Friday, 19 April 2019

Madame X

Madame X
Madame X
Madame X
Madame X, Madonna's fourteenth studio album, will be released on 14th June, more than four years after Rebel Heart. The album's lead single, Medellín, was released digitally this week, and its promo video will premiere on MTV on 24th April. (The Madame X persona recalls the Mistress Dita character Madonna adopted for Erotica.)

The MTV premiere is a throwback to the 1980s and 1990s, when music videos were a staple of MTV's schedule and each new Madonna video was a major event. Madame X also taps into this sense of nostalgia, as the album will be released on a variety of physical formats: vinyl, CD, and cassette. There will even be a 7" single, I Rise, as part of a deluxe box set.

As with Rebel Heart, there are multiple versions of the album, each with different track listings. The standard digital and CD releases have thirteen tracks: Medellín (a duet with Maluma), Dark Ballet, God Control, Future (featuring Quavo), Batuka, Killers Who Are Partying, Crave (featuring Swae Lee), Crazy, Come Alive, Faz Gostoso (featuring Anitta), Bitch I'm Loca (featuring Maluma, and recalling Rebel Heart's Bitch I'm Madonna), I Don't Search I Find, and I Rise. The vinyl and cassette editions feature two additional tracks: Extreme Occident and Looking for Mercy. A double CD edition includes a further three bonus tracks: Funaná, Back That Up to the Beat, and Ciao Bella.

There are also three different album covers (again, as was the case with Rebel Heart). The most striking cover shows the album title sewn onto Madonna's lips, perhaps a reference to her mother's death. (The promo video for Oh Father dramatises a flashback to her mother's open-casket funeral, showing her mouth sewn shut.) This cover, which also evokes Frida Kahlo's self-portraits, features on the vinyl, cassette, and standard CD editions. On the double CD cover, Madonna poses with a guitar. The box set cover shows her with plaited blonde hair.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

"I consider the allegation...
implausible and improbable"

The Daily Telegraph
Geoffrey Rush has won his libel case against The Daily Telegraph, and has been awarded $850,000 in damages. The newspaper, published in Sydney, alleged in 2017 that Rush had been accused of "inappropriate behaviour" by a colleague at the Sydney Theatre Company. Rush's accuser was Eryn Jean Norvill, who appeared with him in a production of King Lear; she alleged that he had groped her during a preview performance.

In a written judgement issued on 11th April, Justice Michael Wigney concluded that Norvill's claims were baseless, and that Rush was beyond reproach: "I consider the allegation and Ms Novill's [sic.] evidence concerning it to be somewhat implausible and improbable. Mr Rush was a dedicated actor and consummate professional." (The judgement begins, somewhat pretentiously, by quoting several lines from the play.)

Friday, 5 April 2019

Bangkok Joyride IV

Bangkok Joyride IV
Ing Kanjananvanit's epic documentary Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์) continues with its fourth instalment, Becoming One (เป็นหนึ่งเดียว), playing now at Cinema Oasis in Bangkok. The series, shot on Ing's iPhone, is an exhaustive record of the PDRC campaign against Yingluck Shinawatra. In part four, a protester claims that Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, is "worse than Hitler", echoing an equally hyperbolic quote from Ing's earlier documentary, Citizen Juling: "We talk of Hitler... But villagers, all citizens nowadays fear PM Thaksin 10 times more."

Bangkok Joyride covered the early stages of the PDRC's campaign in parts one and two, How We Became Superheroes (เมื่อเราเป็นยอดมนุษย์) and Shutdown Bangkok (ชัตดาวน์ประเทศไทย). Part three, Singing at Funerals (เพลงแห่ศพ), covered the buildup to the 2014 election. Part four covers the protests from 26th January to 8th February 2014, including the 2nd February election.

The PDRC sabotaged the election, blockading polling stations to prevent voting. (It was ultimately invalidated, and the military launched a coup before another poll could take place.) Despite this, Bangkok Joyride celebrates the protesters, and in parts three and four Ing herself appears on stage at PDRC rallies. She can also be heard from behind the camera, wishing the protesters luck; in part four, she tells a demonstrator: "We fight the exact same battle."

In part three, Ing accused the mainstream Western media of pro-Thaksin bias, and this conspiracy theory is expanded in part four when she harangues the BBC's Bangkok correspondent, Jonathan Head: "How do you sleep at night, Mr Head?" Bangkok Joyride's fetishisation of national symbols also continues in part four: protesters are filmed while standing for the national anthem, not once but five times.

