Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Thai Cinema Uncensored

Thai Cinema Uncensored
My first book, Thai Cinema Uncensored, went on sale today. Published by Silkworm Books, it is the first full-length history of Thai film censorship, and one of only a handful of English-language books on Thai cinema. The book examines how Thai filmmakers approach culturally sensitive subjects—sex, religion, and politics—and how their films have been banned as a result.

Thai Cinema Uncensored also features interviews with ten leading Thai directors: Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thunska Pansittivorakul, Pen-ek Ratanaruang, Nontawat Numbenchapol, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Yuthlert Sippapak, Ing Kanjanavanit, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, Kanittha Kwunyoo, and Surasak Pongson. Films under discussion include Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ), This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), Insects in the Backyard (อินเส็คส์ อิน เดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด), Shakespeare Must Die, (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป’ไทย), Thibaan: The Series 2.2 (ไทบ้านเดอะซีรีส์ 2.2), Karma (อาปัต), and Birth of Golden Snail (กำเนิดหอยทากทอง).

Tucker Carlson Tonight

A Manhattan court has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil of the Southern District Court in New York ruled on 24th September that comments made by Carlson on his Tucker Carlson Tonight show were “merely rhetorical hyperbole” and thus did not meet the standard of ‘actual malice’ required in defamation cases involving public figures.

The lawsuit was filed by Karen McDougal, who received payment of $150,000 from the National Enquirer to prevent her from publicising her alleged affair with Donald Trump. (This and other so-called ‘catch-and-kill’ payments were made by the supermarket tabloid as part of a business arrangement with Trump.) McDougal sued Carlson after he accused her of extortion in an episode of his show broadcast on 10th December 2018.

Carlson did not refer to McDougal by name, though he stated that two women were paid by Trump. (McDougal and Stormy Daniels are the women in question.) Carlson began his discussion of the case by saying: “Remember the facts of the story. These are undisputed. Two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money. Now, that sounds like a classic case of extortion. Yet, for whatever reason, Trump caves to it, and he directs Michael Cohen to pay the ransom.”

In its defence of Carlson, Fox News argued that his comments “cannot reasonably be interpreted as facts”, and that his show should be viewed with “an appropriate amount of skepticism”. This apparent admission that Carlson should not be taken seriously is all the more surprising given that Carlson characterised his remarks as “the facts of the story.”

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Fatherland

Fatherland
Yuthlert Sippapak’s controversial film Fatherland (ปิตุภูมิ) received rare public screenings late last night and early this morning at the 14 October 73 Memorial in Bangkok. The film, a drama about the insurgency in southern Thailand, was commissioned by the military, though they withdrew their backing when it became clear that it wasn’t the propaganda vehicle they were expecting. When I interviewed Yuthlert for my forthcoming book, Thai Cinema Uncensored, he told me that Prayut Chan-o-cha asked him a lot of “stupid questions” after watching the film. He also said that the military warned him it could be a dangerous film (“If you show this movie, somebody burns the theatre.”)

In that interview, Yuthlert explained the reason for the controversy: “The [part] that’s so sensitive is ‘เหตุการณ์สงบงบไม่มา’—‘if no war, no money’. Money is power. And the person who created the war is the military. I said that, and I don’t want to take that out. That’s the truth. And they don’t want the truth. I want the truth.” The film addresses this point directly, when a Muslim cleric says: “The violence that is happening is benefiting almost every side. There’s a lot of money. But what we can do is, we can make Thai people understand that what is happening here now is not a religion conflict.”

