Sunday, 24 June 2018

Revolution française

Revolution francaise
Emmanuel Macron was elected just over a year ago, becoming President of France aged only thirty-nine. With characteristic ostentation and self-confidence, he compared himself to Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods. In his first fortnight as President, he condemned Russian state propaganda at a Versailles press conference with Vladimir Putin, and greeted Donald Trump with a vice-like handshake. His domestic poll ratings have suffered following his reform of France's previously sacrosanct labour laws, though he has successfully maintained the downward trend in the unemployment rate that began in early 2017.

Sophie Pedder's Revolution française: Emmanuel Macron and the Quest to Reinvent a Nation covers Macron's election campaign, his first year in office, and "his ambition to remake France." Pedder recognises his contradictions, though she is broadly optimistic about his potential. Her book includes an interview with Macron at the Elyseé Palace.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

100 Greatest Films

100 Greatest Films
Today's issue of The Daily Telegraph features a 100 Greatest Films list compiled by film critic Robbie Collin. The list is organised by genre (from the conventional to the esoteric), and each director is limited to a single film. (Collin also contributed to 500 Must-See Films in 2013.)

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Friday, 22 June 2018

Bangkok Underground Cinema

The Passion of Joan of Arc
Bangkok Underground Cinema will organise a weekend of free film screenings on 30th June and 1st July at Dadfa, a market in Bangkok. The silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) will be shown on the second day, with a live improvised score. (It was previously screened at the 5th Silent Film Festival.)

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Pleasure Factory (DVD)

Pleasure Factory
Pleasure Factory (快乐工厂) was made in Singapore by Thai director Ekachai Uekrongtham, whose previous film was Beautiful Boxer (บิวตี้ฟูล บ๊อกเซอร์). When Pleasure Factory was shown in both Thailand and Singapore, an explicit masturbation sequence (featuring Loo Zihan) was censored, along with two sex scenes. Altogether, around two minutes of footage was cut. However, the film was released uncut on DVD in Europe and America.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Vein/Vain

Vein/Vain
Vein/Vain
Darisa Karnpoj's first solo exhibition, Vein/Vain, opens this weekend. Darisa, who signs her work with the nickname Riety, paints portraits of women using their own blood, diluted with water. The exhibition, at Daydream Believer in Bangkok, also offers an insight into her artistic process, displaying blood samples and a sketchbook alongside the paintings. Vein/Vain is on show from 16th to 30th June.

Other Thai artists have also painted with blood. Kosit Juntaratip's Allergic Realities exhibition featured classic news photographs recreated with his blood. Pornprasert Yamazaki used his blood to paint banknotes for the Suicide Mind and Currency Crisis exhibitions, and he showed blood-and-petrol works at Swallow. There was even a banner painted in blood at Democracy Monument during the 2010 political crisis.

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Thursday, 7 June 2018

100 and One Must See Movies!

100 and One Must See Movies!
In 2016, poster company Skratkz created 100 and One Must See Movies!, a poster featuring 101 classic films, each represented by an icon hidden behind a scratchable symbol. The idea was imitated a year later by Gift Republic's 100 Movies Bucket List poster. DOIY's 100 Movies You Must See Before You Die poster, in the style of an Advent calendar, is a similar concept.

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100 Movies Bucket List

100 Movies Bucket List
Last year, Gift Republic designed a 100 Movies Bucket List poster, featuring 100 classic films, each represented by an icon hidden behind a scratchable window. The idea was presumably based on the Skratkz poster 100 and One Must See Movies! from 2016. DOIY's 100 Movies You Must See Before You Die poster, in the style of an Advent calendar, is also a similar concept.

PDF

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Sweet Gang (DVD)

The Sweet Gang
The Sweet Gang
The Sweet Gang (ยกก๊วนป่วนหอ), a low-budget sex farce directed by Niran Thamprecha, was made for the Thai straight-to-VCD market in 2005. It was also released on VCD and DVD in Hong Kong (界女鬥一番). (The film's on-screen title is The Sweet Gang, though the video covers all drop the definite article.)

The Sweet Gang is of almost no interest, except for its use of self-censorship for comic effect. Whenever a character is about to disrobe, the film is interrupted by a flashing "SENSOR !!!" [sic.] warning. This happens several times, lasting from a few seconds to more than a minute, by which point the joke has worn rather thin.