Part five, Dancing with Death (รำวงพญายม), will be released later this year. Meanwhile, Neti Wichiansaen's documentary Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย), which highlights the PDRC's anti-democratic agenda, provides an effective counterpoint to Bangkok Joyride. The short films This Film Has Been Invalid [sic.], Auntie Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้), Shut Sound, Myth of Modernity, and Here Comes the Democrat Party (ประชาธิปัตย์มาแล้ว) also include footage of PDRC demonstrations.

Monday, 1 April 2019

"We apologise to Mr Poroshenko
for any distress caused..."

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has received a financial settlement from the BBC, after he sued the broadcaster for defamation. In a report by Paul Wood broadcast on 23rd May 2018, BBC News alleged that Poroshenko had paid Michael Cohen $400,000 to secure a meeting with Donald Trump in 2017. (At the time, Cohen was Trump's personal lawyer, though he has since been convicted of election campaign violations and other offences.) In a statement, the BBC said: "We apologise to Mr Poroshenko for any distress caused and have agreed to pay him damages".

Psycho Legacy Collection
Deluxe Edition

The Psycho Legacy Collection Deluxe Edition was released in Germany earlier this year. It includes an uncut version of Psycho that has been broadcast on television in Europe but has never previously been available on any video format.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Once Upon a Time in the West

Once Upon a Time in the West
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone's epic Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il west) will be screened at Smalls, the Bangkok bar, on 24th March. The rooftop screening is free of charge.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

History of Illustration

History of Illustration
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
The Great Wave
The Plumb-pudding in Danger
La Loie Fuller
Action Comics
History of Illustration, edited by Susan Doyle, is the first comprehensive study of illustration from antiquity to the present day. It's also the first global history of illustration, with chapters on Indian, Chinese, Latin American, African, and Islamic illustration in addition to more familiar Western and Japanese material.

The book is structured chronologically, though it also follows three additional narratives: geographical (histories of illustration in each continent), thematic (chapters on the illustration of anatomy, fashion, and propaganda), and technical (essays on developments in printing). The bibliography includes annotated entries on comic illustration, and there are more than 900 images. The definitive history of illustration, this is a unique guide to more than 1,000 years of visual culture.

History of Illustration is a broad overview of the entire subject, though individual forms of illustration have also been comprehensively surveyed. Essential books on each field include: History of Graphic Design, by Philip B. Meggs; A History of Book Illustration, by David Bland, The Poster: A Worldwide Survey and History, by Alain Weill; The Art of the Print: Masterpieces, History, Techniques, by Fritz Eichenberg; A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, by Christopher de Hamel; and The World Encyclopedia of Comics, by Maurice Horn.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019


Double Life
The Undercover
The Bad Monks
Moral Boundary
Atta (อัตตา) opened at RCB Galleria in Bangkok on 2nd March, and runs until the end of the month. The exhibition features new works by Anupong Chantorn, whose painting Perceptless (ภิกษุสันดานกา) attracted controversy for its depiction of monks as scavenging birds. His solo exhibition Hope in the Dark (ความหวังในความมืด) included Moral Boundary (ชาย-ผ้าเหลือง), a painting of a monk with an erection.

Atta includes a less graphic study for Moral Boundary (ชาย-ผ้าเหลือง), and two preparatory sketches for Perceptless: สันดานกา ('native') and The Bad Monks (ภิกษุสันดานกา). There are also several new paintings, including Double Life (คู่จิ้นจีวรหลุด) and The Undercover (ใต้ผ้ากาสาวพัสตร์). Double Life depicts two monks in an embrace, and The Undercover is a portrait of a monk exposing himself; both were painted directly onto saffron robes. The folio-sized exhibition catalogue was edited by Wanida Rujikietkumjorn.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard
Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder's masterpiece Sunset Boulevard will be shown on 17th March at Smalls, the Bangkok bar. The rooftop screening is free of charge.

"The act is deemed hostile to
the constitutional monarchy..."

Thai Raksa Chart
On 7th March, as widely predicted, the Constitutional Court voted to dissolve the Thai Raksa Chart party and ban its executives from political office for ten years. The party had caused a sensation on 8th February by nominating Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister in the election to be held on 24th March. The nomination was followed by another unprecedented bombshell later that day, when King Rama X issued a statement condemning his elder sister's involvement in politics. On 13th February, the Election Commission ruled that the nomination was invalid, and recommended the party's dissolution to the Constitutional Court.

