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Bangkok Screening Room

Monrak Transistor
Rope
This month, Bangkok Screening Room will show Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Monrak Transistor (มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์) and Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. Both films will be screened on 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 31st July.

Monrak Transistor is one of Pen-ek's most accessible and entertaining films. Like Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger (which is extracted in Monrak Transistor), it both celebrates and critiques the nostalgic idyll it depicts.

Rope, inspired by the Leopold and Loeb murder case, is most notable for its experimental editing technique: it was filmed entirely in ten-minute takes, and takes place in real time on a single set. Hitchcock's characteristic suspense is combined with an unconventional theatrical style. Rope was also Hitchcock's first independent film, after his Selznick contract ended, and his first film in colour.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Revolution française

Revolution francaise
Emmanuel Macron was elected just over a year ago, becoming President of France aged only thirty-nine. With characteristic ostentation and self-confidence, he compared himself to Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods. In his first fortnight as President, he condemned Russian state propaganda at a Versailles press conference with Vladimir Putin, and greeted Donald Trump with a vice-like handshake. His domestic poll ratings have suffered following his reform of France's previously sacrosanct labour laws, though he has successfully maintained the downward trend in the unemployment rate that began in early 2017.

Sophie Pedder's Revolution française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation covers Macron's election campaign, his first year in office, and "his ambition to remake France." Pedder acknowledges his contradictions, though she is broadly optimistic about his potential. Her book includes an interview with Macron at the Elyseé Palace.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

100 Greatest Films

100 Greatest Films
Today's issue of The Daily Telegraph features a 100 Greatest Films list compiled by film critic Robbie Collin. The list is organised by genre (from the conventional to the esoteric), and each director is limited to a single film. (Collin also contributed to 500 Must-See Films in 2013.)

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Bangkok Underground Cinema

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Bangkok Underground Cinema will organise a weekend of free film screenings on 30th June and 1st July at Dadfa, a market in Bangkok. The silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) will be shown on the second day, with a live improvised score. (It was previously screened at the 5th Silent Film Festival.)

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Pleasure Factory (DVD)

Pleasure Factory
Pleasure Factory (快乐工厂) was made in Singapore by Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham, whose previous film was Beautiful Boxer (บิวตี้ฟูล บ๊อกเซอร์). When Pleasure Factory was shown in both Thailand and Singapore, an explicit masturbation sequence (featuring Loo Zihan) was censored, along with two sex scenes. Altogether, around two minutes of footage was cut. However, the film was released uncut on DVD in Europe and America.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Vein/Vain

Vein/Vain
Vein/Vain
Darisa Karnpoj's first solo exhibition, Vein/Vain, opens this weekend. Darisa, who signs her work with the nickname Riety, paints portraits of women using their own blood, diluted with water. The exhibition, at Daydream Believer in Bangkok, also offers an insight into her artistic process, displaying blood samples and a sketchbook alongside the paintings. Vein/Vain is on show from 16th to 30th June.

Other Thai artists have also painted with blood. Kosit Juntaratip's Allergic Realities exhibition featured classic news photographs recreated with his blood. Pornprasert Yamazaki used his blood to paint banknotes for the Suicide Mind and Currency Crisis exhibitions, and he showed blood-and-petrol works at Swallow. For his Died On 6th October 1976 series, Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood. There was even a banner painted in blood at Democracy Monument during the 2010 political crisis.

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

100 and One Must See Movies!

100 and One Must See Movies!
In 2016, poster company Skratkz created 100 and One Must See Movies!, a poster featuring 101 classic films, each represented by an icon hidden behind a scratchable symbol. The idea was imitated a year later by Gift Republic's 100 Movies Bucket List poster. DOIY's 100 Movies You Must See Before You Die poster, in the style of an Advent calendar, is a similar concept.

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100 Movies Bucket List

100 Movies Bucket List
Last year, Gift Republic designed a 100 Movies Bucket List poster, featuring 100 classic films, each represented by an icon hidden behind a scratchable window. The idea was presumably based on the Skratkz poster 100 and One Must See Movies! from 2016. DOIY's 100 Movies You Must See Before You Die poster, in the style of an Advent calendar, is also a similar concept.

