Saturday, 16 December 2017

Apichatpong Weekend

Apichatpong Weekend
Apichatpong Weekend
Tropical Malady
Bangkok's Alliance Française is currently hosting a three-day season of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Apichatpong Weekend began yesterday, when Apichatpong introduced eight of his short films: The Anthem (เพลงสรรเสริญ), Trailer for Cindi, Empire, Luminous People (คนเรืองแสง), Monsoon, Cactus River (โขงแล้งน้ำ), Footprints, and Worldly Desires (ความทรงจำในป่า). (There was a brief technical glitch when the projector shut off during Empire.)

Today, at a free event, he will discuss his use of ghosts as characters in his films. After the discussion, he will introduce six more short films: The Anthem, La Punta, Mobile Men, Ablaze, Vampire, and Haunted Houses (บ้านผีสิง). The final event, on 17th December, is arguably the main attraction: a free outdoor screening of Apichatpong's feature film Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), in 35mm.

Apichatpong has taken part in several similar events in Bangkok over the years, including Metaphors, What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible, Indy Spirit Project, and Apichatpong on Video Works. A decade ago, he introduced a screening of Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) at Alliance Française.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Cinema Winehouse

Die Hard
It's a Wonderful Life
Cinema Winehouse in Bangkok will be screening some festive films this month. The classic action movie Die Hard (which takes place on Christmas Eve) will be shown on 21st December. It's a Wonderful Life, arguably the ultimate Christmas film, will be screened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Die Hard has influenced most action movies of the past three decades, to the extent that they're pitched as 'Die Hard on a...' (Speed, for example, is Die Hard on a bus.) It's a Wonderful Life has become a Christmas tradition, though this was because its copyright was not renewed, so it could be shown on television every year royalty-free.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok

Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok
A Brighter Summer Day
The Quartier CineArt cinema will host the Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok next month, from 17th to 28th January 2018. Edward Yang's masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day (牯嶺街少年殺人事件) will be one of ten films in the schedule.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Lines of Thought

Lines of Thought
Last year's Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now exhibition featured seventy-eight drawings from the British Museum, including works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso. The exhibition catalogue, by Isabel Seligman, supplements these with a selection of drawings from other collections. The result is a diverse survey of 500 years of drawing, with a historical introduction and subsequent chapters organised thematically.

The Art of Drawing: From the Dawn of History to the Era of the Impressionists, by Richard Kenin, was also illustrated primarily with drawings from the British Museum. Heribert Hutter's earlier Drawing: History and Technique (translated from the German Die Handzeichnung: Entwicklung, Technik, Eigenart) is less comprehensive, though it's notable for its tipped-in and photogravure illustrations.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

"Slurs, innuendo, and hyperbole..."

The Daily Telegraph
Actor Geoffrey Rush is suing The Daily Telegraph for libel. The newspaper, published in Sydney, claimed that Rush "has been accused of "inappropriate behaviour" during Sydney Theatre Company's recent production of King Lear." Its 30th November front page featured the banner headline "KING LEER".

At a press conference in Melbourne yesterday, Rush said: "I have filed defamation proceedings against The Daily Telegraph in the Federal Court of Australia. It is an action I am taking in order to redress the slurs, innuendo, and hyperbole that they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and in the greater community. The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative, and demeaning claims, splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages."

Rush statement itself seems rather hyperbolic, given that the theatre has acknowledged receiving a complaint against him and the newspaper did not include any details of the allegation. (Ironically, his statement has been widely misquoted in news reports following the press conference.)

PDF

Sunday, 3 December 2017

انفراد

انفراد
An Egyptian lawyer, Nabih al-Wahsh, has been convicted of inciting sexual assault. He was sentenced to three years in jail and fined the equivalent of $1,000.

The conviction relates to his 19th October appearance on the al-Assema satellite TV show انفراد, on which he said that men had a patriotic duty to rape women who wore revealing clothing. His comments were condemned by the programme's host and other guests.

video

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

This Area Is Under Quarantine

This Area Is Under Quarantine
Thunska Pansittivorakul's latest short film is a new version of his feature-length documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), released on the Vimeo website today. (This is one of several films Thunska has uploaded to Vimeo, including Liquid and a revised version of Reincarnate.)