In the Court's verdict, announced on live television, judge Taweekiat Meenakanit severely criticised Ubolratana's nomination: "The act is deemed hostile to the constitutional monarchy." He also described it as a "devious scheme". Thai Raksa Chart is the third party affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra to be disbanded by the Constitutional Court, after Thai Rak Thai in 2006 and the People Power Party in 2008.


ความจริงวันนั้น ('the truth about that day'), compiled by the Daily World Today (โลกวันนี้) newspaper, was published in 2010. It includes articles and colour photographs documenting the 2010 red-shirt protests and massacre in Bangkok. The book also includes a VCD, ความจริงประเทศไทย ('the truth about Thailand'). Images of the protests also appear in 19-19.


สมุดภาพแห่งความทรงจำ จารึกประวัติศาสตร์ ๑๔ ตุลา ในวาระครบร ๓๖ ปี ๑๔ ตุลา ('photobook of memories thirty-six years after 14th October') was published in 2009. The book includes more than 1,000 images (including newspaper front pages), providing a comprehensive visual archive of the 14th October 1973 demonstration and massacre in Bangkok. It also includes บันทึกไว้ในประวัติศาสตร์ ('recorded in history'), a CD with five songs inspired by the event, which was first released as a 7" EP in 1973.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post
Last week, Johnny Depp filed a defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife, Amber Heard. Depp is seeking $50m in damages for an op-ed Heard wrote in The Washington Post on 19th December last year, headlined "A transformative moment for women". In the article, published on page A21, Heard referred to her own experience as an abuse victim: "two years ago, I became a public figure representing domestic abuse," though she did not name Depp directly.


Saturday, 9 March 2019


Roman Polanski's neo-noir masterpiece Chinatown will be shown tomorrow night at the Bangkok bar Smalls. The rooftop screening is free of charge.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Thailand Casino

Thailand Casino
Y Card
Beautiful 6th Oct
Anonymous street artist Headache Stencil's exhibition Thailand Casino opened on 24th February at WTF Gallery, and runs until 31st March. It includes Beautiful 6th Oct, a stencil of the vigilante from Neal Ulevich's famous photograph showing the lynching of a student on 6th October 1976. Most provocatively, "Y" Card depicts the king of spades playing card with the face of coup leader and current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.

The exhibition's centrepiece is an installation featuring busts of Prayuth and former PM Thaksin Shinawatra playing a high-stakes poker game for the future of Thailand. The installation is replete with symbolic references to the country's political, royal, and military power structures. Prayuth is concealing the four of clubs and four of spades, a reference to his unlimited authority under article 44. The cards on the table include the nine of clubs (Rama IX) and ten of hearts (Rama X).

Behind Thaksin's bust is 8th Feb '19, a calendar marking the extraordinary day when one of Thaksin's proxy parties nominated Prince Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister in the upcoming election. Prayuth's backdrop is a map of Thailand featuring the word โกง ('cheat'). Merchandise on sale at the gallery includes the election campaign slogan "STOP DICTATORSHIP", though as the exhibition makes clear, the game is rigged: while Thaksin has more chips (indicating his personal wealth), Prayuth has numerous hidden cards.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

"contemptuous by reason of
it scandalising the Court..."

Herald Sun
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the state of Victoria, Australia, has written to dozens of journalists, accusing them of contempt of court in relation to the trial of George Pell, a former Catholic archbishop accused of child abuse. Pell was convicted of five counts on 11th December last year, though the guilty verdict could not be reported by Australian media due to a gagging order imposed to prevent coverage potentially prejudicing a subsequent trial.

The reporting restrictions effectively amounted to a superinjunction, as even the existence of the gagging order could not be reported. On the day after Pell's conviction, the Sun Herald newspaper ran the banner headline "CENSORED" on its front page, describing the case in general terms as "a very important story that is relevant to Victorians." Similarly, other news outlets referred to the conviction of a high-profile figure on unspecified charges.

The restrictions were lifted yesterday, after Pell's second trial was dismissed, though DPP Kerri Judd warned journalists that they faced "substantial imprisonment" for contempt. In letters to individual reporters, she claimed that indirect coverage of the case had "a definite and real tendency to interfere with the administration of justice and therefore constitutes sub judice contempt, is contemptuous by reason of it scandalising the Court, and aided and abetted contempts by overseas media".