A very similar device was used by Apichatpong Weerasethakul three years after The Sweet Gang. When Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was censored in Thailand, Apichatpong replaced the cut sequences with silent, black footage to highlight the censorship.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

The Killing

The Killing
Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Stanley Kubrick's The Killing next month. The Killing, a noir thriller, was the first film Kubrick made with his producing partner James B. Harris. (His previous films, Fear and Desire and Killer's Kiss, had been made without a production company.) The Killing was one of many crime films influenced by John Huston's The Asphalt Jungle, though its editing is entirely original: its non-linear narrative style would later influence Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Sterling Hayden, star of The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing, would later play Jack D. Ripper in Kubrick's Dr Strangelove. The Killing will be shown at Bangkok Screening Room on 15th, 16th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd, 24th, 29th, and 30th June; and 1st July.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Sudsakhorn Adventure

Sudsakhorn Adventure
Payut Ngaokrachang's Sudsakhorn Adventure (สุดสาคร) will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 26th and 30th June. Both screenings are free. In his definitive global history of animation, Cartoons, Giannalberto Bendazzi praised Sudsakhorn Adventure's "suggestive, modern interpretation of the country's graphic tradition." Unfortunately, in the book's second edition, Animation: A World History, Bendazzi revised his opinion: "apart from its decorative qualities, the film is an artistic failure." Nevertheless, Sudsakhorn Adventure remains a milestone in Thai animation, as the country's first feature-length cartoon.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Cinema Winehouse

Apocalypse Now
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Vertigo
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse is showing three classics this week. Apocalypse Now is showing this evening; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is on Wednesday; and Hitchcock's Vertigo is on Friday.

Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide

Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide
Thai Cinema: The Complete Guide, edited by Mary J. Ainslie and Katarzyna Ancuta, is the first full-length book in English devoted to the Thai film industry. It includes reviews of 129 films, organised by genre, effectively establishing a Thai cinema canon. (Since 2011, the Thai Film Archive has also been compiling a registry of culturally significant films, with new titles added annually every 4th October.) The book also profiles ten key directors from Thai cinema history.

There are entries for classics such as Double Luck (โชคสองชั้น), Thailand's first feature film; Rattana Pestonji's Black Silk (แพรดำ); the Mitr-Petchara blockbuster Monrak Lukthung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง); the influential modernist film Tone (โทน); Chatrichalerm Yukol's social-realist His Name Is Karn (เขาชื่อกานต์); Nonzee Nimibutr's Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง); the retro melodrama Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร); Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด); and the record-breaking Pee Mak (พี่มาก..พระโขนง). One notable absence is Criminal Without Sin (สุภาพบุรุษเสือไทย), which (for better or worse) established the 16mm live-dubbing mode of production.

In their introduction, the editors note the challenges facing anyone researching Thai cinema: many films, from classics to relatively recent titles, are no longer in circulation; and English translations of names and titles are wildly inconsistent. The book is therefore an essential guide to films that remain largely inaccessible. To address the translation problem, RTGS is used throughout the book, though this is not an ideal solution, as it's not widely or consistently used by other sources.

Aside from Thai Cinema, there are very few English-language books on the subject. Bastian Meirsonne edited a brief guide with the same title (Thai Cinema). Scot Barmé's Woman, Man, Bangkok includes a chapter on the origins of Thai filmmaking. Aliosha Herrera surveyed the 16mm era in the journal Rian Thai (เรียนไทย; volume 8). Archivist Dome Sukwong wrote the coffee-table book A Century of Thai Cinema. The essays by Chalida Uabumrunjit and Anchalee Chaiworaporn in Film in South East Asia (edited by David Hanan) remain the best narrative histories of Thai cinema.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic

Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic
In their introduction to Paper: Material, Medium, and Magic, editors by Neil Holt and Nicola von Velsen argue that, despite the rise of digital media, paper retains its aesthetic value, and that its use in art and design deserves more consideration: "Such a history of paper has not, to our knowledge, yet been told." This is therefore the first book to provide a broad survey of paper as an artistic medium, with chapters on decorated paper, Japanese washi, pop-up books, origami, typography, marbling, and cartography (amongst other subjects).

As the editors recognise, most chapters "develop their themes in a rather cursory manner," given the book's wide scope, though some essays (on coloured paper, fine art, watermarks, and paper art) are more substantial. Many historical and contemporary illustrations are included. There is also a selected bibliography, to which could be added Marbling (by Phoebe Jane Easton), Marbled Paper (Richard J. Wolfe), The Papered Wall (Lesley Hoskins), History of Cartography (Leo Bagrow), and Printing Types (Daniel Updike). (Paper was translated from the German Papier: Material, Medium und Faszination; the English edition has an additional editor, Stephanie Jacobs.)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Democracy Restoration Group

The Democracy Restoration Group, which held a seminar last year to mark the third anniversary of the 2014 coup, today organised a pro-democracy protest in Bangkok on the coup's fourth anniversary. Several hundred protesters gathered this morning at Thammasat University's football field, from where they intended to march to Government House, though they were blocked by police barricades. In the early afternoon, a group of around 100 people broke through the barriers and marched as far as Democracy Monument, though the protest leaders were arrested and the demonstration ended before 4pm.