The film has been in limbo since its completion in 2012. At one stage, Yuthlert even considered building his own cinema in order to show it, though that plan never came to fruition. He has also retitled and repeatedly recut it, though no distributor has agreed to release it. It was screened (free of charge) last night, and shortly after midnight this morning, under the new title Rachida (ราชิดา). (Several early scenes highlight the soldiers’ lack of understanding of local Muslim culture, and the eponymous Rachida—a professor of Islamic studies—is brought in to teach the military about Islam.) Post-production is not yet finished: some shots have a “CG incomplete” caption, and there are no end credits.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

ปรากฏการณ์สะท้านฟ้า 10 สิงหา

This morning, police seized 50,000 copies of a booklet before it could be distributed at a pro-democracy protest. The booklet, ปรากฏการณ์สะท้านฟ้า 10 สิงหา ข้อเรียกร้องว่าด้วยสถาบันกษัตริย์ (‘an earth-shattering event on 10th August: calling for discussion of the monarchy’), contains speeches by four protest leaders—Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul, Anon Nampa, Parit Chirawak, and Panupong Jadnok—including Panusaya’s unprecedented ten-point manifesto on reform of the monarchy.

The four speeches were all delivered at Thammasat University on 10th August, and the booklet was due to be sold at Thammasat, where another protest is taking place today. It was published by the protest organiser, United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. (Copies of an anti-military booklet published by a similar organisation, the New Democracy Movement, were seized in 2016.)

PDF

Monday, 14 September 2020

Stephff

No More 1976
An exhibition of cartoons by Stephane Peray (known as Stephff) opened last week at the FCCT in Bangkok. Peray’s cartoons were published by The Nation for more than a decade, until the newspaper ended its print edition last year. The works on show at the FCCT are previously unpublished responses to the recent anti-military protest movement, and are even more biting than his usual satirical (and sometimes controversial) cartoons. The exhibition runs from 11th to 24th September.

A highlight is No More 1976, which appropriates Neal Ulevich’s photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. The original photo depicted a vigilante preparing to hit the corpse of a student, though in Peray’s version the power dynamic between the two figures is reversed. The victim has been replaced by a cartoon student (giving a defiant three-finger salute), who towers over his diminutive attacker. (Headache Stencil and Manit Sriwanichpoom have also superimposed images onto Ulevich’s photo.)

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Act สิ Art

Act Art
Act Art
Act Art
In recent years, the space in front of Bangkok’s BACC has served as an ideal stage for anti-government performances by students and other progressive groups. The Free Arts collective continued that tradition with Act สิ Art, an art fair and concert held there yesterday afternoon.

The event was a collaboration between artists (such as Pisitakun Kuntalaeng) and musicians (Rap Against Dictatorship, amongst others). It included art from Speedy Grandma (sketches mocking the military, with coded references to the monarchy) and Unmuted Project.

A shrine-like installation by Yada Kinbaku featured a blue folding chair tied up with red rope. The chair is a reference to Neal Ulevich’s photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre, though the piece also refers to the colours of the Thai flag and their symbolic meanings.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Tenet

Tenet
“Don’t try to understand it. Feel it.”

That advice, part of a briefing given to a CIA agent known only as the Protagonist, is well worth following. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is—at least, on first viewing—very confusing indeed, and the sometimes inaudible expository dialogue adds to the confusion. Nolan is rightly praised for making smart blockbusters requiring audience concentration, and I’m sure that Tenet’s plot is watertight on paper (unlike, for example, The Big Sleep), but in this case the narrative feels too convoluted.

As in Nolan’s greatest films, Memento and Inception, time itself is a key element in Tenet’s non-linear plot. The central conceit here is ‘inversion’, a single-word concept like ‘inception’, and a motif from Memento’s opening sequence—a gun being fired in reverse—reappears in Tenet. (The ending borrows a time-travel plot device from The Terminator and a classic quote from Casablanca.)

Tenet is a James Bond movie in all but name, with sharp suits, exotic locations, and a cartoonish villain (“How would you like to die?”). The film features a series of inconsequential MacGuffins, including a nine-part algorithm with unfortunate echoes of the infinity stones from The Avengers. As always, Nolan uses practical special effects, though Tenet lacks the spectacle of Inception or Dunkirk: yes, he bought a 747, but the real plane crashes into a fake building.

