Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Echoes of French Cinema

By The Time It Gets Dark
Anocha Suwichakornpong, director of Mundane History, will introduce a double-bill of films at Bangkok's Alliance Francaise on 30th August. The event, Echoes of French Cinema, begins with Jacques Rivette's film Celine & Julie Go Boating, followed by Anocha's latest film, By The Time It Gets Dark.

This will be the third recent double-bill featuring By The Time It Gets Dark. It was shown alongside Respectfully Yours last month in Chiang Mai, and it will be screened with Motel Mist this weekend in Korat.

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.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Hollywood Movie Stills

Hollywood Movie Stills
Hollywood Movie Stills: Art & Technique In The Golden Age Of The Studios, by Joel W Finler, is "the first ever attempt to explore the role of the movie stills photographer in all its different guises." It covers the history of publicity stills from the beginning of the American studio system until the early 1970s, with chapters on star portraits, film stills, and behind-the-scenes photography. The dust jacket accurately describes it as "the most detailed and perceptive study ever devoted to this neglected aspect of film-making."

The book's black-and-white photographs include some rare images, such as Marlon Brando recreating a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire with a stand-in for Kim Hunter, alongside classic stills from Casablanca, Citizen Kane, and The Seven Year Itch. The A-Z appendix is brief and superfluous, though the bibliography has been expanded from previous editions.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Rebel Heart Tour

Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour will be released on video and CD next month. The concert, promoting her Rebel Heart album, was broadcast on Showtime last December.

The DVD and blu-ray versions feature the following songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Messiah, Body Shop, True Blue, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Like A Virgin, S.E.X., Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, a medley of Dress You Up and Into The Groove, Rebel Heart, Illuminati, Music, Candy Shop, Material Girl, La Vie En Rose, Unapologetic Bitch, Holiday, and Like A Prayer. A CD double-album features all tracks except Messiah, S.E.X., and Illuminati.

A single-disc CD version features thirteen songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, Rebel Heart, Candy Shop, Unapologetic Bitch, and Holiday. The DVD and blu-ray releases will also include extracts from the Tears Of A Clown cabaret show, though unfortunately it will be the rather shambolic Melbourne debut rather than the more polished Miami performance.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

New Horizons
Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson, part of Thames & Hudson's New Horizons series of pocket-sized art books, is a short study of the master photographer, written by Clement Cheroux. The book is largely biographical, though there's also a chapter analysing Cartier-Bresson's visual style. Reproductions of ephemera such as documents and stamps add to the book's charm.

The cover shows Cartier-Bresson's most famous photograph, Derriere La Gare St Lazare: a man jumping into a puddle. The book was originally published in French, subtitled Le Tir Photographique. Cheroux (the editor of Paparazzi!) has also written several other works on Cartier-Bresson: Here & Now, Henri Cartier-Bresson, a booklet on The Decisive Moment, and Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998.

Godman To Tycoon

Godman To Tycoon
A court in Delhi has granted an injunction blocking the sale of Godman To Tycoon, a biography of Baba Ramdev. The book (subtitled The Untold Story Of Baba Ramdev), by Priyanka Pathak-Narain, was published earlier this month, though online retailers Amazon India and Flipkart have received court orders prohibiting any further sales.

Amazon India has removed the book from its website, though it remains listed as available on Flipkart's site. The book's publisher was notified of the ex parte injunction on 10th August. Ramdev, who campaigned for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 general election, is a controversial figure who claims that practicing yoga can prevent AIDS and 'cure' homosexuality.

"We got an important fact wrong..."

The New York Times
Sarah Palin is seeking $75,000 in damages from The New York Times. Her lawsuit alleges that the newspaper defamed her in an editorial by linking her to the 2011 shooting of Gabby Giffords. The editorial (headlined "America's Lethal Politics") was published online on 14th June, and appeared in the newspaper's print edition the following day. It was written by James Bennet, though as is conventional for leader columns, it was not bylined.

As originally published, the editorial stated: "In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin's political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs."

In fact, Palin's map showed Democratic districts, not politicians, in crosshairs. Also, no causal link has been found between Palin's map and the Giffords shooting. The newspaper issued a clarification via Twitter on 15th June: "We got an important fact wrong, incorrectly linking political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Giffords." It also made several revisions to the article online.