After the title sequence, the new version of This Area Is Under Quarantine consists of the original version played at high speed (even faster than the sex scene in A Clockwork Orange), with a "CENSORED" card obscuring most of the frame. Ironically, the only 'uncensored' segment is the most controversial part: footage of the Tak Bai incident, in which seventy-eight protesters died of suffocation after they were detained by the army.

The Tak Bai footage came from a VCD issued by the journal Same Sky (ฟ้าเดียวกน), as Thunska told me in an interview earlier this year: "I got footage from the VCD, and I interviewed some guys in the movie. But because at that time I never knew anything about politics, I asked them. The southern politics is different, so I shot them because one of them is Isaan and one of them is southern."

The new version, like the original, is dedicated to the Tak Bai victims and - more contentiously - to Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, who were hanged in Iran in 2005. The two teenagers have been regarded as gay martyrs, executed for their sexuality, though the truth may be more complex: human rights organisations have since reported that they were convicted of raping a thirteen-year-old boy.

Thunska's new film Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล) deals with the conflict in southern Thailand in more depth. His other feature films are Voodoo Girls (หัวใจต้องสาป), Happy Berry (สวรรค์สุดเอื้อม), Reincarnate (จุติ), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), and SpaceTime (กาลอวกาศ).

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Homogeneous, Empty Time

Homogeneous, Empty Time
Thunska Pansittivorakul's latest film is the feature-length documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), co-directed with Harit Srikhao. The title is a phrase from Walter Benjamin's essay On the Concept of History (Über den Begriff der Geschichte), though it was later used by Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities, his analysis of the construction of national identity and nationalism. The film, which is dedicated to Anderson, explores the roots of the nationalistic fervour that has taken hold in Thailand.

In his earlier films, Thunska has criticised individual politicians and generals, though Homogeneous, Empty Time questions the country's entire national ideology (the tripartite motto 'nation, religion, monarchy') and the institutions that reinforce it. The film shows how nationalism and social order are sustained by pro-military and royalist media, with clips from Prime Minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha's weekly address (คืนความสุข ให้คนในชาติ), the propaganda song Returning Happiness to the Thai Kingdom (คืนความสุขให้ประเทศไทย), and a 'Bike for Dad' promotional video.

This is an ambitious film, examining the spread and impact of nationalism across Thai society and throughout the country. Thunska and Harit interview school pupils, Buddhist and Muslim worshippers, Village Scouts, and military cadets, revealing how nationalistic values are inculcated, absorbed, and passed from generation to generation. A Village Scout member expresses his love for the King, and a tear trickles down his cheek. Cadets say they're keen to fight against Thailand's enemies, but they're speechless when asked who the enemies are. (It's been thirty years since Thailand's military has been involved in significant combat, yet its budget continues to rise.)

The interviews are juxtaposed with news footage revealing the ultimate consequences of unquestioning nationalism. Village Scouts vow to defend the monarchy. Cut to: scenes from the 6th October 1976 massacre, when the Village Scouts militia groups joined the army in attacking students at Thammasat University. (This also contradicts the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as หนักแผ่นดิน.) Later, cadets pledge their loyalty to the country. Cut to: photographs of hazing rituals in which cadets are beaten and abused. (One interviewee says: "There is often news of soldiers getting beaten to death during training." This is particularly topical, as army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan died last month, and his internal organs were secretly removed before his body was returned to his family.)

Homogeneous, Empty Time is a brave and important film, directed while the country is being ruled by a military junta following the 2014 coup. Criticism of the government is prohibited, and the lèse-majesté law criminalises dissent. Also, according to Truth on Trial in Thailand, lèse-majesté is interpreted so broadly that it has included "cases which, increasingly abstract, referred to the broad power structures of Thai society." It's these power structures that the film examines.

Aside from the social and political content, the cinematography is also impressive. There are stunning drone shots of Bangkok's Democracy Monument that open and close the film. (A photograph of Democracy Monument also appears at the end of Thunska's short film KI SS.) Thunska's trademark sexual content is present in one sequence, in which an ejaculation is filmed in extreme close-up, rendered semi-abstract by the macro photography.

