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. 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 two-part documentary directed by Ing K. The film is a record of the PDRC's protests in 2013 and 2014 against former prime ministers Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra.

Part 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. Emboldened after defeating the amnesty bill, Suthep called for the dissolution of parliament and the establishment of an appointed government.

Part two of the documentary, Shutdown Bangkok (ชัตดาวน์ประเทศไทย), covers the escalation of the PDRC's protests. When Suthep was Deputy Prime Minister during the 2010 protests against his government, he said: "if they violate the laws, such as blocking roads and intruding into government offices, we will have to disperse the protesters." However, as leader of the PDRC, he used precisely the tactics that he had previously condemned: occupying government buildings and blocking streets. His protesters, following the playbook of the PAD, shut down major roads in central Bangkok, yet were unopposed by the police. The anti-democratic nature of the protest was revealed when the PDRC sabotaged the 2014 general election.

Ing 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.

Both parts of Bangkok Joyride are showing on 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 26th, 28th, and 29th April. Part two is also showing on 25th and 27th April.

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 (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).

Archive on Four

Yesterday's episode of the BBC Radio 4 series Archive on Four was a documentary marking the fiftieth anniversary of 2001: A Space Odyssey, "the most influential science-fiction movie ever made, and a film whose deeper meaning is still being actively debated." The programme was presented by Christopher Frayling (author of The 2001 File), who visited the Stanley Kubrick Archive and interviewed Pier Bizony (author of The Making of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey). There have been two previous BBC radio documentaries on 2001: Landmarks and The Film Programme have both broadcast episodes about the making of the film.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The Trump White House

The Trump White House
The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game, Ronald Kessler's hagiographic response to Michael Wolff's warts-and-all Fire and Fury, was published today. Kessler writes that "Wolff's book is riddled with false claims," and he lavishes such praise on Trump that it feels like advertising copy: "the Trump brand came to stand for quality, prestige, and success."

Kessler needlessly attacks Hillary Clinton, claiming that she "pretends to be a compassionate woman" and that she "is so nasty to her Secret Service agents" (an allegation that he repeats word for word later in the book). He also recycles Fox News talking points, dismissing any evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia: "the entire Russia collusion story is bogus".

The book's only real interest comes from Kessler's repeated criticisms of Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. He argues that they "have been responsible for Trump's most disastrous decisions" and that President Trump would prefer them to leave the White House, though this was revealed by The New York Times a month ago.

In the absence of any real scoops, the book is padded out with presidential trivia: Air Force One, for example, "has a range of 7,825 miles and a maximum cruising altitude of 45,100 feet." It also includes a brief interview with Trump ("the only interview for a book Trump said he has given or will give as president") conducted last year at Mar-a-Lago.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Jurassic Park
The Killer
There are more classic movies this week at Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse. Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park is showing on Wednesday, followed by F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu on Thursday, and John Woo's The Killer (喋血双雄) on Friday. A Hollywood blockbuster for all the family, a silent classic, and a cult 'heroic bloodshed' thriller: it's hard to imagine a more diverse selection than that.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Cinema: Stanley Kubrick

Cinema: Stanley Kubrick
Cinema: Stanley Kubrick
On Tuesday, an extensive collection of Stanley Kubrick memorabilia was auctioned in Torino, Italy, raising a total of €90,000. In its sale catalogue, the auction house describes the fifty-five lots as "the most important collection of material relating to the life and work of Stanley Kubrick ever offered at auction."

The auction included notes and other documents signed by Kubrick (such as an autographed Christmas card, similar to one I bought in 2006) and props from his later films. All items were given by Kubrick to Emilio D'Alessandro, his personal assistant, whose memoirs have been published in both Italian (Stanley Kubrick e me) and English (Stanley Kubrick and Me).

Bangkok Screening Room

Battleship Potemkin
Insects in the Backyard
Grand Hotel
His Girl Friday
Paris, Texas
Bangkok Screening Room's outstanding programme of classics and Thai indie films continues in April and May, with Battleship Potemkin (Бронено́сец «Потёмкин»); Grand Hotel; His Girl Friday; Paris, Texas; and Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด). Bangkok's repertory cinema scene is going from strength to strength, with Bangkok Screening Room, Cinema Winehouse, Jam Ciné Club, and the Friese-Greene Club joined by the new Cinema Oasis.

Sergei Eisenstein's silent masterpiece Battleship Potemkin will be shown with a soundtrack composed by the Pet Shop Boys on 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 29th April; and 1st, 3rd, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, and 15th May. (It has previously been screened with a Thai score, at the Thai Film Archive.)