On 15th June, an extra sentence was inserted into the online version of the article, after the Palin reference: "But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established." A subsequent reference to the Giffords shooting ("Though there's no sign of incitement as direct as in the Giffords attack") was removed. Finally, Palin's map was more accurately described as "a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs."

Arguably, the reference to Palin's map should have been removed altogether, as the revised version of the editorial stresses that there was "no connection" between the crosshairs and the shooting of Giffords. However, for Palin to win her legal case, she will be required to prove that the newspaper acted with 'actual malice' by deliberately publishing false and damaging information.

Palin's lawsuit is one of several recent defamation cases against news organisations. The "pink slime" case was settled out of court last week, with Beef Products receiving $177 million from Disney, the parent company of ABC News. Melania Trump sued the Daily Mail last year, and received $3 million in damages. A documentary on the Gawker case, Nobody Speak, was released in June.

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Thursday, 10 August 2017

Peace TV

ห้องข่าวเล่าเรื่องสุดสัปดาห์
เข้าใจตรงกันนะ
Peace TV, a television station operated by the red-shirt UDD movement, has had its broadcasting licence suspended for thirty days. The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, the state media regulator, announced that Peace TV had broadcast material that undermined "national security, public order and good public morals." The NBTC's ruling relates to two Peace TV programmes: เข้าใจตรงกันนะ, shown on 4th July; and ห้องข่าวเล่าเรื่องสุดสัปดาห์, broadcast on 9th July.

Peace TV's licence was previously suspended for thirty days last year, also due to material broadcast on the เข้าใจตรงกันนะ programme; that suspension stemmed from an episode transmitted on 21st March 2016. The station's production offices were raided in 2015, when soldiers and police officers attempted to prevent it from interviewing former Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh. (They were apparently unaware that the interview was a repeat rather than a live broadcast.)

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Cast

Cast
Cast: Art & Objects Made Using Humanity's Most Transformational Process, by Jen Townsend and Renee Zettle-Sterling, is the first book to explore the casting process from an artistic rather than technical perspective. At more than 400 pages, the book is a substantial survey, though it's not a comprehensive history of casting, as the authors recognise: "the breadth and depth of its history and impact are too vast to capture in a single book." There are chapters on jewellery, metal, ceramics, and glass, and more than 800 colour photographs of historic and contemporary objects.

French Classics, Thai Classics

Classic Films Screenings at AF Cinema
The Wages Of Fear
The Citizen
Muen & Rid
Bangkok's Alliance Francaise will host a season of vintage French and Thai films over the next five months. Of the five French films, the highlight is Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspense classic The Wages Of Fear, which will be shown on 4th October. (Clouzot later directed the thriller Les Diaboliques.)

The season also features five Thai films, including Chatrichalerm Yukol's The Citizen (inspired by Taxi Driver and Bicycle Thieves), screening on 15th August. (After directing social-conscience films such as The Citizen and Dr Karn, Chatrichalerm later made the epics Suriyothai and Naresuan.) The period drama Muen & Rid, by Cherd Songsri (director of The Scar) will be shown on 14th November.

Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures

Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures
Mapplethorpe: Look At The Pictures is the first feature-length documentary on the life and work of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989. The film is an HBO production, and was first broadcast on 4th April 2016. (In the UK, it was shown on BBC2, as part of the Imagine... series, on 29th July 2017.) Its directors, Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, previously collaborated on the documentary Inside Deep Throat.

The film's subtitle is taken from a speech on the Senate floor made by Jesse Helms in 1989: "I want Senators to come over here, if they have any doubt, and look at the pictures." Helms was campaigning against National Endowment for the Arts funding for exhibitions by Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, amongst others, and he showed Mapplethorpe's Man In Polyester Suit (1980) and Serrano's Piss Christ (1987) in the Senate. When the posthumous Mapplethorpe retrospective The Perfect Moment opened at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati later that year, the Center's director was charged with exhibiting obscene images, though he was ultimately acquitted.