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Wonder Women

Wonder Women
By the Time It Gets Dark
The Island Funeral
To celebrate International Women's Day on 8th March, the Thai Film Archive will be showing a month of movies from female directors. The Wonder Women (เมื่อผู้หญิงทำหนัง) season's highlights are the first and last days' screenings: Kanittha Kwunyoo's Karma (อาบัติ) on 1st March, and Anocha Suwichakornpong's By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) and Pimpaka Towira's The Island Funeral (มหาสมุทรและสุสาน) on 31st March. All screenings are free.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Clouzot Retrospective

Clouzot Retrospective
The Mystery of Picasso
The Wages of Fear
Several venues have teamed up to organise a season of films directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot. The Clouzot Retrospective begins on 5th March and runs until 17th March, and includes his documentary The Mystery of Picasso (Le mystère Picasso), his suspense thriller The Wages of Fear (Le salaire de la peur), and his horror classic Diabolique (Les diaboliques).

The Mystery of Picasso will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 10th March. Warehouse 30's Doc Club Theater will screen it on 8th, 10th, 14th, 16th, 19th, 22nd, 25th, 29th, and 31st March; and 1st, 5th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, and 25th April. (It played last week at Smalls, and in 2013 at TCDC.) The Wages of Fear will be screened on 9th March at two venues: the Thai Film Archive and Cinema Oasis. (It was also shown at the Archive last year, and at Alliance Française in 2017.) Diabolique is at the Thai Film Archive on 10th March and at Bangkok Screening Room on 13th March. (It was screened at Alliance Française last year.)

Tuesday, 19 February 2019


The Nation
Yesterday, army chief General Apirat Kongsompong invoked arguably the darkest period in Thailand's history when he recommended a song associated with violence and intolerance. At a press conference, Apirat was asked to comment on the Pheu Thai party's manifesto pledge to reduce military spending after the 24th March election. In response, he said that they should listen to หนักแผ่นดิน ['burden of the land']. He then issued an order for military radio stations to play the song, though the directive was rescinded shortly afterwards.

หนักแผ่นดิน, composed by Boonsong Hakritsuk in 1975, denounces anyone not affirming their loyalty to the nation, religion, and monarchy as traitorous 'scum of the earth'. The ultranationalist song fomented anti-Communist violence when it was repeatedly broadcast in the days before 6th October 1976. It was the anthem of the Village Scouts, a paramilitary group that stormed Thammasat University on 6th October. Forty-six students were killed by paramilitary and state forces, and their corpses were desecrated by a baying mob.

The song was also the theme tune to a film of the same name, directed by Sombat Methanee in 1977. The Village Scouts are the heroes in this anti-Communist propaganda movie. (Rachel V. Harrison discusses this and similar films in a chapter of Cultures at War.) Apirat's invocation of หนักแผ่นดิน despite (or because of) its incendiary legacy sends a disturbing signal that the army has barely changed in the past forty years. (Apirat's father, General Sunthorn, led the coup that resulted in the 1992 'Black May' massacre. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.)

Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล) examines the nationalist fervour stoked by state propaganda such as หนักแผ่นดิน. In one sequence, filmed at a recent Village Scout ceremony, the Scouts all pledge to defend the monarchy. Cut to: historical footage of Village Scouts attacking the students on 6th October. In 'Planetarium', Chulayarnnon Siriphol's segment of Ten Years Thailand, a fictional leader and her minions all wear Scout uniforms, in an echo of the Village Scouts: in Chulayarnnon's dystopian vision, the entire country has been taken over by this royalist militia.

Apirat's resurrection of such a divisive song has overshadowed the issue of military spending that Pheu Thai highlighted. As The Nation reveals today, the military's budget has increased by almost a quarter since the 2014 coup. Much of this money has been spent on sophisticated equipment that is entirely redundant, as the Thai army's primary specialisms seem to be massacring Thai civilians and launching coups. (Paul Chambers and Napisa Waitoolkiat discuss military expenditure and corruption in Khaki Capital.)

"Such action must be
deemed transgression..."

8th February was one of the most extraordinary days in Thailand's political history. That morning, in the first of the day's unprecedented developments, the Thai Raksa Chart party formally nominated Princess Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister ahead of the 24th March election.

The nomination caused an immediate sensation, as it indicated an apparent deal between Ubolratana (and, by extension, the royal family) and Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin is loathed by Thai royalists, and Ubolratana's association with Thai Raksa Chart, a party linked to Thaksin, caused profound shock. Prime Minister and coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha had long been expected to contest the election himself, and Ubolratana's nomination immediately put his political ambitions in doubt.