During the past four years of military rule, there have been repeated assurances from the junta that democracy is just around the corner. On 28th June 2014, coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha pledged to hold an election by October 2015. Then, during a visit to Tokyo on 9th February 2015, he announced that an election would instead take place by February 2016. When that deadline passed, he announced on 9th August 2016 that an election would be held by November 2017. Then, on 10th October 2017, he pushed the election timetable forward to November 2018. Most recently, on 27th February this year, he said that an election will happen by February 2019.

Monday, 21 May 2018

लिंगम् Project 2018

Linga Project 2018
join #dark
Quasi una fantasia
Mountain Wind
A Season in Hell
लिंगम् Project 2018 is a collaboration between three Thai artists - Kornkrit Jianpinidnan, Santiphap Inkong-ngam, and Thunska Pansittivorakul - who have each made a short video and produced a book of photographs. The artists took part in a Q&A at Asian Culture Station in Chiang Mai on 18th May.

Kornkrit's monochrome, square images, titled join #dark and resembling Robert Mapplethorpe's Polaroids, are printed on a series of unbound white cards. Santiphap directed a music video, Mountain Wind; Whispering to a Wall (ลมภูเขา; กระซิบกับผนังปูน), with stills by Apichat Yimyong. Thunska's video, A Season in Hell (ฤดูกาลในนรก), includes footage from his upcoming feature film Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา).

लिंगम्, or 'linga', is the Sanskrit term for a phallic symbol (representing the Hindu god Shiva), and Thunska takes this literally in his book Quasi una fantasia (อัศจรรย์), which includes some hardcore imagery. There are also stills from his films Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ), The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย), and The Altar (หมู่บูชา).

The three artists' books - join #dark, Mountain Wind, and Quasi una fantasia - are available in a signed and numbered set. (My copy is number 10.) The package costs ฿800, which is remarkable given that the edition is limited to only thirty copies.

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Tuesday, 15 May 2018

ครูสมศรี

There will be a free screening of Chatrichalerm Yukol's ครูสมศรี at the Thai Film Archive tomorrow. The film, like the director's earlier His Name Is Karn (เขาชื่อกานต์), focuses on an eponymous central character fighting against corruption and bureaucracy. Chatrichalerm made several other equally groundbreaking socially conscious films, dealing with topics including prostitution (Angel/เทพธิดาโรงแรม), teenage drug addiction (Daughter/เสียดาย), and drug trafficking (Powder Road/ฮโรอีน).

Later, he switched gears and directed lavish royalist-nationalist epics such as The Legend of Suriyothai (สุริโยไท) and the Kingdom of War (ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช) series about King Naresuan. His career trajectory is similar to that of Chinese director Zhang Yimou, who made the banned Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂) though whose later films such as Hero (英雄) were effectively state propaganda.

Monday, 14 May 2018

จะ4ปีแล้วนะ

Members of the punk/grindcore band Blood Soaked Street of Social Decay were arrested on Saturday after they burnt posters of Prayuth Chan-ocha at จะ4ปีแล้วนะ, an event marking the four-year anniversary of the 2014 coup. (The event's full title includes the insult ไอ้สัตว์, though this was self-censored on the poster.) The show's organisers were also arrested, though no-one was charged.

video

Cinema Winehouse

Reservoir Dogs
All About Eve
Once Upon a Time in the West
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse continues its weekly screenings of movie classics. This week, they will be showing Reservoir Dogs on Wednesday, followed by Once Upon a Time in the West (C'era una volta il west) and All About Eve on Thursday. (Once Upon a Time in the West was previously shown at the Italian Film Festival 2012.)

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand

The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand
The Passion of Joan of Arc
The 5th Silent Film Festival in Thailand will take place later this month. As in previous years (2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017), there will be a week of screenings at the Lido and Scala cinemas in Bangkok. This year's event opens on 24th May with a gala screening of Carl Dreyer's masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d'Arc) at Scala. (It will also be shown at Lido, on 30th May.) The other films will all be screened at Lido, and in fact this will be Lido's swan song, as the cinema will close down permanently on the last day of the Festival, 31st May.

"I'm not gonna try to
sound like Winston Churchill..."

The latest episode of The Kubrick Series podcast is an interview Stanley Kubrick gave on 10th June 1987 to Tim Cahill, a magazine journalist. Cahill supplied his two-hour Dictaphone recording of the interview, and it was uploaded yesterday. The interview was first published in the 27th August 1987 issue of Rolling Stone. In the article, Cahill described Kubrick as "entirely unpretentious. He was wearing running shoes and an old corduroy jacket. There was an ink stain just below the pocket where some ball point pen had bled to death."