Tenet (like several of Nolan’s previous films) was partially shot with IMAX cameras. It’s on theatrical release in multiple formats: IMAX 70mm and IMAX digital laser screenings are projected in the full 1.43:1 IMAX ratio, while IMAX xenon digital screenings are framed at 1.9:1. Non-IMAX 70mm and digital prints are 2.2:1, and 35mm prints are in the standard 2.39:1 widescreen format. The Paragon Cineplex IMAX cinema showed Tenet in IMAX 70mm for the first two days of its release, though the projector broke on the third day (29th August), and subsequent screenings have been digital.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Tears of the Black Tiger

Tears of the Black Tiger
Bangkok’s Alliance Française will screen the Thai New Wave classic Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร) on 9th September. The film was Wisit Sasanatieng’s directorial debut, and it became a cult classic due to its uniquely over-saturated colour palette, its ‘spaghetti western’ violence, and its lakorn-style melodrama. Tears of the Black Tiger has previously been shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017, TCDC in 2016, BACC in 2012, and the Thai Film Archive in 2009 and 2010.

Wisit’s other feature films are Citizen Dog (หมานคร), The Unseeable (เปนชู้กับผี), The Red Eagle (อินทรีแดง), and Senior (รุ่นพี่). He directed the music video เราเป็นคนไทย, the short film Norasinghavatar (นรสิงหาวตาร), and segments of the anthology films Sawasdee Bangkok (สวัสดีบางกอก) and Ten Years Thailand. He also wrote the treatment for Slice (เฉือน), and the screenplays for Nang Nak (นางนาก) and Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters [sic] (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง).

The Governance of China III

The Governance of China III
The Governance of China III is the third volume of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s collected speeches, featuring English translations of his official statements delivered between October 2017 and January 2020. Like the previous volumes, published in 2015 and 2017, the book is clearly a propaganda exercise, though it does at least provide a guide to China’s political direction.

Sales of six million were claimed for the first volume, which was published in nine languages. Volume two, published only in Chinese and English, apparently sold thirteen million copies. The true sales statistics are much more modest, however: less than a hundred copies of volume two were sold in the UK. The third volume has not been released there, presumably to avoid similarly embarrassing sales figures.

Volume three follows exactly the same format as its predecessors, and Xi’s remarks offer little commentary on the most significant issues of the day. For example, after the National People’s Congress removed the term limits on his presidency, Xi’s address to the Congress was a bland tribute to the “character and endowment of the Chinese people”. There is no reference to the Hong Kong protest movement, only a reminder that Hong Kong should “integrate into the overall development of the country, and share the glory of a strong and prosperous motherland.”

Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hebdo
The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has reprinted several Mohammed cartoons on the cover of this week’s issue. The magazine, published today, features the headline “TOUT ÇA POUR ÇA” (‘all that for this’), in reference to the terrorists who killed a dozen of its editorial staff in 2015.

The trial begins today of fourteen people charged with assisting the killers. The cartoons on today’s cover were first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, sparking worldwide protests. Charlie Hebdo’s first Mohammed cover, published in 2006, was one of many cartoons created in solidarity with Jyllands-Posten, published by magazines and newspapers including Weekendavisen, France Soir, The Guardian, Philadelphia Daily News, Liberation, Het Nieuwsblad, The Daily Tar Heel, Akron Beacon Journal, The Strand, Le Monde, Nana, Gorodskiye Vesti, Adresseavisen, Uke-Adressa, Harper’s, and the International Herald Tribune (in 2006 and 2012).

Charlie Hebdo subsequently published increasingly provocative Mohammed cartoons. Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after it released a special edition ‘guest-edited’ by Mohammed. In 2012, it depicted him naked on its back page. In 2013, it created a comic-strip biography titled La Vie de Mahomet, followed by a sequel and an expanded version. In 2014, a cover depicting Mohammed being beheaded led to the 2015 terrorist attack on its offices. A week after the killings, the magazine defiantly printed another Mohammed cover.

The documentaries Je suis Charlie, “C’est dur d’être aimé par des cons”, and the BBC’s Bloody Cartoons all discuss Charlie Hebdo and the Mohammed cartoons controversy. The magazine’s 2015 Mohammed cover was reprinted by various newspapers and magazines, and several of its Mohammed caricatures appear in the Japanese book Are You Charlie? (イスラム・ヘイトか、風刺か).