The junta's constitution allows the military to appoint all 250 members of the Senate, gives senators the right to vote for the prime minister, and permits a non-politician (namely, Prayuth) to be PM. With 250 votes from the Senate, Prayuth would require only 126 additional votes from the 500 elected MPs. The constitution also introduced a proportional representation system, seemingly designed to prevent a single party (namely, Thaksin's Pheu Thai) from achieving a landslide.

Parties controlled by Thaksin have won every election since 2001. The 2006 and 2014 coups were both launched with the express purpose of eradicating his influence, though Pheu Thai remains one of the main contenders in the upcoming election. Thai Raksa Chart, led by former Pheu Thai politicians backed by Thaksin, was created as part of a pincer movement: a potential Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart coalition that could subvert the constitution's restrictions on an absolute Pheu Thai majority.

Even if Thaksin's strategy succeeded, the Senate votes would almost certainly ensure that Prayuth remained PM. Hence the remarkable nomination of Princess Ubolratana: Thaksin recognised that only a royal nominee could defeat Prayuth. (Ubolratana is not technically a member of the royal family, as she became a commoner in 1972 in order to marry an American. After their divorce, she resumed her royal engagements, albeit without a formal title.)

At first, the bombshell announcement seemed like a masterstroke. However, by the evening, it looked more like an act of desperation. King Vajiralongkorn, Ubolratana's brother, issued a written statement confirming his unequivocal disapproval of her nomination: "Any attempt to involve a high-level member of the Royal Family in the political process - by whatever means, would be tantamount to breaching time-honoured royal traditions, customs and national culture. Such action must be deemed transgression and most inappropriate."

The King's intervention was as unprecedented and unexpected as Ubolratana's. In addition to instantly terminating the nomination, it publicly signalled that Thaksin remained persona non grata. (The statement also noted that legal immunity, constitutionally granted only to the King, could be extended at his discretion: "Such provisions should no doubt apply to the Queen, the heir to the throne, and those members of the Royal Family close to the person of the Monarch".)

Following the King's statement, the Election Commission recommended that the Constitutional Court dissolve Thai Raksa Chart. The Court is currently considering the case, though it has previously dissolved two other parties run by Thaksin (Thai Rak Thai and the People Power Party).

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

The Mystery of Picasso

The Mystery of Picasso
The Mystery of Picasso
Henri-Georges Clouzot's documentary The Mystery of Picasso (Le mystère Picasso) will be shown on 17th February at Smalls. The screening, on the rooftop of the Bangkok bar, is free of charge. The documentary was previously shown at TCDC, and Clouzot also directed the classic suspense thriller Les diaboliques.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

World Class Cinema

World Class Cinema
The Seventh Seal
The Thai Film Archive's World Class Cinema season continues this year with Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) on 17th March. As in 2017 and 2018, screenings will take place at Bangkok's Scala cinema.

Monday, 4 February 2019

BKKSR Cinémathèque

The 400 Blows
This week, Bangkok Screening Room is launching BKKSR Cinémathèque, a monthly programme of classic French films. The inaugural film is François Truffaut's The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups), showing on 7th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 16th, and 17th February.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

"The secret life of Melania..."

The Telegraph Magazine
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph has paid "substantial damages" to Melania Trump in settlement of a defamation lawsuit filed by the First Lady last week. The newspaper printed a correction on 26th January (on page two), apologising for "a number of false statements which we accept should not have been published."

The lawsuit relates to the cover story from The Telegraph Magazine, published on 19th January. The article, by Nina Burleigh, appeared on pages fourteen to twenty, and was based on her book Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump's Women, which was released in the US last year. (The book's publishers avoided a lawsuit, as American libel law requires proof of 'actual malice', a high bar intended to protect freedom of speech.)

The article was reprinted by the Irish Sunday Independent on 20th January, on page twenty. It has since been deleted from the Telegraph and Independent's websites, and is "suppressed for editorial and/or legal reasons" on the PressReader digital archive.

Ironically, following the Telegraph's retraction, Burleigh has also filed a defamation case against the newspaper, claiming that its apology damaged her journalistic reputation. Yesterday, in a letter to the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), her lawyer argued that "fear of Mrs Trump's lawyer Mr Harder, "the Gawker slayer", caused TMG to capitulate abjectly". This is a reference to Charles Harder, who represented Hulk Hogan in a privacy lawsuit that bankrupted the Gawker website. Harder also won $3 million in damages from the Daily Mail in a previous Melania Trump defamation case.