There are also moments that border on absurdity. At a Christian high school, a plastic baby Jesus sits on a stack on monoblok chairs, and pupils line up to kiss its foot. A Village Scout leader, wearing the world's brightest yellow shirt, boasts of his meeting with the King: "I peeled a coconut for the King... And the King ate my coconut! A round of applause for me, please!"

The film has not been released in Thailand, and an invitation-only screening was cancelled following the censorship of Harit's Whitewash exhibition. As Thunska told me in an interview this year: "In 2009, my film This Area Is Under Quarantine was banned from the World Film Festival. Since then, I decided not to show any of my films in Thailand." Nevertheless, the filmmakers have exercised a degree of caution, by self-censoring one line: an actor from The Wolf Bride (เจ้าสาวหมาป่า) says "in the story there are XXXXXXXXXXX and XXXXXXXXXXXX", and the sound is muted, as it was in Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป′ไทย).

King Bhumibol passed away in 2016, though Homogeneous, Empty Time was made before he died, and his image appears throughout the film, on billboards and public buildings. Thunska explained this to me earlier in the year: "because it's a documentary, if someone questions me, I can tell them, 'You can see something like that everywhere.' But when I make fiction, if I put that picture in the film, I thought I could get some problems." The King's portraits are indeed ubiquitous in Thailand, though royal iconography has previously been cut from Soi Cowboy (ซอยคาวบอย) and Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง).

Thunska and Harit also co-directed the documentary SpaceTime (กาลอวกาศ). Thunska's previous feature films are Voodoo Girls (หัวใจต้องสาป), Happy Berry (สวรรค์สุดเอื้อม), This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), Reincarnate (จุติ), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), and Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ).

Liquid

Liquid
Liquid, a new short film by Thunska Pansittivorakul, is a condensed version of the first chapter of his feature film Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), in which two young men caress each other in a bathtub. The scene is filmed impressionistically, with their bodies shown in close-up. Liquid is one of several films (including a revised version of Reincarnate) that Thunska has released on the Vimeo website.

The rhythm is faster than the original sequence in Supernatural, with jump cuts and rapid editing, and the music is more romantic (whereas, in Supernatural, there were monks chanting on the soundtrack). It's also less explicit: the flash of nudity in the Supernatural version has been removed.

Thunska's short film 2060 is also an extract from Supernatural. His other feature films are Voodoo Girls (หัวใจต้องสาป); Happy Berry (สวรรค์สุดเอื้อม); This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน); Reincarnate (จุติ); The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย); SpaceTime (กาลอวกาศ); and Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล).

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Four

The Four
The Economist
The New York Times
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) makes the same point in the current (November) issue of Vanity Fair: "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 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." (The metaphor was repeated in a cartoon by David Parkins, depicting the companies as giant squid.) The Wall Street Journal (on Boxing Day 2012) also assessed the rivalry between the same four firms: "Apple vs. Google vs. Facebook vs. Amazon".

Farhad Manjoo made the same point in Fast Company (in November 2011): "Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon battle for the future". In The New York Times (on 21st January 2016), he added Microsoft to the group: "There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google... And there's one more, Microsoft, whose influence once looked on the wane, but which is now rebounding." Manjoo calls them "the Frightful Five" and his 6th May 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 yesterday showed the same five as UFOs over New York.

Frankenstein

Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years
Bride of Frankenstein
Frankenstein
Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years traces the cultural history of Frankenstein's monster since the publication of Mary Shelley's novel in 1818. Christopher Frayling's book, published last month, features dozens of full-page illustrations, including paintings, posters, and production stills. Frayling has previously recorded a commentary for the Universal Frankenstein DVD, and given a lecture on the novel at the Science Museum in London.

Shelley revised her novel in 1831, after it had been successfully adapted for the stage. It has since been filmed more than a hundred times, my favourites being James Whale's Frankenstein (the Expressionist film that established horror as a Hollywood genre), Whale's sequel Bride of Frankenstein (his subversive masterpiece), The Curse of Frankenstein (Hammer's reinvention of the monster), AIP's 'teensploitation' I Was a Teenage Frankenstein, and Andy Warhol's outrageous Flesh for Frankenstein (made in 3D).