Sunday, 30 August 2020

Unmuted Project

Unmuted Project
Unmuted Project
Unmuted Project
Unmuted Project
Boundary
The Unmuted Project exhibition opened yesterday (monitored by a handful of police officers) at Angoon’s Garden in Bangkok. The exhibition is part of a wider pro-democracy movement, and includes pieces by 200 artists. Many of the artworks on show feature Bangkok’s Democracy Monument, alongside satirical portraits of junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha. At least one image directly criticises the monarchy, something that would once have been unthinkable.

Several of the works make reference to the 6th October 1976 massacre. A painting inspired by Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of the event is partially obscured by a banknote featuring Prayut’s face. In a sketch by Dipthroat, the ‘chair man’ in Ulevich’s photograph is replaced by Prayut wielding a lectern, with Future Forward founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit depicted as the victim.

Most of the featured artists are anonymous, though some of the works are familiar. An image from Chalermpol Junrayab’s The Amazing Thai-Land is included, as are Harit Srikhao’s The Coronation of Brukhonenko’s Dog (the first photograph from his Whitewash photobook) and Nathee Monthonwit’s digital print World of Wrestling (โลกมวยปล้ำ). The exhibition runs until 5th September, and ends with a screening of the documentary Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง).

Traces of Ratchadamnoen

Traces of Ratchadamnoen
Traces of Ratchadamnoen
Traces of Ratchadamnoen
The Traces of Ratchadamnoen (ล่องรอยราชดำเนิน) exhibition explores the cultural history of Ratchadamnoen Avenue, the grand boulevard at the heart of Bangkok’s political landscape. The interactive exhibition includes newspaper front pages from the 14th October 1973 pro-democracy protests at Democracy Monument, audio recorded at the Royal Hotel during the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre, and hand-clappers used by red-shirt protesters (who painted Democracy Monument in blood).

The exhibition opened at Museum Siam on 1st July, and closes today, though it will transfer to the new Bangkok City Library from 6th September to 31st October. A free exhibition booklet features a fifty-page, fully-illustrated history of Ratchadamnoen. The exhibition guest-book shows that Ratchadamnoen remains politically sensitive today: it includes entries that contravene Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, and it’s perhaps a sign of the times (following recent student protests) that visitors would write such comments despite the potential consequences.

audio

Friday, 28 August 2020

Do or Die

Do or Die
The Last Monument
Do or Die, Headache Stencil’s latest solo exhibition, opened at the FCCT in Bangkok on 31st July. (His previous exhibitions include Uncensored and Thailand Casino last year, and Propaganda Children’s Day earlier this year.) Do or Die was originally scheduled to close today, then extended until 18th September, though it will now close on 10th September. Some of the artworks were changed after the first few weeks, replaced with more directly satirical pieces.

The Last Monument is certainly the most provocative work on show: it depicts Bangkok’s iconic Democracy Monument, with the constitution replaced by a crown. This commentary on the power structures underlying Thai politics reminded me of the ending of the short film Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน): an artist unsuccessfully attempts to draw Democracy Monument, and tears up his sketch to reveal a drawing of a Rama V statue on the page beneath.

Other artists have also appropriated Democracy Monument. Tang Chang drew rifles that formed Calligrammes of the Monument, indicating the military’s involvement in Thai politics. Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s short film Karaoke: Think Kindly (คาราโอเกะ เพลงแผ่เมตตา) ends with a vintage photograph of the Monument under construction, symbolising Thailand’s incomplete transition to democracy. Citizen (ผู้อาศัย), a music video by Hockhacker (who was arrested this week after joining recent pro-democracy protests) shows the Monument on fire. In Thunska Pansittivorakul’s film Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), it appears upside down, a metaphor for the topsy-turvy state of Thai politics.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Medicines and Maladies

Medicines and Maladies
emetery of SplendourC
In September, the Thai Film Archive will host a month-long season of films about doctors and nurses, Medicines and Maladies (การแพทย์และโรคร้าย). The event offers a rare opportunity to see Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น) in Thailand. (It has been shown once before at the Archive, and Apichatpong held a private screening at a mobile cinema in Chiang Mai in 2018.)