The makers of Look At The Pictures were given complete access to the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation's archive. Consequently, the fascinating documentary includes hundreds of previously unseen photographs by Mapplethorpe, and audio extracts from interviews with him. He tells one interviewer: "The work dealing with sexuality is very directly related to my own experiences. It was an area that hadn't been explored in contemporary art, and so it's an area that interested me in terms of making my statement." Many of Mapplethorpe's surviving friends, lovers, and family members participated in the film, with the notable exception of Patti Smith.

Mapplethorpe's most notorious work was a series of thirteen photographs known as the X Portfolio: Scott, NYC (1978); Self-Portrait (1978); Cedric, NYC (1977); Patrice, NYC (1977); Joe, NYC (1978); Jim, Sausalito (1977); Helmut, NYC (1978); John, NYC (1978); Lou, NYC (1978); Helmut & Brooks, NYC (1978); Jim & Tom, Sausalito (1977); Ken, NYC (1978); and Dick, NYC (1978). The Cincinnati obscenity charges related to five of these pictures (Self-Portrait; Jim & Tom, Sausalito; Helmut & Brooks, NYC; Lou, NYC; and John, NYC) and two photographs of naked children (Jessie McBride and Rosie, both from 1976).

Look At The Pictures misrepresents the Cincinnati case by mistakenly claiming that Joe, NYC was included in the list of photographs being prosecuted. More contentiously, the film omits any mention of Jessie McBride or Rosie, which were presumably deemed too sensitive to include in the documentary. These two images were included in a Channel 4 documentary, Damned In The USA, broadcast on 27th September 1991. Rosie, from Mapplethorpe's book Certain People (1985), is especially controversial, and is not included in later Mapplethorpe monographs; it was removed from a Hayward Gallery exhibition in London in 1996 on police advice.

Friday, 4 August 2017

101 Movies To Watch Before You Die

101 Movies To Watch Before You Die
101 Movies To Watch Before You Die
101 Movies To Watch Before You Die, written and illustrated by Ricardo Cavolo, is a guide to cult and classic films, arranged chronologically. Each film is briefly reviewed (in handwritten capital letters), alongside a full-page illustration. These illustrations are montages of the main characters from each film, and each character has an extra set of eyes. The book includes ninety-three individual films, seven trilogies, and eight Harry Potter episodes, making a total of 122 films.

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Plywood: A Material Story

Plywood
Plywood: A Material Story, by Christopher Wilk, is the first history of plywood as a material for furniture, industrial design, and architecture. As Wilk notes in his introduction, "plywood has a long history that is largely unknown and has been little researched." This comprehensive book, published by Thames & Hudson, more than makes up for that.

The use of plywood in industrial manufacturing was first patented in the early Victorian era, though Wilk traces the process back to the ancient Egyptian craft of gluing layers of veneer: "this is not a story in which a brand new material was born at a particular moment. Instead, it is the adaptation and reuse of a long-understood construction technique in an increasingly broad range of applications."

Plywood and veneering were much maligned in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Charles Dickens literally personified this attitude in Our Mutual Friend (1865), with its superficial, nouveau riche characters "Mr and Mrs Veneering". Public attitudes to plywood began to shift as it became an increasingly popular material in interior design in the 1930s. By the 1940s, it was firmly established as a modern design material, thanks to moulded plywood furniture by designers such as Charles and Ray Eames.

Wilk also curated the Plywood: Material Of The Modern World exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Plywood: A Material Story includes extensive notes and a wide range of historical illustrations. It will surely be the definitive work on plywood for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Voici

Voici
George and Amal Clooney have said that they will sue French magazine Voici for invasion of privacy, after it published paparazzi photographs of their two-month-old twins, Alexander and Ella. The Clooneys released a statement on Saturday, announcing that "the photographers, the agency and the magazine will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The photographs appeared in Voici on 28th July. The magazine is frequently required to print front-page apologies after invasion of privacy complaints. Voici and similar magazines, including Closer, Public, and VSD, are downmarket versions of Paris Match, specialising in candid celebrity photographs and gossip.

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Bangkok Screening Room

Touch Of Evil
After Citizen Kane in May and June, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing another Orson Welles masterpiece this month: Touch Of Evil. The Noir classic will be screened on 15th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, 26th, 27th, 29th, 30, and 31st August; and 1st and 2nd September.