The novel's alternative title was The Modern Prometheus, a reference to the Greek creation myth. In his cultural history, Frayling argues that Frankenstein is the modern Genesis: "The real creation myth of modern times... is no longer Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The real creation myth is Frankenstein." Frayling's previous books include Once Upon a Time in Italy, Something to Do with Death, Spaghetti Westerns, Ken Adam, Ken Adam Designs the Movies, and The 2001 File.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Patani Semasa

Patani Semasa
Photophobia
MAIIAM, the Chiang Mai art museum which opened last year with an Apichatpong Weerasethakul retrospective, is currently showing Patani Semasa, a group exhibition of art that reflects the ethnic and religious identities of Thailand's southernmost region. The exhibition includes four works from Apichatpong's photographic Photophobia project, incorporating images of the aftermath of the 2004 Tak Bai massacre. Patani Semasa opened on 19th July, and will close on Valentine's Day next year.

Bangkok Screening Room

Citizen Dog
The Birds
After showing Wisit Sasanatieng's Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร) earlier this year, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Wisit's Citizen Dog (หมานคร) next month. The cinema will also be screening Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds later this month.

The Birds will be shown on 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 28th, and 29th November; and 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th, and 10th December. Citizen Dog opens on 28th November, and continues on 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 16th, 17th, and 21st December.

Kayhan

Kayhan
Publication of the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan (کيهان‎‎) was suspended yesterday and today, after its main headline on 6th November ("شلیک موشک انصارالله به ریاض هدف بعدی، دوبی") speculated that Houthis in Yemen could fire a missile at the Saudi Arabian capital, Dubai. Iran has already been accused by Saudi Arabia of supplying missiles to the Houthis.

Several other Iranian newspapers have previously been suspended, or had their licences revoked. Shargh (شرق), the ideological opposite of Kayhan, was shut down in 2012 over a cartoon. Mardom-e Emrooz (مردم امروز) was closed down in 2015 after it printed an Arabic translation of "Je suis Charlie" in solidarity with the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Meat Grinder (DVD)

Meat Grinder
Tiwa Moeithaisong's horror film Meat Grinder was heavily censored for its Thai release. (Also, its Thai title was changed from ก๋วยเตี๋ยว เนื้อ คน to เชือดก่อนชิม.) The UK DVD version, released by 4Digital in 2010, is uncut in terms of violence, though some sequences have been removed for pacing reasons. These scenes are present in the Thai version, which has substantially different editing and alternate footage.

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide was released on DVD in the UK by Nucleus. The release, in 2009, was a limited edition (of which my copy is number 620), and it included five postcards featuring video inlay covers.

The three-hour documentary, directed by Jake West, includes interviews with Martin Barker (author of The Video Nasties, the first book on the subject) and Kim Newman (author of Nightmare Movies), amongst many others. The exhaustive documentary is accompanied by trailers for the 'video nasties' themselves, introduced by interviewees from the documentary.

Syndromes and a Century (DVD)

Syndromes and a Century
Worldly Desires
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was released on DVD by the BFI in 2008. The film was censored in Thailand, though the DVD is uncut. The disc includes a fifteen-minute interview with the director, an illustrated booklet, and Apichatpong's short film Worldly Desires (ความทรงจำในป่า).

À Rebours (DVD)

A Rebours
À Rebours, a collection of eleven short underground films, was released on DVD by Cinema Abattoir in 2009. The DVD is limited to 500 copies, and its case is wrapped in chicken wire. The collection includes the first commercial release of the explicit The Dead Man II: Return of the Dead Man (by Aryan Kaganof, previously known as Ian Kerkof), which begins with a hardcore fellatio scene followed by a 'Roman shower'.

Visions of Ecstasy (DVD)

Visions of Ecstasy
Nigel Wingrove's short film Visions of Ecstasy was banned by the British Board of Film Classification in 1989, and is the only film to be banned in the UK on the grounds of blasphemy. Wingrove lost all of his subsequent appeals against the ban, both in the UK and the European Union.

However, the UK's blasphemy law was repealed in 2008, making Visions of Ecstasy legally available for the first time (along with James Kirkup's poem The Love that Dares to Speak its Name). It was released on DVD in 2012 by Wingrove's distribution company, Redemption, along with a booklet (Finding Ecstasy on the Road to Redemption) written by the director.

