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.

This edition's 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"). A couple of the star ratings are rather questionable: Baby Driver gets only two stars for its "disjointed plot", while Dr Strange is apparently a five-star "visually dazzling fantasy". Dunkirk is much more deserving of its five stars: "Dunkirk the movie is a glorious, breathtaking triumph."

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 means that, although there are 496 fewer pages than last year's edition, there is space for 622 more film reviews, making an impressive total of 24,661 entries. This is a significant increase over last year, and suggests that, unlike in some previous editions, older entries have not been deleted. (In contrast, the number of reviews in VideoHound decreases each year.)

In another 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.)

There are a couple of minor changes to the content of this year's edition: people with only two entries have now been removed from the actor and director indexes, and DVD/blu-ray availability is no longer indicated. Previews of forthcoming films are still included: of the 542 new entries, more than 150 are previews. (A Blade Runner sequel has been previewed in the past two editions, and it appears for a third time this year, as Blade Runner 2049 was released after the book went to press.)

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.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Art of Sound

The Art of Sound
Camera provided a history of photographic cameras, and The Art of Sound: A Visual History for Audiophiles (published by Thames & Hudson earlier this year) is the equivalent for recorded sound. Author Terry Burrows divides the history of sound recording into four broad eras (acoustic, electrical, magnetic, and digital), from the phonautograph (the first machine capable of recording sound waves) to the MP3 (the most common digital compression format). Each era is illustrated with photographs of recording and playback equipment from the EMI Archive Trust, along with blueprints and record sleeves.

The examples of audio equipment include devices using a stylus to reproduce sound from grooved cylinders or discs (the phonograph, graphophone, and gramophone), magnetic wire and tape recorders (the telegraphone, reel-to-reel recorders, eight-tracks, and cassette players), and digital storage media (CD, DAT, DCC, and MiniDisc). Most fascinating are miniature gadgets such as the Mikiphone and Minifon, and novelty items like the Stollwerck gramophone that plays schokoladedisken (chocolate records).

Each chapter begins with an essay outlining the technical developments in sound recording (such as stereophonic sound, Dolby noise reduction, and peer-to-peer file transfer), and their cultural impact. The book also profiles innovators of audio technology, including Thomas Edison (inventor of the phonograph), Guglielmo Marconi (radio pioneer), and Valdemar Poulsen (inventor of magnetic recording). However, some iconic brands and designs - such as Ekco's radios, Nagra's reel-to-reel recorders, and Braun's hi-fi units - are missing, and there is no bibliography.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider, has been revised for 2017. The new edition, updated by Ian Haydn Smith, features a dozen new films. Therefore, twelve films have been deleted. 1001 Movies was first published in 2003, and has been updated annually ever since. It was completely revised in 2013, though other editions (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016) featured only minor changes.

The new films in the 2017 edition are: I, Daniel Blake; Manchester by the Sea; La La Land; Hell or High Water; The Jungle Book; 13th; Under the Shadow; Jackie; Toni Erdmann; Arrival; Moonlight; and Victoria. The deleted titles are: Slumdog Millionaire, Black Swan, A Separation, Life of Pi, Ida, Under the Skin, Leviathan, The Look of Silence , Whiplash, Bridge of Spies, Straight Outta Compton, and The Big Short.

PDF

Friday, 13 October 2017

Mangasia

Mangasia
Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics, a survey of comics from across Asia by Paul Gravett, will be published next week by Thames & Hudson. Japanese manga inevitably dominates, though there is also ample coverage of China, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, and the Philippines. Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, and other Asian countries are also represented, to a lesser extent. As Gravett writes, "In terms of the development of comics in Asia, manga is dominant, both in terms of its cultural influence and its extraordinary sales figures." (Chinese manhua and Korean manhwa, for example, are direct descendants of Japanese manga.)

The book (which accompanies an exhibition at the Barbican in London, Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics) has a foreword by Park Chan-Wook, director of Oldboy (올드보이), and begins with an illustrated manga timeline. After a brief historical introduction tracing the development of manga, from Hokusai's sketches via kamishibai, a handful of chapters explore the development of Asian comics. One chapter looks at censorship, such as shunga and the banning of Yuji Suwa's hentai (pornographic) comic Honey Room (蜜室). There are more than 800 illustrations, with captions giving the title of each comic in the script of its original language.

Unfortunately, Mangasia has no bibliography. Manga! Manga!, by Frederik L Schodt, was the first English-language book on Japanese comics. Manga Design (revised as 100 Manga Artists), by Amano Masanao and Julius Wiedemann, profiles the most significant mangaka (manga artists). Comics: A Global History, by Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner, is an international history of comics from 1968 onwards. The World Encyclopedia of Comics, by Maurice Horn, features biographies of hundreds of comic artists. Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels, by Roger Sabin, is an introduction to the entire field of comic art.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Spielberg

Spielberg
Spielberg, Susan Lacy's feature-length documentary on the career of director Steven Spielberg, premiered on HBO on 7th October. The film is similar to Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Jan Harlan's profile of Kubrick: both documentaries are more than two hours long, and both benefit from extensive access to their subjects' archives.