The previously banned Insects in the Backyard will be screened on 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 25th, 27th, 28th, and 29th April; and 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 6th May. Director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit will take part in a Q&A on 28th April. When I interviewed her about the ban last year, she said that the censors "regarded this film as immoral, and hazardous to national security." (It has also been shown at the World Film Festival of Bangkok, House Rama, the Eat Play Love Film Festival, Indie in Salaya, and Suan Sunandha Rajabhat University.)

Grand Hotel, in which the iconic Greta Garbo delivers her immortal line "I want to be alone", is showing on 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 26th, and 27th May. Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday, the definitive 'screwball' comedy, will be screened on 17th, 20th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 26th, 28th, 29th April; and 2nd and 3rd May. Paris, Texas, by Wim Wenders (previously shown at the Thai Film Archive), is on 17th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th April; and 2nd, 4th, 8th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 16th, and 17th May.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Night of the Living Dead
This week, Cinema Winehouse in Bangkok will be showing two of the greatest horror films ever made. Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho will be screened on 29th March, followed by George Romero's zombie classic Night of the Living Dead on 31st March.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Jam Ciné Club

The Passion of Joan of Arc
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Wild Strawberries
Wild Strawberries
Jam Ciné Club will be showing two classics of world cinema in May: Carl Dreyer's silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) on 16th May, and Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället) on 23rd May. The Passion of Joan of Arc will also be shown at the 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand, which runs from 24th to 30th May.

Friday, 23 March 2018

I Am You

I Am You
I Am You
Death for Democracy
Blue October
I Am You (ฉันคือเธอ), featuring artworks spanning Vasan Sitthiket's entire career, opened yesterday at BACC in Bangkok. The retrospective includes paintings, woodcut prints, large-scale installations, and a handful of videos (including There Must Be Something Happen). Some of his sketchbooks are also on show, and they include preparatory sketches for Blue October (ตุลาลัย) from 1978.

In Thailand, discussion of sensitive subjects is usually camouflaged by innuendo, and criticisms are made indirectly, to save face. Vasan, however, pulls no punches. Unusually for an established Thai artist, he is refreshingly blunt in his treatment of politics, sex, and religion. Hypocrisy and Ten Evil Scenes of Thai Politic, for example, portray politicians as corrupt figures succumbing to the sins of lust and greed. In his frequent self-portraits (such as The Human Clay) he is not only nude but also tumescent. Vasan's depiction of monks has also caused controversy: Buddha Returns to Bangkok (พระพุทธเจ้าเสด็จกรุงเทพ 2535) depicted a monk raping a woman, and Obsessive Compulsive included paintings of monks having sex.

I Am You is a major retrospective, with more than 100 artworks, including Death for Democracy 1992 (ตายเพื่อประชาธิปไตย 2535), though Vasan's more controversial pieces are notable by their absence. The bilingual exhibition catalogue, which includes an essay by Iola Lenzi, is accompanied by The Literature Collection of Vasan Sitthiket (รวมวรรณกรรมคัดสรร), a book of Vasan's writings. The exhibition closes on 27th May.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Thai Film Archive

The 400 Blows
The Wages of Fear
The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will show a double bill of 1950s French masterpieces this Sunday. François Truffaut's New Wave classic The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups) will be followed by Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspense thriller The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur). Both screenings are free, and include a discussion with Film Archive director Dome Sukwong.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Tonight Thailand

Tonight Thailand
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission has ordered the digital television channel Voice TV to suspend broadcasting Tonight Thailand for fifteen days. The NBTC ruled that the programme had violated a ban on criticising the military junta, as it made a comparison to the French Revolution and dwelt on footage of anti-Prayuth Chan-ocha protesters wearing Pinocchio masks. The episode in question was broadcast on 1st March.

The regulator also issued warnings over another Tonight Thailand episode, broadcast on Boxing Day; and a different show, Wake Up Thailand, broadcast on 5th March, in which Piyabutr Saengkanokkul argued that Thais should not accept the country's repeated military takeovers. Voice TV is owned by Panthongthae Shinawatra, son of Thaksin Shinawatra. (Both Thaksin and his sister, Yingluck, were deposed by military coups.)

Another Voice TV programme, The Daily Dose, was suspended last year. A similar channel, Peace TV, was temporarily shut down earlier this year, in 2017, and 2016; its licence was revoked in 2015, though that ruling was later overturned on appeal. When Prayuth (unconstitutionally) declared martial law in 2014, the military closed down ten satellite television stations.