Apichatpong did not submit the film to the Thai censors, and it has not been on general release here. When I interviewed him for my forthcoming book Thai Cinema Uncensored, he explained that, with the military still in power, a domestic release was too risky: “It’s a paranoid time. They’re willing to do a witch hunt, so I become paranoid of them in my own way, and I don’t want to risk it. As long as I manage to finish this film as I want, and show it, but not here.”

The film is so sensitive that Apichatpong removed one sequence from all DVD and blu-ray editions, just in case they found their way to Thailand. The scene in question shows a cinema audience standing as if paying respect to the royal anthem, though no music is heard. Apichatpong had planned to include the anthem in the scene, though he reconsidered after it was censored from another film: “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 [ซอยคาวบอย], this was cut out. Censored. So, I said, ‘It’s impossible anyway.’ So, just silence.”

Cemetery of Splendour will be shown at the Archive, on 4th and 18th September, in its uncut version. The screenings are free of charge.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Thai Film Archive

Thai Film Archive
Jaws
The Housemaid
The Graduate
Black Silk
This year’s World Class Cinema (ทึ่ง! หนังโลก) season has been on hiatus for a few months, not only because of the coronavirus pandemic but also due to the closure of the Scala cinema. Fortunately, one of the season’s highlights, The Housemaid (하녀), will be shown instead at the Thai Film Archive on 29th August. This South Korean classic (originally scheduled for 16th August) will play in a double bill with Parasite (기생충), which is screening in a director-approved black-and-white version. (The Housemaid is also showing at the House Samyan cinema in Bangkok, on 30th August.) Next month, the World Class Cinema season continues with The Graduate, originally scheduled for 19th April at Scala, now showing at the Archive on 19th and 27th September.

In October, the Archive will show The Hero Never Dies, a month-long season of films to commemorate fifty years since the death of Mitr Chaibancha. (In his book A Century of Thai Cinema, Archive founder Dome Sukwong describes Mitr as “the greatest star in the history of Thai films”. Cultures at War includes an extended political analysis of Mitr’s films, and his most iconic role—the Red Eagle action hero—was remade by Wisit Sasanatieng in 2010.)

There will also be several screenings of one of Thailand’s greatest classics, Rattana Pestonji’s Black Silk (แพรดำ). At a time when most Thai films were dubbed 16mm quickies—a mode of production initiated by the commercial success of Criminal Without Sin (สุภาพบุรุษเสือไทย)—the film noir thriller Black Silk was shot on 35mm with synchronised sound. It was also Thailand’s first CinemaScope production. A new 4k restoration of Black Silk will be shown on 4th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, and 18th October. All film screenings at the Archive are free of charge.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Give Us a Little More Time

Give Us a Little More Time
Give Us a Little More Time
Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s exhibition and video installation Give Us a Little More Time (ขอเวลาอีกไม่นาน) closed earlier this month, though the exhibition catalogue is now available from Bangkok CityCity Gallery. The six loose-leaf volumes are housed in a slipcase, published in an edition of thirty signed and numbered copies (mine being no. 2).

Chulayarnnon used newspaper clippings to produce a satirical A4 collage every day from the 22nd May 2014 coup until the 24th March 2019 election, creating a daily critique of mainstream media coverage of the junta. Only ten of these were on display at the exhibition, though the catalogue serves as an archive of all 1,768 collages.

Levitating

Levitating
The Dua Lipa song Levitating has been remixed by The Blessed Madonna (DJ Marea Stamper’s stage name), and features guest vocals by Madonna and Missy Elliot. The remix was released earlier this month as a one-sided 12” single on The Blessed Madonna’s record label, We Still Believe. It also appears on Dua Lipa’s digital remix album Club Future Nostalgia.