Spielberg begins with Jaws, which is not only (arguably) Spielberg's greatest film but also the movie that (for better or worse) set the wide-release template for summer blockbusters that Hollywood has depended on ever since. Lacy then rewinds to Spielberg's short 8mm films, his television work for Universal, and his feature films in broadly chronological order.

The documentary features interviews with Spielberg himself, his fellow directors (Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, and George Lucas), and the leading actors from practically all of his films. In fact, there are so many A-list contributors that some of them (such as Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise) barely have time to say anything. Even Spielberg's mother (who died shortly afterwards) and his centenarian father are included.

Spielberg has made some of Hollywood's most entertaining and acclaimed films, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan, and these are explored in some depth in the documentary. Despite the long running time, interesting late-career films such as AI, Minority Report, and Lincoln are relegated to brief clips without much (or any) analysis.

As an authorised retrospective, the documentary is largely positive in its assessment of Spielberg's career, though it accomplishes this by simply ignoring the less successful films, with the exception of 1941. There are a couple of dissenting voices among the talking heads, notably the screenwriter of Empire of the Sun, who criticises Spielberg's sentimental tendencies. There's a discussion about whether Spielberg really had the chutzpah to sneak into a vacant Universal office, but Spielberg himself is not asked to confirm or deny the rumour. (He told the story, unchallenged, in the documentary Spielberg on Spielberg and book Spielberg: A Retrospective, both by Richard Schickel.)

Sapuman

Sapuman
Sapuman
Sapuman
Another book of cartoons by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque (known as Zunar) has been banned by the Malaysian government. Sapuman: Man of Steal, published in 2015, satirises Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his corrupt business transactions. (In 2015, The Wall Street Journal revealed that $1 billion had been transferred from the state-owned company 1MDB to Najib's personal bank account.)

Zunar's book launches and exhibitions are raided by police on a fairly regular basis. An exhibition of his work was forced to close last year. Three of his older books were banned in 2015: Pirates of the Carry-BN, Komplot Penjarakan Anwar, and Ros in Kangkong Land.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Death: A Graveside Companion

Death: A Graveside Companion
Death: A Graveside Companion (2017), edited by Joanna Ebenstein, is a collection of images and essays exploring artistic and cultural attitudes to death, from ritual venerations of the deceased to macabre illustrations of skeletons. Many of the 1,000 photographs are from the collection of Richard Harris, whose archive was also the basis of a Wellcome Collection exhibition on the same subject in 2012.

The book's extensive range of material is encapsulated in an illustrated "timeline of death" in the introduction. The bibliography is quite brief, and mostly limited to recent publications. There is inevitable overlap with two books by Paul Koudounaris, The Empire of Death and Memento Mori, also published by Thames & Hudson. The Book of Skulls, by Faye Dowling, includes more recent examples of memento mori imagery.

Camera

Camera
Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerrotype to Digital, published in 2009, is a comprehensive history of the camera, featuring 350 vintage examples from the George Eastman House collection along with some examples of classic photographs. Seemingly every type of photographic camera is included, covering almost 200 years of technical development.

Todd Gustavson is credited as the book's author, and he wrote the introduction, though the acknowledgements page reveals that other chapters, and the extended captions, were written by others (including an essay by Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera). There is no bibliography.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

By the Time It Gets Dark

By the Time It Gets Dark
A showing of Anocha Suwichakornpong's film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), which was due to take place yesterday at Warehouse 30 in Bangkok, was cancelled by the police at the last minute. The event, organised by Doc Club Theater, was planned as one of three screenings of the film yesterday.

The screenings at the National Film Archive and Thammasat University went ahead without any police intervention. Also, the film was released on DVD in Thailand on the same day, making the censorship of the Warehouse 30 screening even more inexplicable.

Friday, 6 October 2017

ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง

ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง
The Two Brothers
By the Time It Gets Dark
On 6th October 1976, at least forty-six people, most of whom were students, were killed in a military massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre remains one of the most shocking moments in Thailand's modern history, though it's also part of a cycle of military violence, with similarly brutal suppressions of pro-democracy protesters in 1973 (also at Thammasat), 1992 (Black May), and 2010.

The Thammasat students had been protesting against the return from exile of Thanom Kittikachorn, who was Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during an extended period of military rule (another familiar cycle) from 1957 to 1973. On 25th September 1976, two anti-Thanom activists (Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa) were hanged by the police, and on 4th October 1976 a group of Thammasat students staged a reenactment of the event. One of the students who posed as a hanging victim bore a resemblance to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Maha Vajiralongkorn), and on its front page on 5th October 1976, the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper printed his photograph and accused the students of hanging the Prince in effigy. The Bangkok Post newspaper published a similar photo, taken by Tham Luangmanotham, on the same day.