Comparing the tape and the published transcript, it becomes clear how much Kubrick's answers were compressed and paraphrased in the printed version. The article also includes several quotes that are not on the tape, such as "truth is too multifaceted to be contained in a five-line summary." These bon mots were clearly written later, and at one point on the tape Kubrick asks for some time to review a draft of the transcript: "Give me at least a day to have a crack at it... I'm not gonna try to sound like Winston Churchill, but I'd like to just tidy it up." He even specifies that he'd like a triple-spaced manuscript: "I've gotta have room to write, to change the words." (The Kubrick Archive has dozens of pages of interview transcripts similarly revised by Kubrick.)

This is the third posthumously-released Kubrick interview recording. Alison Castle's book The Stanley Kubrick Archives included a CD of Jeremy Bernstein's interview with Kubrick, recorded in 1966. The French radio series A voix nue broadcast Michel Ciment's Kubrick interviews from 1975, 1980, and 1987. (The archive of film critic Alexander Walker, at La Cineteca del Friuli in Italy, has two recordings of Walker's interviews with Kubrick, from 1980 and 1987.)

Monday, 7 May 2018

Cinema Winehouse

A Clockwork Orange
Gone With the Wind
Seven Samurai
The Exorcist
From tomorrow until Saturday, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be screening a classic film every evening. Tomorrow, it's Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange, followed by Gone With the Wind on Thursday, Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (七人の侍) on Friday, and The Exorcist on Saturday.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Space Odyssey

Space Odyssey
Michael Benson's Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece provides a new production history of 2001: A Space Odyssey, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the film's release. Benson's previous book was the excellent Cosmigraphics, and Space Odyssey benefits from his dual interests in cosmology and visual art.

There are, of course, many books on the making of 2001, including 2001: Filming The Future, The Making of Kubrick's 2001, The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001 Memories, Moonwatcher's Memoir, Are We Alone?, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2001: The Lost Science, The 2001 File, and The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. At 500 pages, Space Odyssey is the most exhaustive account of the making of the film.

Through a Different Lens

Through a Different Lens
Lou Jacobs
Donald Albrecht (co-editor of Only in New York) and Sean Corcoran curated Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs, an exhibition opening today at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY). They also edited the exhibition's lavish and comprehensive catalogue, published in folio format by Taschen.

Stanley Kubrick became a staff photographer for Look magazine in 1945, straight out of high school. Five years later, he quit in order to become a director. I have compiled a complete list of Kubrick's published photographs, which is included in the Stanley Kubrick Archive and was reprinted in Fotografie 1945-1950.

The images in Through a Different Lens are drawn from the MCNY's collection of thousands of Kubrick's photos. (Stanley Kubrick at Look Magazine is also based on the MCNY's collection.) The photographs are almost exclusively black-and-white, though there is a colour portrait of the clown Lou Jacobs. In their introduction, the editors argue that Kubrick's photography "honed his skills as both a storyteller and an image maker, albeit through a different lens."

There have been several previous catalogues of Kubrick's photographs: Ladro di sguardi, Still Moving Pictures, Drama and Shadows, Fotografie 1945-1950, Visioni e finzioni. A limited selection also appears in Art by Film Directors. To a greater or lesser extent, these surveys all have similar limitations: they decontextualise the images (presenting them out of sequence, either retitled or untitled), and they recycle a limited selection of photographs.

Through a Different Lens is the first book on Kubrick's photography to avoid these shortcomings. It includes more than 300 photographs, making it the most extensive collection in print. The arrangement is chronological, and Look publication details are also included.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Cinema Winehouse

The Godfather
The Third Man
The Wizard of Oz
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse will be showing a trio of classic films this week. The Godfather is screening on 2nd May, followed the next day by The Third Man and The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

สุดยอดภาพยนตร์ไทยในสมัยรัชกาลที่ ๙

Scala
Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Mae Nak Phra Khanong
Over the next four days, Bangkok's Scala cinema will be screening ten classic Thai films, chosen from a poll of the seventy greatest films from the reign of King Rama IX. The short season, สุดยอดภาพยนตร์ไทยในสมัยรัชกาลที่ ๙, begins this evening with Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง), one of the films that launched the Thai New Wave and revived the national film industry. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ) is showing on Thursday, along with Mae Nak Phra Khanong (แม่นาคพระโขนง), the first colour version of the popular Mae Nak ghost story. All screenings are free.

Cinema Winehouse

Inception
Citizen Kane
Some Like It Hot
Oldboy
Toy Story
There are five classic films showing this week at Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse. Inception is screening tonight, followed tomorrow by two masterpieces: Citizen Kane and Some Like It Hot. On Friday, it's the cult thriller Oldboy (올드보이), with Toy Story on Saturday.