Soi Cowboy (DVD)

Soi Cowboy
Thomas Clay's film Soi Cowboy (ซอยคาวบอย) was released on DVD in the UK by Network in 2010. While the film was cut for its Thai release, the DVD version is uncensored. Thai censors cut a scene featuring the royal anthem, filmed inside a cinema in Bangkok. (All film screenings in Thailand are preceded by the royal anthem, and the audience is required to stand while it's being played.)

The (fairly innocuous) scene in question lasts for less than a minute, and shows audience members rising from their seats when the anthem begins. The film's producer, Tom Waller, told me earlier this year: "The censors felt that use of the royal anthem in the film was deemed commercial use of the monarchy and that was not allowed, so they ordered that scene be cut from the film."

It was for this reason that Apichatpong Weerasethakul showed a cinema audience standing in silence in his film Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ ขอนแก่น), as he told me in an interview last year: "I actually wanted to show the royal anthem, because it's documentary-like. It's what we do. But I know it's impossible, because in the movie Soi Cowboy, this was cut out. Censored. So I said, 'It's impossible anyway.' So, just silence."

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Empire Film Guide 2

Empire Film Guide 2
The first Empire Film Guide was published in 2006 (a year after the final edition of The Virgin Film Guide, which it closely resembles). Empire Film Guide 2 appeared in 2007. Edited by Ian Freer, it features reviews of 3,000 films, along with movie trivia "to impress the opposite sex" (heteronormativity alert).

Although the book hasn't been updated in the last decade, it remains an incredibly useful guide to classic films. The reviews are quite lengthy (almost full-page in many cases), and they're written by Empire journalists including Kim Newman, who contributed many reviews of older films.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

World of Art
Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism
The second edition of David Anfam's Abstract Expressionism was published in 2015, as part of Thames & Hudson's World of Art series. Most histories of Abstract Expressionism profile each of the movement's major artists individually, though Anfam takes a thematic and broadly chronological approach. The book includes a chapter on the legacy of the movement, and an annotated bibliography.

Anfam also curated a Royal Academy exhibition on Abstract Expressionism last year. The Triumph of American Painting (by Irving Sandler) and Abstract Expressionist Painting in America (William C. Seitz's PhD thesis, published posthumously) are the other key texts on the subject.

Friday, 3 November 2017

مع دودي

مع دودي
Egyptian television presenter Doaa Salah has been sentenced to three years in prison for outraging public decency, after she advocated single motherhood on her variety TV show مع دودي. She was released on bail this morning. In an episode broadcast by Al Nahar on 28th July, she delivered a tongue-in-cheek monologue recommending women to visit sperm banks, become pregnant before marriage, or enter into short-term marriages of convenience.

video

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows
On Sunday, the Alliance Française in Bangkok will be showing François Truffaut's wonderful The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups), the film that launched the French New Wave. The screening will be attended by the film's leading actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, who was a teenager when he played the protagonist, Antoine Doinel.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Reinventing Hollywood

Reinventing Hollywood
One of David Bordwell's contentions in The Way Hollywood Tells It was that the post-modern storytelling associated with contemporary cinema has its roots in the classical Hollywood era. Bordwell expands on that theme in his latest book, the encyclopedic Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling, released this month. Reinventing Hollywood is a continuation of The Way Hollywood Tells It, bookended by chapters called "The Way Hollywood Told It" and "The Way Hollywood Keeps Telling It".

Bordwell identifies a variety of narrative experiments, including voice-over, flashbacks, alternate perspectives, and dream sequences (also discussed in a chapter of Film Noir: Light and Shadow), culminating in "Artifice in Excelsis", a chapter on self-reflexive cinema. There is one auteurist chapter, on Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles ("The Lessons of the Masters"), though Bordwell finds innovation in an impressive range of films, not only the established canon.

Reinventing Hollywood is concerned with how cinematic stories are told, rather than what they look like, though stylistic analysis can be found in Film Art: An Introduction (by Bordwell and Kristin Thompson) and The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (by Bordwell, Thompson, and Janet Staiger). Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s, edited by Thomas Schatz, covers the changes in the film industry during that decade.