Military-owned radio stations demonised the students as Communists who should be killed, and militia groups (the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs) joined the police and army in storming Thammasat. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, of a man ready to hit a corpse hanging from a tree with a folding chair, has come to symbolise the extreme violence and prejudice of the massacre. (The photograph was reprinted in Moments, on page 113.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom exhibited blood-red photographs of the victims at Flashback '76. Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentary The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) included archive footage of the massacre. Thunska's most recent documentary, Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), highlights the violence inflicted by the militia groups, in contrast to the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as Sombat Methanee's หนักแผ่นดิน. Ulevich's photograph was appropriated by Manit (for Horror in Pink) and Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities), and was recreated in Samanrat Kanjanavanit's banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย).

Today, the National Film Archive in Salaya will commemorate the anniversary of the massacre with an event titled ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง. Four films that address the tragedy will be screened: They Will Never Forget, directed by Ooka Ryoochi; พีเจ้น ('pigeon'), by Pasit Promnampol; The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), by Patporn Phoothong and Teerawat Rujenatham; and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), by Anocha Suwichakornpong. (A similar event, 41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน, is taking place simultaneously at Thammasat.)

They Will Never Forget is a compilation of 8mm news footage. พีเจ้น is a student film inspired by the aftermath of the massacre. The Two Brothers is a short documentary about the two men whose hangings were reenacted by Thammasat students; Patporn interviewed relatives of massacre victims for his earlier documentary Respectfully Yours (ด้วยความนับถือ). By the Time It Gets Dark uses actors to recreate scenes from the massacre; it was shown with Respectfully Yours earlier this year in Chiang Mai.

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน
The Two Brothers
By the Time It Gets Dark
On 6th October 1976, at least forty-six people, mostly students, were killed in a military massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre remains one of the most shocking moments in Thailand's modern history, though it is also part of a cycle of military violence, with similarly brutal suppressions of pro-democracy protesters in 1973 (also at Thammasat), 1992 (Black May), and 2010.

The Thammasat students had been protesting against the return from exile of Thanom Kittikachorn, who was Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during an extended period of military rule from 1957 to 1973. On 25th September 1976, two anti-Thanom activists were hanged by the police, and on 4th October 1976 a group of Thammasat students staged a reenactment of the hanging. One of the students who posed as a hanging victim bore a resemblance to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X), and on its front page on 5th October 1976, the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper printed his photograph and accused the students of hanging the Prince in effigy. The Bangkok Post newspaper published a similar image, taken by Tham Luangmanotham, on the same day.

Military-owned radio stations demonised the students as Communists who should be killed, and militia groups (the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs) joined the police and army in storming Thammasat University. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, of a man about to hit a corpse hanging from a tree with a folding chair, has come to symbolise the extreme violence and prejudice of the massacre. (Ulevich's photograph was reprinted in Moments, on page 113.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom showed blood-red photographs of the victims at the Flashback '76 exhibition. Thunska Pansittivorakul's film The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) included archive footage of the massacre. Thunska's most recent film, Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), highlights the violence inflicted by the militia groups, in contrast to the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as Sombat Methanee's หนักแผ่นดิน. Ulevich's photograph was appropriated by Manit (Horror in Pink) and Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities), and was recreated in Samanrat Kanjanavanit's banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย).

Today, Thammasat University will commemorate the anniversary of the massacre with an event titled 41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน. Two films that address the tragedy will be screened: The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), by Patporn Phoothong and Teerawat Rujenatham; and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), by Anocha Suwichakornpong. (A similar event, ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง, is taking place simultaneously at the National Film Archive.)

The Two Brothers is a short documentary about the two men (Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa) whose hangings were reenacted by Thammasat students; Patporn interviewed relatives of massacre victims for his earlier documentary Respectfully Yours (ด้วยความนับถือ). By the Time It Gets Dark uses actors to recreate scenes from the massacre; it was shown with Respectfully Yours earlier this year in Chiang Mai.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Four

The Four
The Economist
The New York 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 - in case anyone is thinking, whither Microsoft? - he argues that MS was "the original horseman." (Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Office software have been superseded by Google's Chrome and Docs, and the dominance of Windows on desktop PCs is increasingly irrelevant as computing shifts to mobile devices.)

Referring to the same oligopoly of companies, 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 their book 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, and our future world will be profoundly altered by their adoption and successfulness in societies everywhere."

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 tentacle metaphor was repeated in a cartoon by David Parkins on the magazine's cover, with the companies depicted as giant squid.) Later that month (on Boxing Day 2012), The Wall Street Journal 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 a New York Times column (on 21st January 2016), Manjoo added Microsoft to the group: "There are currently four undisputed rulers of the consumer technology industry: Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, now a unit of a parent company called Alphabet. 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 was illustrated with an animation by Doug Chayka showing a raft formed from the five logos.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Napoleon (DVD)

Napoleon
Napoleon
Last year, the BFI released Abel Gance's Napoleon on DVD and blu-ray. The BFI edition features a 332-minute version of Gance's silent masterpiece, meticulously restored by Kevin Brownlow, with a score composed by Carl Davis. (The bonus features include an interview with Brownlow, his BBC documentary on Gance's films, and a booklet with an extract from his book on the film.) Napoleon famously climaxes with a triptych sequence, and each of the three panels is included on a separate disc, so the triptych effect can be recreated (if you have three DVD/blu-ray players and three TVs side-by-side).