Bangkok Screening Room is Bangkok's premiere venue for classic Thai and Hollywood films. Less than a year since it opened, this superior repertory cinema has already shown Tears Of The Black Tiger, Sunset Boulevard, Uncle Boonmee, Vertigo, Casablanca, Dr Strangelove,.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Dunkirk (IMAX 70mm)

Dunkirk
When he interviewed Quentin Tarantino for the Directors Guild of America in 2015, Christopher Nolan's first question was related to the 65mm film format: "My feeling, watching this film, is that it had an increased level of formalism, I suppose you'd say. There's a real calm and thought to where the camera is, always. Do you think that was related in any way to the choice of format?"

Nolan was referring to Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, though the question also applies to his own latest film, Dunkirk, which was filmed in 70mm IMAX and 65mm. The precise compositions of Dunkirk are a reminder of the formalism that Nolan saw in Tarantino's earlier film.

The Spitfires flying in formation, and the soldiers queuing on the pristine Dunkerque beach, add to the sense of precision in Dunkirk. This seems incongruous given the film's subject matter, though it's perhaps better to think of it as a film about a military operation rather than a war film per se. Regardless, the resulting cinematography is spectacular, especially the breathtaking shots of a gliding Spitfire.

The film is a departure for Nolan, as it's based on real historical events, though it shares some of the narrative experimentation familiar from Memento and Inception. Dunkirk's three story arcs (land, sea, and air) take place over different time periods (a week, a day, and an hour, respectively), a condensed form of the time dilation in Nolan's Interstellar.

Dunkirk also benefits from Nolan's long-standing preference for in-camera effects over CGI, with filming taking place on real ships, boats, and aeroplanes. Nolan has cited masters of suspense Alfred Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot as primary inspirations for Dunkirk, and there are obvious parallels, for example, with Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

Dunkirk is showing in IMAX 70mm in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio, and this format provides the highest possible image quality. At digital IMAX cinemas, with smaller screens, the film is cropped to 1.9:1. 70mm prints at non-IMAX cinemas are cropped to 2.2:1. 35mm, DMX, and standard DCP versions are cropped to 2.4:1. The Krungsri IMAX screen at Bangkok's Siam Paragon is the only IMAX 70mm venue in Thailand.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible
Master Lecture: Apichatpong Weerasethskul
What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible
My Mother's Garden
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's short film My Mother's Garden is included in the group exhibition What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible currently showing at BACC in Bangkok. The exhibition takes its name from the title of an ultraviolet light installation by Julien Discrit. It opened on 17th June, and runs until 26th July.

In a related event, Apichatpong will present a Master Lecture at BACC on 2nd August, discussing his artistic influences. (He has given similar presentations in 2008 and 2010.) Apichatpong's feature films include Tropical Malady, Blissfully Yours, Syndromes & A Century, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Mekong Hotel, and Cemetery Of Splendour.

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Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998 is a collection of interviews with photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson, whose book The Decisive Moment is one of the most celebrated of all photography monographs. Interviews published in each decade from the 1950s to the 1990s are included - a dozen in total - and (perhaps even more significantly) a bibliography lists Cartier-Bresson's other print and broadcast interviews.

The book, edited by Clement Cheroux and Julie Jones, was originally published in French as "Voir & Un Tout": Entretiens & Conversations. Cheroux (editor of Paparazzi!) has also written Henri Cartier-Bresson and Here & Now. The Man, The Image, & The World is the most extensive collection of Cartier-Bresson's images, and his writings are collected in The Mind's Eye.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

"Good Coup" Gone Bad

"Good Coup" Gone Bad
"Good Coup" Gone Bad: Thailand's Political Developments Since Thaksin's Downfall is an anthology of essays analysing the aftermath of the 2006 coup d'etat. Editor Pavin Chachavalpongpun also co-edited a similar anthology, Bangkok, May 2010, which was notable for its (partially successful) attempt to present arguments from both sides of Thailand's political divide.

"Good Coup" Gone Bad makes no such attempt at balance, as the cover illustration makes clear. There are essays on post-coup lese majeste, the decline of the PAD, and the rise of the UDD. In his opening chapter (from which the book takes its title), Pavin argues: "The 2006 coup that was staged amid joy among many Bangkok residents - some even calling it a "good coup" - has turned out to be disastrous".