Madonna and Missy Elliott previously collaborated on Into the Hollywood Groove, recorded for clothing store Gap. (While Madonna sang excerpts from her singles Hollywood and Into the Groove, Elliott was reduced to rapping about how much she loved her Gap jeans.) They also performed together at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards.

Saturday, 22 August 2020

เพลง ธงชาติ

This morning, the Thai government’s Public Relations Department (PRD) removed a music video from its YouTube channel, only a few hours after posting it. The video had received overwhelmingly negative feedback, not only for its divisive content but also because it was produced with public funds.

The video was reminiscent of the clips played on television to accompany the national anthem: beatific images of soldiers, monks, and farmers. Such imagery has been a mainstay of state broadcasting for decades, reinforcing the traditional royalist-nationalist ideology of ‘nation, religion, king’. The PRD’s video also featured an overtly patriotic song on its soundtrack: เพลง ธงชาติ (‘song of the national flag’), sung by the Wattana Little Angels children’s choir. (The recording is from a 2012 PBS TV performance, and the choir was misnamed “Little Angles” [sic] by the PRD.)

The backlash against the video was sparked by a line from the song, “นานแค่ไหนที่เหมือนคนไทยลืมรักชาติ” (‘for how long have Thai people forgotten to love their country?’), accompanied by footage of recent anti-government protests at Thammast University and Bangok’s Democracy Monument. This juxtaposition vilified the protesting students as unpatriotic, in an attempt to undermine public support for their pro-democracy campaign.

The Thai military has a long history of demonising citizens who oppose its political influence. In 1976, military radio stations broadcast the propaganda song หนักแผ่นดิน (‘scum of the earth’), labelling students as traitors and provoking the 6th October massacre of Thammasat students by right-wing militia groups. In 2010, pro-democracy ‘red-shirt’ protesters were branded terrorists to justify the massacre at Ratchaprasong.

Monday, 17 August 2020

The Kingmaker

The Kingmaker
Silom Complex
Two screenings of the American documentary film The Kingmaker, about the life of Imelda Marcos, have been cancelled in southern Thailand after pressure from local authorities. The film was due to be shown on 14th August at the A.E.Y. Space gallery in Songkla, and on 19th August at Lorem Ipsum, a co-working space in Hat Yai. Both are small venues, with seating capacities of only thirty and twenty people, respectively.

Contrary to reports in the Bangkok Post newspaper and elsewhere, the film (directed by Lauren Greenfield and released last year) has not been banned in Thailand. In fact, it was passed uncut by the censors, and is currently showing at cinemas in Bangkok without incident. The ‘ban’ is similar to that of By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) and Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), both of which were also subject to arbitrary local censorship: a Bangkok screening of By the Time It Gets Dark was stopped by police in 2017, and the military government prevented a Chonburi university screening of Boundary in 2015.

In the case of The Kingmaker, the authorities’ overzealous attitude highlights the state’s unease over recent anti-government protests. Several thousand students attended a rally at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument on 18th July organised by Free Youth, and more than 10,000 people rallied there yesterday. At a Thammasat University protest on 10th August organised by United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, student Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul read out a ten-point manifesto calling for greater oversight of the monarchy.

This unprecedented public questioning of the monarchy’s role broke a long-standing taboo in Thai society, leading the authorities to clamp down on potentially inflammatory material, in this case The Kingmaker’s title and poster. The screenings were scheduled for a few days after Thai Mother’s Day (12th August), which is celebrated on Queen Sirikit the Queen Mother’s birthday, and the poster does bear some similarities to one of her official portraits. These are mere coincidences, however, and the authorities’ paranoid reaction has turned what would have been a tiny event into an international headline.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Radflection

Thesis Exhibition 2020
Radflection
Radflection, a short documentary about Rap Against Dictatorship, was shown yesterday at Lido Connect in Bangkok, as part of Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology Thesis Exhibition 2020. The event, titled สุดขอบคุณ (‘thank you’), continues today.