Metaphors

Metaphors
Metaphors
Vapour
Last night, Bangkok's CityCity Gallery hosted film screenings and live performances to mark the release of an album of music from the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Metaphors: An Evening of Sound and Moving Image with Kick the Machine will take place again this evening, though tickets are sold out.

Screenings included Apichatpong's short films Ghost of Asia (previously shown at Indy Spirit Project and Apichatpong on Video Works) and Vapour (หมอกแม่ริม; with live music by Thanart Rasanon on guitar). There was a technical hitch after the intermission, and the schedule was slightly different from the one advertised, with Ghost of Asia as a substitute for I'm Still Breathing (ฉันยังคงหายใจ). The evening ended with an extract from Apichatpong's installation film Fever Room (ฉันยังคงหายใจ).

The album Metaphors: Selected Soundworks from the Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul features fourteen tracks, including music from Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ), Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล), and Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น). Each ticket includes a copy of the album on CD.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Film Noir: Light and Shadow

Film Noir: Light and Shadow
Film noir experts Alain Silver and James Ursini have edited a new anthology on the subject, Film Noir: Light and Shadow, which was published earlier this year. There are chapters on various stylistic aspects of noir, and assessments of some key noir films, including the indispensable Double Indemnity ("an exemplar of film noir visual style and a pivotal, influential film that spurred the classic noir trend") and Touch of Evil. The highlight is a chapter on the often underrated Stranger on the Third Floor.

Silver and Ursini previously co-wrote American Neo-Noir, Film Noir, and The Noir Style. They co-edited the superb Film Noir: The Encyclopedia with Robert Porfirio and Elizabeth Ward. The new book (which feels like a continuation of their Film Noir Reader series) includes essays by Silver and Porfirio, though Ward has been somewhat relegated this time around: she "generously assisted with the proofreading." Ursini's role also appears comparatively limited, whereas Silver designed the book and wrote the introduction.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Censored

Censored
Censored
French photographer Tiane Doan na Champassak's book Censored features more than 4,000 photographs taken from 1970s Thai softcore magazines such as Siam's Guy (สยามหนุ่ม). The book was published last month, and is available with six different cover designs.

The nudity in the images is self-censored (hence the book's title), to conform to the Thai obscenity law, though the book celebrates this censorship as a creative act in itself. The magazines employed artists to draw symbols and shapes over the models' erogenous zones, and the book crops the photos to focus on these painted and stencilled graphics. (Ironically, some pictures are censored with cigarette packets, which are themselves subject to censorship today.)

Thai erotic magazines are still prohibited from publishing frontal nudity, and they are occasionally withdrawn if they go too far. (For example, sales of Cute magazine were suspended in 2007.) Similarly, Thai television routinely censors nudity, guns, alcohol, and cigarettes by blurring parts of the screen, a technique parodied at the start of the comedy film SARS Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis (ขุนกระบี่ผีระบาด).

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Criterion Collection
Barry Lyndon (blu-ray)

Barry Lyndon
Making Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon was released this week on blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection. Criterion titles are almost always superb, and Barry Lyndon is no exception: their new blu-ray is the film's definitive release.

Barry Lyndon has previously been available on Warner laserdisc and VHS, in its original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio and mono soundtrack. It was also released in this format on DVD in 1999, as part of The Stanley Kubrick Collection. However, when it was remastered in 2001, the soundtrack was remixed to 5.1 surround sound, and this artificially enhanced version reappeared on subsequent DVD releases.

When the film was released on Warner blu-ray in 2011, its aspect ratio was cropped to 1.77:1 (the HD-TV format). Leon Vitali, one of Kubrick's assistants, defended the release by claiming that Barry Lyndon's aspect ratio had always been 1.77:1, and it had never been available in 1.66:1 (despite thirty-five years of theatrical, laserdisc, VHS, and DVD releases in 1.66:1). Even when a letter by Kubrick stating that it "was photographed in 1-1.66 aspect ratio" was discovered, Vitali maintained that Kubrick preferred 1.77:1.

Thankfully, the Criterion blu-ray returns the film to its correct 1.66:1 ratio, and its original mono soundtrack has also been restored. This meticulous attention to detail is unsurprising, as Criterion's Lolita, Dr Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey laserdisc transfers were supervised by Kubrick himself. They have also released excellent blu-ray editions of The Killing (and Killer's Kiss) and Dr Strangelove.