Contemporary Asian Cinema

Contemporary Asian Cinema
Contemporary Asian Cinema: Popular Culture In A Global Frame, edited by Anne Tereska Ciecko, is a collection of essays on the film industries of fourteen Asian countries, making it "the most authoritative assessment of contemporary Asian cinema available." In their essay Thailand: Revival In An Age Of Globalization, Anchalee Chaiworaporn and Adam Knee discuss the "new momentum" of Thai cinema since 1997, and the "massive scale" of the blockbuster Suriyothai. Other Asian cinema anthologies (both of which also feature essays by Anchalee) include Being & Becoming: The Cinemas Of Asia and Film In Southeast Asia: Voice From The Region.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Moments

Moments
Kevin Carter
Eddie Adams
Nick Ut
Neal Ulevich
The tenth edition of Moments features every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from 1942 to 2015. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief essay and a few related images. The book (subtitled The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs - A Visual Chronicle Of Our Time) was written by Hal Buell. (A similar collection, also called Moments, was written by Sheryle and John Leekley.)

Some of the book's most iconic images include Eddie Adams's snapshot of a Viet Cong prisoner at the moment of death, Nick Ut's picture of Kim Phuc screaming in pain after a Vietnam War napalm attack, and Kevin Carter's photograph of a vulture following a starving child in Sudan.

Neal Ulevich's disturbing photograph of a baying crowd gathered around a student's body after the Thammasat University massacre in Bangkok is also included. The photographs by Adams, Ut, and Ulevich were all reproduced in blood by Kosit Juntaratip for his Allergic Realities exhibition.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Paris Match

Paris Match
Paris Match magazine has been banned from reprinting CCTV images of last year's Bastille Day attack in Nice, France. The magazine's current issue, published on 13th July, has not been ordered off the shelves, though the photographs must be deleted from the publisher's website and cannot be republished, either in print or online.

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Divided Over Thaksin

Divided Over Thaksin
Divided Over Thaksin, edited by John Funston and published in 2009, is a collection of essays analysing Thailand's political, religious, and economic instability following the 2006 coup. ('Good Coup' Gone Bad, edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, is another anthology analysing the same period.)

In the first chapter, Michael J Montesano (co-editor of Bangkok, May 2010) summarises the various forces opposing former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and provides a useful narrative of the "political events preceding Thailand's dismaying 19 September 2006 military putsch." Chairat Charoensin-o-larn's essay covers post-coup politics, and there are also several chapters on the 2007 constitution and its predecessor.

The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land

The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land
By The Time It Gets Dark
By The River
The 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, at Chiang Mai's International Exhibition & Convention Centre, will include three days of film screenings. The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land begins on 16th July with A Thai Society Through A Cinematic Perspective, a programme of short films selected and introduced by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Anocha Suwichakornpong's By The Time It Gets Dark and Pattaraphon Phoothong's documentary Respectfully Yours will be shown on 17th July; both films are responses to the 6th October 1976 Thammasat University massacre, and they will be followed by The Forgotten, a discussion about how that event has been marginalised in the past forty years. (Anocha's acclaimed debut film was Mundane History; Pattaraphon is currently working on a documentary about the events leading up to the Thammasat massacre.)

On 18th July, Nontawat Numbenchapol will introduce a screening of his documentary By The River, which was shown on ThaiPBS on 28th November 2014. Nontawat's previous documentary, Boundary, was politically sensitive, and the subject of By The River is no less controversial: it highlights the water pollution caused by a lead mine in Kanchanaburi. (Mining companies sued Thai news organisations last year and this year over similar reports of water contamination.)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bad Taste Cafe

Thriller
Bangkok's Bad Taste Cafe, which screened Pink Flamingos last month, will be showing another 1970s exploitation film, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, on 13th July. This Swedish film, directed by Bo Arne Vibenius, is notorious for an eye-gouging scene that was allegedly filmed with a real corpse. Needless to say, it's not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Thaksin

Thaksin
Thaksin, by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, is not only the most comprehensive biography of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, it's also the best available account of Thailand's recent political history. Pasuk and Baker capture the divisive nature of Thaksin's reputation: "To some, he is a visionary, even a revolutionary. To others, he is greedy, deceitful, deluded, dangerous."