This UK release of Napoleon is the first time Brownlow's restoration has been released on any video format. Even theatrical screenings are rare events, partially due to the logistics of the triptych finale though also because of an excessive copyright claim by Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola's father composed a score to accompany a truncated version of the film, and this version has previously been released by MCA in the US on VHS (in 1989) and by Universal in Australia on DVD (2003). Coppola's version is almost 100 minutes shorter than Brownlow's restoration, though until the BFI's release, Coppola's was the only version available.

The Bird with the
Crystal Plumage
(blu-ray)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo), Dario Argento's directorial debut, reinvented the Giallo thriller template established by Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace. Argento would later direct arguably the greatest Giallo film, Deep Red, and the horror classic Suspiria.

Italian DVD editions of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage were framed at 1.85:1 rather than the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. In the US, VCI released it on DVD (in 1999 and 2013) and blu-ray (2015), in the original aspect ratio, though a transfer error cut the first word of dialogue from the line "Right, bring in the perverts." This error was repeated on the Blue Underground DVD (released in 2005) and blu-ray (2011). The Blue Underground releases also used English-language opening titles and closing credits, and replaced the original mono soundtracks with surround sound remixes.

In the UK, Arrow released the film on DVD and blu-ray in 2011, in an uncut print, with original Italian and English mono soundtracks, and both the English and original Italian opening titles and closing credits (via seemless branching). This release also included an audio commentary by horror experts Kim Newman and Alan Jones (also available on the Blue Underground editions). The only flaw in Arrow's release was that the film was reframed to 2.0:1, the Univisium ratio retroactively applied by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. (Apocalypse Now, also with cinematography by Storaro, suffered from the same issue in all its video versions, until the Full Disclosure edition of 2010.)

Arrow released the film again this year on DVD and blu-ray, this time in the correct 2.35:1 ratio, making their 2017 edition the first definitive video release of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This new edition, limited to 4,000 copies, comes in a deluxe package with a poster, lobby cards, and a booklet. It features a different selection of bonus features, and unfortunately the previous audio commentary has been replaced.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Doc Club Theater

Doc Club Theater
Anocha Suwichakornpong's By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) will be screened by Doc Club Theater on 6th October at Warehouse 30 in Bangkok. The film has previously been shown at the International Conference on Thai Studies, Homeflick, and Echoes of French Cinema.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism is the catalogue to an exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last year. In his foreword to the catalogue, the RA's President describes it as "the greatest exhibition of Abstract Expressionism ever assembled." Editor and co-curator David Anfam begins the catalogue with an overview of Abstract Expressionism's history and influence. (He also wrote a book on the subject for the World of Art series.)

The catalogue and exhibition are notable for their broad definition of Abstract Expressionism, expanding beyond New York painters to encompass photography, sculpture, and post-War European art. The catalogue also includes an illustrated chronology. The Triumph of American Painting, by Irving Sandler, remains the definitive history of American Abstract Expressionist painting, though the RA's substantial catalogue is a fascinating revisionist survey of the movement.

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970
The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970, published next week by Thames & Hudson, is a survey of "the work of artists whose hand-rendered pictorial illustrations were reproduced on book jackets over a period of fifty years, from a time when publishers were beginning to see the possibilities of high-quality artwork in this context around 1920, to one when photography increasingly began to usurp the traditional artists' skills at the end of the 1960s." Author Martin Salisbury profiles fifty-three European and American artists in alphabetical order, beginning with "the twentieth century's most important and influential illustrator," Edward Ardizzone.

There have been previous books on dust jackets that focus on individual illustrators, publishers, or countries, though there is no comprehensive history of dust jacket design. A History Of Book Illustration, by David Bland, is a superb history of illustrated books. Steven Heller and Seymour Chwast's Illustration: A Visual History is a concise survey of a century of illustration. Fifty Years of Illustration, by Lawrence Zeegen and Caroline Roberts, covers illustration from the 1960s onwards. History of Illustration (edited by Susan Doyle, Jaleen Grove, and Whitney Sherman) will be published next year.

Insects in the Backyard

Insects in the Backyard
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's film Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) will finally receive a theatrical release, when it opens on 30th November at Bangkok's House Rama cinema. The film was screened at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010, though requests for an '18' or '20' age rating were denied, making it the first film formally banned under the Film and Video Act of 2008. Tanwarin appealed to the National Film Board, which upheld the ban, so she sued the censors in the Administrative Court. On Christmas Day 2015, the Court ruled that the ban should remain.