PDF

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Sweet Gang (DVD)

The Sweet Gang
The Sweet Gang
The Sweet Gang (ยกก๊วนป่วนหอ), a low-budget sex farce directed by Niran Thamprecha, was made for the Thai straight-to-VCD market in 2005. It was also released on VCD and DVD in Hong Kong (界女鬥一番). (The film's on-screen title is The Sweet Gang, though the video covers all drop the definite article.)

The Sweet Gang is of almost no interest, except for its use of self-censorship for comic effect. Whenever a character is about to disrobe, the film is interrupted by a flashing "SENSOR !!!" [sic.] warning. This happens several times, lasting from a few seconds to more than a minute, by which point the joke has worn rather thin.

A very similar device was used by Apichatpong Weerasethakul three years after The Sweet Gang. When Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was censored in Thailand, Apichatpong replaced the cut sequences with silent, black footage to highlight the censorship.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Killing

The Killing
Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Stanley Kubrick's The Killing next month. The Killing, a noir thriller, was the first film Kubrick made with his producing partner James B. Harris. (His previous films, Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss, had been made without a production company.) The Killing was one of many crime films influenced by John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, though its editing is entirely original: its non-linear narrative style would later influence Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Sterling Hayden, star of The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing, would later play Jack D. Ripper in Kubrick's Dr Strangelove. The Killing will be shown at Bangkok Screening Room on 15th, 16th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 29th, and 30th June; and 1st July.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sudsakhorn Adventure

Sudsakhorn Adventure
Payut Ngaokrachang's Sudsakhorn Adventure (สุดสาคร) will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 26th and 30th June. Both screenings are free. In his definitive global history of animation, Cartoons, Giannalberto Bendazzi praised Sudsakhorn Adventure's "suggestive, modern interpretation of the country's graphic tradition." Unfortunately, in the book's second edition, Animation: A World History, Bendazzi revised his opinion: "apart from its decorative qualities, the film is an artistic failure." Nevertheless, Sudsakhorn Adventure remains a milestone in Thai animation, as the country's first feature-length cartoon.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Apocalypse Now
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Vertigo
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse is showing three classics this week. Apocalypse Now is showing this evening; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is on Wednesday; and Hitchcock's Vertigo is on Friday.

Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide

Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide
Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide, edited by Mary J. Ainslie and Katarzyna Ancuta, is the first full-length book in English devoted to the Thai film industry. It includes reviews of 129 films, organised by genre, effectively establishing a Thai cinema canon. (Since 2011, the Thai Film Archive has also been compiling a registry of culturally significant films, with new titles added annually every 4th October.) The book also profiles ten key directors from Thai cinema history.

There are entries for classics such as Rattana Pestonji's Black Silk (แพรดำ), the Mitr-Petchara blockbuster Monrak Lukthung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง), the influential modernist film Tone (โทน), Chatrichalerm Yukol's social-realist His Name Is Karn (เขาชื่อกานต์), Nonzee Nimibutr's Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง), the retro melodrama Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร), Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), Anocha Suwichakornpong's Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก), and the record-breaking Pee Mak (พี่มาก..พระโขนง). One notable absence is Criminal Without Sin (สุภาพบุรุษเสือไทย), which (for better or worse) established the 16mm live-dubbing mode of production.

In their introduction, the editors note the challenges facing anyone researching Thai cinema: many films, from classics to relatively recent titles, are no longer in circulation; and English translations of names and titles are wildly inconsistent. The book is therefore an essential guide to films that remain largely inaccessible. To address the translation problem, RTGS is used throughout the book, though this is not an ideal solution, as it's not widely or consistently used by other sources.

Aside from Thai Cinema, there are very few English-language books on the subject. Bastian Meirsonne edited a brief guide with the same title (Thai Cinema). Scot Barmé's Woman, Man, Bangkok includes a chapter on the origins of Thai filmmaking. Aliosha Herrera surveyed the 16mm era in the journal Rian Thai (เรียนไทย; volume 8). Archivist Dome Sukwong wrote the coffee-table book A Century of Thai Cinema. The essays by Chalida Uabumrunjit and Anchalee Chaiworaporn in Film in South East Asia (edited by David Hanan) remain the best narrative histories of Thai cinema.

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.)