Criterion's Barry Lyndon blu-ray also features supplements covering various aspects of the film, notably the new documentary Making Barry Lyndon, which features extracts from Michel Ciment's interview with Kubrick, as broadcast on A Voix Nue. The documentary also includes the incredible (in both senses) story that Kubrick telephoned the Queen from the set of Barry Lyndon to ask her about royal etiquette!

Ciment (author of Kubrick: The Definitive Edition), and Christopher Frayling (author of Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design, Ken Adam Designs the Movies, and The 2001 File) are interviewed in other documentaries on the blu-ray. (Criterion has produced an entire disc's worth of extra features, whereas previous releases had no supplements apart from the trailer.)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Radio Times Guide to Films 2018

Radio Times Guide to Films 2018
The 2018 edition of the Radio Times Guide To Films was published last month. Radio Times is the most recent of the annual film guides (first published in 2000), though it has outlasted all of its older competitors: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide ceased publication in 2014, the Time Out Film Guide ended in 2012, Halliwell's Film Guide came to an ignominious end in 2008 as The Movies That Matter, and The Virgin Film Guide finished in 2005. That leaves the Radio Times as the last film guide standing, as the only comparable guide, VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, is restricted to films released on video.

New entries include Alien: Covenant ("no particularly new ground is broken"), Wonder Woman ("as heartfelt as it is thrilling"), Guardians of the Galaxy II ("funny, imaginative and surprisingly soulful"), John Wick II ("just as enjoyable as the original"), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ("a sometimes silly space opera of the most bizarre yet exhilarating kind"). There are a couple of questionable star ratings: Baby Driver gets only two stars for its "disjointed plot", while Doctor Strange is apparently a five-star "visually dazzling fantasy". Dunkirk ("a glorious, breathtaking triumph") and Moonlight ("a film of rare empathy and shimmering beauty") are much more deserving of their five stars.

The Radio Times Guide to Films 2018 has had what editor Sue Robinson describes as "a judicious redesign," with a five-column layout on wider pages, replacing the previous four-column format. This has made space for 622 more film reviews, making an impressive total of 24,661 entries, a significant increase over last year. (In contrast, the number of reviews in VideoHound decreases each year.) Previews of forthcoming films are still included, accounting for at least 150 of this year's 542 new entries.

In a departure from recent editions, the cover now features a contemporary movie still: a publicity shot of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby. (The 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013 editions all had classic films or stars on their covers.) Also, the Barry Norman quote on the cover of previous editions has now been removed, following his death this year. (Similarly, the blurb by the late Roger Ebert has now been removed from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.) People with only two entries have now been removed from the actor and director indexes, and DVD/blu-ray availability is no longer indicated.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bangkok Screening Room

Blade Runner
6ixtynin9
Fun Bar Karaoke
Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Ridley Scott's Blade Runner next month. The film is a masterpiece of neo-noir cinematography, and its production design and special effects are among the greatest in Hollywood history. (Paul M. Sammon's book Future Noir is the definitive production history of the film.)

Blade Runner has been released in various versions: the international release had slightly more violence; the workprint had temporary music tracks; the 'director's cut' removed the voiceover and happy ending, and added a unicorn dream sequence; and the 'final cut' made some digital corrections. Thirty-five years after Blade Runner, Denis Villeneuve's sequel Blade Runner 2049 was released; like the original film, the sequel was critically acclaimed but not commercially successful.

Bangkok Screening Room will also be showing two films by Pen-ek Ratanaruang: 6ixtynin9 (เรื่องตลก 69) and his feature debut, Fun Bar Karaoke (ฝันบ้าคาราโอเกะ). Pen-ek's later films include Ploy (พลอย), Nymph (นางไม้), Headshot (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), and Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย). When I interviewed him in 2014, he discussed the Thai censorship of Ploy ("the cinemas were crawling with police!") and Paradoxocracy ("half of the footage that we have, you can't show to people. You'll just have to bury it in the ground somewhere").

Blade Runner (the 'final cut' version) will be shown on 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th November. Fun Bar Karaoke is screening on 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 26th November. 6ixtynin9 opened earlier this month, and will be shown on 18th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 29th, and 31st October; and 1st November.