As Tanwarin told me in an interview earlier this year, the censors initially described the entire film as immoral: "When we asked the committee who considered the film which scenes constituted immorality, they simply said that they thought every scene is immoral, and they didn't give us any more details." She also said that the Film Board had a similar reaction: "we were told by one of the committee members that we should have made the film in a 'good' way. This was said as if we did not know how to produce a good movie, and no clear explanation was given."

Although it upheld the ban, the Administrative Court's verdict did represent a victory of sorts, as the Court dismissed the idea that it was an immoral film. As Tanwarin told me: "The Court's verdict was that there are no immoral scenes in the film as it's a film focussing on problems in Thai society." The Court also announced that the film could be released if a single brief shot was removed. (The three-second clip shows a hardcore scene from a gay porn film.)

House RCA has occasionally shown films uncut, including the explicit Taxidermia, though it will screen Insects in the Backyard minus the three-second porn clip. Tanwarin has discussed the ban at BACC (Freedom on Film) and FCCT (Art, Politics, and Censorship), and a costume from the film was shown at TCDC (Ploy Saeng 100).

After Insects in the Backyard, Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), Boundary (ฟ้าตํ่าแผ่นดินสูง), and อาบัติ were also banned. Shakespeare Must Die's director is still in the process of appealing the ban, though Boundary and อาบัติ were both released after cuts were made. (I wrote about Thai film censorship for Encounter Thailand magazine in 2012.)

Thursday, 28 September 2017

"The defendant was found guilty..."

Yesterday, former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison, after the Supreme Court found her guilty of dereliction of duty in relation to her government's rice subsidy policy. The Court's verdict had been postponed from 25th August, when Yingluck left the country. In its written judgement, the Court said: "The defendant was found guilty of the offences under Section 157 of the Criminal Code and Section 123/1 of the Organic Act on Counter Corruption 1999 and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment."

The guilty verdict was related specifically to contracts with private Chinese companies, arranged by the Thai Ministry of Commerce, which were falsely designated as non-competitive government-to-government deals. Last month, former Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom was jailed for forty-two years for his part in the scandal. In its judgement against Yingluck, the Supreme Court ruled that she was aware that the government-to-government deals were fraudulent, as she had sacked Boonsong on 30th June 2013. Also, the enquiry she established to scrutinise the deals was an internal investigation conducted by Boonsong's subordinates.

Starting in 2011, Yingluck's Pheu Thai government bought rice from farmers at up to 50% above the market rate, intending to withhold it from the world market and thus drive up the price. When other countries in the region increased their rice exports, Pheu Thai was left with vast stockpiles of rice that it could not sell, and that it was unable to pay for. (Yingluck was deposed by the Criminal Court in 2014 on an unrelated issue, and subsequently retroactively impeached.)

Yesterday, the Court ruled that Yingluck was not responsible for the financial losses incurred as a result of the rice subsidy policy itself, thus calling into question the $1 billion penalty she was fined last year to compensate for the scheme. The Court also determined that she was not guilty of corruption herself, and was not accountable for any irregularities associated with the operation of the scheme. The Court's guilty verdict rested solely on her failure to expose the fraudulent government-to-government contracts.

The Court's decision is another instance of deja vu, as Yingluck's political trajectory precisely echoes that of her brother, Thaksin. They were both elected with majorities (Thaksin in 2001, 2005, and 2006; Yingluck in 2011). In both cases, their elections were boycotted by the opposition Democrats (in 2006 and 2014, respectively). Those elections were both nullified by the Constitutional Court (also in 2006 and 2014). They both faced long-running street protests (the PAD and PDRC) that provoked military coups (in 2006 and 2014). They both had their assets seized (Thaksin in 2010; Yingluck in 2016). Finally, they were both jailed in absentia (Thaksin in 2008; Yingluck yesterday).

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Postmodern Design Complete

Postmodern Design Complete
Postmodern Design Complete, edited by Judith Gura, is the latest in Thames & Hudson's series of in-depth studies of twentieth century design movements, after Art Deco Complete and Mid-Century Modern Complete. The book, which will be published at the end of this month, includes sections on postmodern architecture, design, graphics, and interiors.

There are more than 1,000 illustrations, and profiles of designers including Ettore Sottsass ("the figurehead of postmodernism"), Michael Graves, Philippe Starck, and Frank Gehry. The book includes an essay by graphic design historian Steven Heller, who also contributed to Mid-Century Modern Complete.

The Language Of Postmodern Architecture (1977), by Charles Jencks, first popularised the concept of postmodernism, and Jencks writes a foreword to Gura's book. The Victoria & Albert Museum's Postmodernism: Style & Subversion exhibition (2011) led to a revival of interest in the movement, and Gura reprints a Jencks infographic from that exhibition catalogue.