Rap Against Dictatorship’s anthemic single and music video Which Is My Country (ประเทศกูมี) perfectly encapsulated the frustrations of anti-military protesters. Radflection, directed by Patchamon Khemthong, also includes an interview with Neti Wichiansaen, director of the controversial documentary Democracy After Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย).

“They were very abusive...”

Jeremy Corbyn, former leader of the opposition Labour Party in the UK, is being sued for libel by pro-Israel activist Richard Millett, after comments Corbyn made in a BBC1 interview with Andrew Marr. Millett had attended a parliamentary meeting of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on 15th January 2013—organised by Corbyn—at which Palestine’s ambassador to the UK, Manuel Hassassian, was a guest speaker.

In the interview on The Andrew Marr Show, broadcast on 23rd September 2018, Corbyn accused two attendees of disrupting the PSC meeting: “The two people I referred to had been incredibly disruptive. Indeed, the police wanted to throw them out of the meeting.” Corbyn also claimed that they had accosted Hassassian after his speech: “They were very, very abusive to Manuel. Very abusive.”

On 10th July, a judge determined that Corbyn was “clearly making factual allegations” rather than expressing an opinion. Although Corbyn did not refer to Millett by name, the judge noted that Millett had been named in the media before the interview. The case will now go to trial later this year.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Bangkok Screening Room

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Blue Velvet
Rashomon
Bangkok Screening Room will bring three very different classics back to the big screen this September. The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc), Blue Velvet, and Rashomon (羅生門) will be shown on 3rd, 5th, 6th, 12th, and 13th September. The Passion of Joan of Arc is billed with Rashomon on 15th September, and with Blue Velvet on 10th and 19th September. Blue Velvet and Rashomon are also showing on 9th and 20th September. There are also screenings of The Passion of Joan of Arc on 1st, Blue Velvet on 8th, and Rashomon on 16th September.

The silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc has been shown several times before in Bangkok: an open-air screening in 2018 at Bangkok Underground Cinema, a gala Silent Film Festival screening at Scala, at Jam Ciné Club, and a 2012 Design Nation open-air screening. Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Rashomon was shown at Jam Ciné Club in 2015, and at the Kurosawa 100 Years Retrospective in 2010.

Friday, 31 July 2020

The Essentials (volume 2)

The Essentials 2
Jeremy Arnold’s book The Essentials, a guide to fifty-two classic films, was published in 2016. The second volume (52 More Must-See Movies and Why They Matter) will be released later this year. Volume two features another fifty-two classics; as in volume one, the films are listed chronologically, and there are no entries from the last thirty years.

The book rectifies some of the first volume’s significant omissions, with entries for Psycho and 2001. On the other hand, the list is too heavily skewed towards 1930s Hollywood and, from that period, relatively minor screwball comedies (Twentieth Century and Ball of Fire) are included whereas screwball classics (Bringing up Baby and His Girl Friday) are missing.

The 52 More Must-See Movies are as follows:
  • Sunrise
  • Steamboat Bill Jr
  • Freaks
  • Gold Diggers of 1933
  • Twentieth Century
  • Top Hat
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • Dodsworth
  • The Awful Truth
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Stagecoach
  • The Women
  • The Great Dictator
  • The Philadelphia Story
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Ball of Fire
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy
  • Cat People
  • Laura
  • Mildred Pierce
  • Brief Encounter
  • Notorious
  • The Ghost and Mrs Muir
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • Rashomon
  • A Place in the Sun
  • An American in Paris
  • The Quiet Man
  • High Noon
  • Kiss Me Deadly
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • Pather Panchali
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • A Face in the Crowd
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Vertigo
  • Pillow Talk
  • The Apartment
  • Psycho
  • Ride the High Country
  • The Battle of Algiers
  • The Producers
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Sting
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Harlan County, USA
  • Network
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Field of Dreams

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Absolute Coup

Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Absolute Coup
Artist and musician Pisitakun Kuntalaeng’s new album Absolute Coup, released today, features seven tracks, named after seven sectors of society that, according to Pisitakun, created the conditions for Thailand’s many coups. The album is available on a gold-coloured, bullet-shaped USB drive (limited to fifty copies), symbolising the Thai military’s vast wealth and lethal force. It’s also available on cassette (limited to eighty copies).