For better or worse, Thaksin is the single most influential figure in contemporary Thai politics, following his unprecedented landslide election wins of 2001 and 2005. The protest movements that have characterised Thai politics in the past decade - the PAD, UDD, and PDRC - are all defined by their opposition to, or support for, the Thaksin regime. His influence has been suppressed by coups in 2006 and 2014, a Constitutional Court verdict in 2007, and a military massacre in 2010.

In their second edition, published in 2009, Pasuk and Baker conclude that Thaksin's financial corruption and his political populism were inseparable: "Throughout his career, politics and profit-making were entwined around one another like a pair of copulating snakes." (This is a rigorous and unauthorised biography, whereas Sunisa Lertpakawat's Thaksin, Where Are You? and Tom Plate's Conversations With Thaksin are both based on self-serving interviews with Thaksin.)

Bangkok, May 2010

Bangkok, May 2010
Bangkok, May 2010: Perspectives On A Divided Thailand is a collection of essays analysing the causes and consequences of the 19th May 2010 military massacre, when dozens of red-shirt protesters were shot by the Thai army. The book was edited by Michael J Montesano, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and Aekpol Chongvilaivan; Pavin later edited a similar collection, 'Good Coup' Gone Bad, on the aftermath of the 2006 coup.

Bangkok, May 2010 is significant for the reputations of its contributors: it includes chapters by Chris Baker, Pasuk Phongpaichit, David Streckfuss, Duncan McCargo, and other leading scholars on contemporary Thai politics. Streckfuss discusses the UDD's accusations of double standards, observing that "By striking against double standards and impunity, Thai society has the rare opportunity to make justice and accountability a rallying cry." McCargo compares the PAD and UDD rallies to the Black May protests of 1992, noting that they fit a pattern of "manufactured crisis" and conform to the "Vicious Cycle" previously identified by Chai-anan Samudavanija.

The book is also notable for its attempt to present a diversity of perspectives, though as Montesano admits in his introduction, complete ideological balance was not possible: "Some, maybe most, of the contributions to this volume have interpretive or political agendas. Rather fewer, perhaps, are clearly "yellow" in their point of view than are unabashedly "red"." Firmly on the yellow end of the spectrum, Kasit Piromya accuses the UDD of armed insurrection and compares them with the Communists of the 1970s: "the battle had moved from the jungles to the streets of Bangkok."

James Stent's long opening chapter has a more nuanced analysis: "At one pole are those who say that the protesters are paid to attend rallies, and are heavily infiltrated by well armed "terrorists" under the direction and control of extremists taking their orders from Thaksin... On the other side of the debate are those who would paint the protesters as entirely peaceful, which is obviously not true. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two poles." Stent's assessment of Thaksin Shinawatra is also more balanced than most: "I see him in shades of grey - neither the messiah that his rural followers take him for even today, nor the devil incarnate that the Bangkok elite see him as being."

There is much discussion of the extent to which the red-shirt uprising was determined by social class (the rural 'prai' versus the establishment 'ammart'). Chairat Charoensin-o-larn presents the conventional interpretation that it represents a class struggle: "The unrest of May 2010 was a manifestation of the simmering new politics of desire of unprivileged Thais, and Thailand's ruling elites ought to pay close attention." However, Shawn W Crispin argues against this view: "These interpretations must transcend the simplistic and misleading discourse of class struggle that has been advanced by Thaksin's operatives for propaganda purposes and uncritically perpetuated by many foreign academics."

Tartan & Tweed

Tartan & Tweed
Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacques Heim
Tartan & Tweed, by Caroline Young and Ann Martin, is a cultural history of tartan ("the fabric of a nation, an icon of Scottish history and identity") and tweed ("one of the few traditional textiles to achieve cult status"). The book's main strength is the range of its (mostly colour) illustrations, from royal portraiture (such as the idealised 'Harlequin' portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie) to fashion (Chanel's tweed suits, and a very 1960s tweed cape by Jacques Heim) and contemporary subcultures.