More conventional than the V&A catalogue, Postmodern Design Complete is described by its publisher as "the definitive overview of the movement's seminal years," though its editor is more realistic: "Notwithstanding its title, this book does not presume to tell the complete story of postmodern design, which continues to evolve, but to document its most dominant years." Hal Foster's The Anti-Aesthetic (1984) remains the standard anthology of postmodern theory, though Gura's book is the most comprehensive survey of postmodern design.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

สรรพสาระสำหรับผู้แสวงหา

สรรพสาระสำหรับผู้แสวงหา
สรรพสาระสำหรับผู้แสวงหา, by Sulak Sivaraksa, was published in 2005. It includes a reprint of an interview Sulak gave to the editor of Same Sky. When the interview was first published, the journal was banned and the editor was charged with lese majeste. Sulak has also published an English translation of the interview, in Rediscovering Spiritual Value. (His most recent English-language book is the provocative Love Letters To Dictators.)

Sulak has been personally accused of lese majeste several times, and has contributed to various censored films, television programmes, and books. He published an article on the death of King Rama VIII in Seeds Of Peace. His book ค่อนศตวรรษ ประชาธิปไตยไทย was (briefly) banned. Part of his interview in Paradoxocracy was muted. He was interviewed on ตอบโจทย์ประเทศไทย. He also appeared in the once-banned film Tongpan.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

"Unprecedented in
defamation litigation..."

Woman's Day
Actress Rebel Wilson was awarded $4.5 million in damages by an Australian court yesterday. She had sued Bauer Media for defamation after one of its magazines accused her of lying about her age. In a 25 May 2015 article headlined "Just who was the REAL Rebel?", Woman's Day alleged that Wilson had changed her name to hide her true background. Setting the highest damages ever awarded in an Australian defamation case, the judge described the publication as "unprecedented in defamation litigation in this country" as the article received wide distribution online.

The case is likely to set a precedent similar to that of the PJS injunction in the UK, which established that the publication of kiss-and-tell stories could no longer be justified. Earlier this year, Melania Trump won substantial damages for defamation from the Daily Mail newspaper, and Kate Middleton was awarded damages for invasion of privacy in France. In America, however, the 'actual malice' requirement makes defamation cases against celebrities almost unheard of.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The First Artists

The First Artists
Helen Gardner began her landmark Art Through The Ages (1926) with a question: "When in the long development of human life did art first appear, and why?" Michel Lorblanchet and Paul Bahn's new book The First Artists outlines the available evidence for the origins of art: "This book aims to analyse the earliest human creative behaviour and identify the first artistic expressions, trying to distinguish apparently non-utilitarian products that were detached from the immediate needs of survival."

The First Artists: In Search Of The World's Oldest Art discusses Neanderthal tools and Palaeolithic engravings, artefacts whose status as aesthetic or symbolic objects remains unresolved. The book also examines equally ambiguous figurines that predate the famous Willendorf and Hohle Fels Venuses. By contrast, the earliest examples of beaded jewellery are more easily verifiable as decorative in nature. Lois Sherr Dubin also discusses these adornments, which are up to 100,000 years old, in The Worldwide History Of Beads (2009).

Most histories of art begin with cave paintings, particularly those of Chauvet in France. Lorblanchet and Bahn, however, dispute Chauvet's generally accepted status as the earliest example of parietal art. Both authors are experts in the field, and Bahn's Images Of The Ice Age (1988; revised as Journey Through The Ice Age) is the most comprehensive book on the subject.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

"Reminiscent of... the press and
paparazzi during the life of Diana"

Closer
La Provence
The editor and publisher of the French gossip magazine Closer have been fined €45,000 each, after a court ruled that paparazzi photographs of Kate Middleton and Prince William were an invasion of privacy. Closer printed topless photographs of the Duchess of Cambridge on 14th September 2012, and the couple obtained an injunction to prevent the magazine from republishing them. They have now been awarded €100,000 in damages.

A statement read in court on the couple's behalf said: "The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the Duke and Duchess for being so." In a related case, a regional French newspaper, La Provence, published a photograph of the Duchess in a bikini on 7th September 2012, and has now been fined €3,000.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

World History Of Design

World History Of Design World History Of Design
World History Of Design, by Victor Margolin, was first published in two hardback volumes in 2015, costing around £600. Last month, this unprecedented and definitive book was issued in paperback for a tenth of the original price. Both volumes include a selection of colour plates, and each chapter has an excellent annotated bibliography.

The first volume (Prehistoric Times To World War I, at more than 500 pages) is significant for its extensive treatment of pre-industrial design. In contrast, most histories of design begin with the Industrial Revolution; The Story Of Design is a notable exception, though it lacks the depth of the World History.

Volume two (World War I To World War II, at almost 1,000 pages) is remarkable for the scope of its non-Western coverage, making the World History a truly global account of design. Again, this sets the book apart from other design histories (such as The Story Of Design, and David Raizman's History Of Modern Design), which focus only on Europe, America, and Japan.