The album’s first three tracks are also the most controversial: MoMoNarNar!!Chy, ArArMyMy, and ConConStituStitutionalCourt. (Disregard the repeated syllables, and the subjects become clear.) There are laws protecting each of these institutions from criticism in Thailand (namely lèse-majesté, article 44, and contempt of court), so Pisitakun is walking a legal tightrope.

MoMoNarNar!!Chy (and the album itself) begins with the Thai royal anthem played on a traditional phin (a type of lute), in a rare (and perhaps unique) appropriation of the anthem. ArArMyMy features samples of a speech by junta leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, and a roll call of cadets such as Phakhapong Tanyakan who died during military training. The album also comes with seven highly provocative stickers, based on paintings by Pisitakun, representing the subjects of the seven tracks as bug-eyed monsters.

Pisitakun’s work is currently on show at WTF Gallery as part of the group exhibition Conflicted Visions Again. His 10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic] box set (limited to fifty copies, available at WTF) commemorates the tenth anniversary of the military massacre of ‘redshirt’ protesters in 2010. The first issue of his Risographed comic zine Future of Cunt (limited to thirty copies) is available at another Bangkok gallery, Speedy Grandma.

Monday, 27 July 2020

The Making of Alien

J.W. Rinzler has written quite a few books on the making of (mostly science-fiction) New Hollywood blockbusters, including The Making of Alien, which was published last year. Like Rinzler’s previous books (and, presumably, his forthcoming work on The Shining), The Making of Alien is an exhaustive scene-by-scene account of the film’s production.

There have been several previous books on the making of Alien, though Rinzler’s is easily the most comprehensive, with hundreds more images (including many concept sketches by director Ridley Scott, shaped like CRT screens and known as ‘Ridleygrams’). Unlike other books on the film, The Making of Alien also includes an interview with Scott, who “kindly took a couple of hours to talk about long-ago experiences making Alien”.

Although commissioned by the studio (20th Century Fox) to celebrate the film’s fortieth anniversary, the book doesn’t shy away from the production’s numerous creative and budgetary disagreements. A brief epilogue covers the Alien ‘quadrilogy’, though not Scott’s prequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Wat Nong Tao

Wat Nong Tao hit the headlines last month when it was ordered to remove an image of a transgender celebrity from one of its murals. The temple refused to comply, and the mural remains unaltered, though another painting at the same temple has been censored.

Images of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwan, were removed from a mural at the temple on 3rd June, following a visit from the Department of Provincial Administration. Prawit was depicted with multiple watches on his wrist, in reference to his infamous (and suspicious) possession of numerous luxury watches.

Monday, 13 July 2020

Fitzcarraldo

Fitzcarraldo
Last month, Bangkok Screening Room showed Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes), and next month they’re screening another Herzog epic, Fitzcarraldo. (Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams documents the making of the film, on location in the Peruvian jungle.) Fitzcarraldo will be shown on 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 19th, 22nd, and 23rd August.

Saturday, 11 July 2020

10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown

10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown
10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown
10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown
For the current Conflicted Visions Again exhibition, Pisitakun Kuantalaeng created a series of posters and stickers to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the military massacre of ‘redshirt’ protesters in 2010. The twenty posters show maps of the protest sites, with markers to indicate the spots at which individual protesters were killed. Pisitakun also drew portraits of each victim, on sixty-three stickers. The project focuses on the last week of the crackdown, from 13th to 19th May 2010. (Tawan Wattuya painted portraits of protesters killed in April 2010.)

Pisitakun’s posters and stickers are available as a box set, limited to fifty signed and numbered copies (mine being no. 2). The set, 10 Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic], also includes a sticker album and a certificate of authenticity. Pisitakun is also a musician, and his provocative new album Absolute Coup will be released (with more stickers) at the end of this month, as a limited edition cassette and bullet-shaped flash drive.