Margolin notes in his introduction: "One exception to the geographic limitations of prior design history narratives is the recently published History of Design: Decorative Arts and Material Culture 1400-2000". That superb book remains the most comprehensive single-volume design history, though the World History's multi-volume format allows Margolin to cover not only the entire world but also the entire history of the subject.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Bad Taste Cafe

Racism
The Birth Of A Nation
What could be more tasteless than Pink Flamingos or Thriller: A Cruel Picture? How about a month-long season of films featuring offensive racial stereotypes. The Racism season begins on 6th September at Bangkok's Bad Taste Cafe, concluding on 27th September with DW Griffith's The Birth Of A Nation.

Hollywood's first epic, The Birth Of A Nation remains an incendiary film more than a century after its release. Depressingly, its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan is still relevant today, after Donald Trump's equivocation following last month's KKK rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Power & The Story

The Power & The Story
The Power & The Story: The Global Battle For News & Information, by John Lloyd, assesses the news media of Egypt, China, Turkey, Russia, and other countries in which state censorship predominates: "Journalism is controlled and suppressed in authoritarian societies because their rulers believe they have a better grasp of the truth than journalists could ever have. Theirs is not the truth of mere facts. It is an alternative truth of what keeps social peace, promotes development, preserves necessary power and serves faith."

The book, a unique worldwide survey of the state of contemporary journalism, also covers "the problems of practising journalism that lives by one form or another of market rules, and the pressures market exerts on the creation of truthful accounts." Lloyd discusses some less reputable aspects of journalism - sensationalist tabloids, and the rise of 'fake news' - though he also stresses the vital importance of "a journalism of revelation through leaking of confidential information" and public service broadcasting.

Of course, the shadow of President Trump looms over any discussion of political journalism, and Lloyd shows how Trump has repeatedly attacked America's leading news organisations. He also assesses the increasing influence of online news companies such as Vox, Buzzfeed, and Vice (which made headlines recently with its exclusive report on the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, Virginia).

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Godfather: The Complete Epic
The Godfather: A Novel For Television

The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1901-1959
The Godfather: A Novel For Television
Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now has been released in four formats, which differ widely in their running times: 70mm (without closing credits), 35mm (with closing credits), Redux (with an hour of additional footage), and the bootleg five-hour workprint. But that's nothing compared to the myriad alternative edits of The Godfather and its sequels.

The Godfather and The Godfather II were broadcast, in chronological order, as a four-part miniseries on NBC in 1977. The Godfather: The Complete Novel For Television featured more than an hour of additional footage not included in the theatrical versions, though some of the violence was censored for network TV. Twenty years later, in 1997, the cable station USA Network broadcast an alternative two-part chronological edit, The Godfather Saga, with less additional footage than the NBC version.

Another chronological edit was created for the video market. The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1902-1959 was released on VHS in 1981. (It was rereleased on VHS and laserdisc in 1990 under the corrected title The Godfather: The Epic 1901-1959.) In 1992, The Godfather III was inserted into the edit, for the limited-edition The Godfather Trilogy 1901-1980, on VHS and laserdisc.

There have been two chronological versions of The Godfather and The Godfather II broadcast on HDTV. In 2012, the cable channel AMC screened The Godfather: A Novel For Television, which was the first chronological edit shown in widescreen. Last year, another cable station, HBO, broadcast a slightly longer version, The Godfather: The Complete Epic 1901-1959. (Confusingly, the title is very similar to the videos released previously.) Also in widescreen, this was the first chronological edit to be broadcast without commercial breaks.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Visual History Of Type

The Visual History Of Type
The Visual History Of Type, written by Paul McNeil and published next month by Laurence King, is a chronological survey of more than 300 typefaces, from the 1450s to the present day. Like The Book Of Books, it features large reproductions of book pages and type specimens, with each illustrated in a double-page spread accompanied by a few paragraphs of analysis. The Visual History of the title distinguishes it from Daniel Updike's more scholarly Printing Types, which remains the standard history.

SH Steinberg's 500 Years Of Printing also covers the same timeframe, though it's a slim pocketbook whereas The Visual History Of Type has the dimensions of a family Bible (appropriately enough, as it begins with Johannes Gutenberg). On its back cover, the book is justifiably described as "the definitive survey of the development of letterforms since the advent of printing with movable type in the mid-1400s." It's the new Bible of typography.

"She is a former prime minister and
some officials might have helped her..."

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra left Thailand this week, shortly before the Supreme Court was due to deliver its verdict in her trial for dereliction of duty. Yingluck had been due in court on 25th August, though her lawyer claimed that she was too ill to attend. The Court rejected that claim, as no medical certificate was presented, and the reading of the verdict was delayed until 27th September.

Announcing the delay, the Court released a written statement saying: "the defendant may attempt to abscond and therefore the Court duly issued an arrest warrant". It soon became clear that Yingluck had indeed absconded, crossing the border into Cambodia and then flying to Singapore. How or when she left Thailand has not yet been established, though it seems that she left at the last minute, only a day or two before the verdict was to be delivered.

The case stems from a rice subsidy scheme she spearheaded in 2011. Her government bought rice from farmers at up to 50% above the market rate, intending to withhold it from the world market and thus drive up the price. The result, however, was that other countries in the region increased their rice exports. Pheu Thai was left with vast stockpiles of rice that it could not sell, and that it was unable to pay for. Yingluck was charged with implementing the loss-making scheme and failing to prevent the corruption associated with it.

Throughout the trial, Yingluck had defended the policy in court, and had pledged to accept the verdict. On 11th July, she told the Bangkok Post: "I'll be there in court to the end." (The Bangkok Post previously interviewed her in 2014, though that interview was later retracted.) Her self-exile is all the more surprising as she seemingly avoided detection when she crossed the border. On this point, deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan initially told the media: "She is a former prime minister and some officials might have helped her if she is running away." Later, the government denied this, with one source implausibly suggesting that she had fled in a speedboat.

Her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, also left the country suspiciously easily during a Supreme Court trial. (He was given permission to visit Beijing for the Olympics, and didn't come back.) He was convicted in absentia in 2008, and his assets were seized in 2010. The coups of 2006 and 2014 were attempts by Thailand's traditional power brokers, the military, to terminate the Shinawatra family's political influence.

The eventual verdict in Yingluck's case is a foregone conclusion, given that she had already been removed from office, retroactively impeached, and fined $1 billion. Yingluck was either facing a jail sentence after a politicised trial, or a life in exile as a fugitive from justice. Her decision to leave is arguably the ideal scenario for the military, as she would have been regarded as a martyr by her red-shirt supporters if she had been convicted and jailed.

Psycho

Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has been available in multiple formats since its original theatrical release in 1960. I've seen it on 35mm, DCP, laserdisc, DVD, blu-ray, VHS (open matte), as an in-flight movie, and on television (in an extended version). The film's script has been published, as part of The Film Classics Library. Hitchcock wrote a publicity booklet, The Care & Handling Of Psycho. There are plenty of books about it, including Alfred Hitchcock & The Making Of Psycho (which inspired the film Hitchcock), The Moment Of Psycho, and Psycho In The Shower.

But Psycho's soundtrack has never had an official release. There have been albums of orchestral performances of the score, some even conducted by composer Bernard Herrmann, though these were recorded many years after the film was made. There are also recordings claiming to be from the original master tapes, though these are poor-quality bootlegs. The closest to a legitimate release of the original soundtrack was Universal's Signature Collection laserdisc, which featured an isolated music track as a bonus feature.

Psycho, a new 7" single from Stylotone, is the first Psycho soundtrack released under licence from Universal. It contains only two tracks (the opening titles music, Prelude; and The Murder, from the shower sequence), though they are sourced directly from the original master tapes. The record was produced in collaboration with the Hitchcock and Herrmann estates, making it as official as they come. It is limited to 1,960 copies, and comes with a postcard featuring a still from the film.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

"The BBC stands by its journalism..."

A defamation suit against BBC journalist Jonathan Head has been dropped by the plaintiff. The case stemmed from a televised report into fraud on the island of Phuket, broadcast on BBC2's Victoria Derbyshire programme on 18th September 2015. The report alleged that a lawyer practising in Phuket had certified a forged signature, and he sued for the damage caused to his professional reputation.

In Thailand, defamation is a criminal offence, making investigative reporting a legal minefield. The BBC defended its reporting in a statement issued after the defamation suit was filed: "The BBC stands by its journalism and we will fight the allegations made against our correspondent by these proceedings." That position was vindicated today when the charges were dropped.

video

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Echoes of French Cinema

By The Time It Gets Dark
Anocha Suwichakornpong (director of Mundane History) will introduce her latest film, By The Time It Gets Dark, at Bangkok's Alliance Francaise on 30th August, at an event called Echoes Of French Cinema. The film will be shown again on 1st, 5th, and 9th September.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Homeflick

Homeflick
By The Time It Gets Dark
Motel Mist
Homeflick, which screens independent films in Nakhon Ratchasima (in Thailand's Isan region), has organised an event this weekend: หนังควบ (a double-bill), with By The Time It Gets Dark showing on Saturday and Motel Mist on Sunday. Both screenings are at the city's Five Stars Multiplex cinema.

By The Time It Gets Dark, directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong (whose first film was the superb Mundane History), was shown last month at the 13th International Conference on Thai Studies in Chiang Mai. After the Homeflick screening, it will also be shown at Bangkok's Alliance Francaise on 30th August, followed by a Q&A with Anocha.

Motel Mist, the directorial debut of writer Prabda Yoon, was dropped by its original distributor (TrueVisions) the day before its release date, and subsequently released independently. It was also shown at the Play Me cafe and bar in Chon Buri, on 6th May.