Saturday, 25 August 2007

Makkal Osai

Jesus
Publication of a Malaysian newspaper, Makkal Osai, has been suspended for one month after it printed a drawing of Jesus holding a can of beer and a cigarette. The image, sourced from the internet, was printed on 21st August; it also appeared in another newspaper, Tamil Nesan, on the following day.

11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival

11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival
Middle-Earth
The 11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival opened on 17th August with The Anthem by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and closed today. Screenings took place at the EGV Grand Discovery cinema in Bangkok.

I went to Spoken Silence yesterday, a themed evening of films about the repressive social and cultural environment following last year's coup. There were twelve films in the programme:

Bangkok Tanks
(a transcript of a superficial Windows Live chat, accompanied by off-air coup footage from CNN; directed by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit)

Silence In D Minor
(filmed through a green tarpaulin which acted as a filter, ending with a CNS announcement inviting youth participation; directed by Chalida Uabumrungjit)

The Duck Empire Strikes Back
(Thaksin's ousting through the metaphor of a rubber duckie; directed by Nutthorn Kangwanklai)

Letter From The Silence
(shots of a letter about a taxi driver who committed suicide in 2006 by driving into a tank; directed by Prap Boonpan)

The Love Culprit
(a story told in voice-over followed by a melodramatic karaoke video featuring tribal dancers; directed by Sanchai Chotirosseranee)

3-0
(intercutting between a woman trying to cross the road, another woman exercising, and a boy's physiotherapy; ending with a peaceful anti-coup demonstration; directed by Anocha Suwichakornpong)

Fake World
(actors filming TV commercials, featuring the over-acting and ridiculous sound effects common to Thai TV; directed by Tanwarin Sukhapisit)

งานเฝ้าระวังความฝันของบุคคลที่น่าเชื่อว่าฝักใฝ่การทำลายศีลธรรมอันดีของประชาชน
(static shots continually going in and out of focus; directed by Manutsak Dokmai)

When The Movie Listens
(a man sitting and looking into the camera, as if waiting for someone to speak; directed by Tulapop Saenjaroen)

Man With A Video Camera
(a montage of scenes from daily life, including a pro-Thaksin rally, inspired by Dziga Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera; directed by Jakrawal Nilthamrong)

หนีนรกโพธิ์พระยา 2526
(a young girl answering unheard questions, and boys playing with toy guns; directed by Paisit Punpruksachart)

Middle-Earth
(a male couple sleeping next to each other, naked; directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul)

The Spoken Silence films were, for the most part, metaphorical rather than overtly political, though several of them included found footage of coup-related events. They were often literally silent (only Fake World featured actual dialogue), even encouraging the audience to provide the soundtrack (The Love Culprit invited us to sing along to the karaoke; When The Movie Listens was an experiment in audience participation, asking us to speak as the actor listened).

Unfortunately, as evidenced by my synopses above - and notwithstanding the Silence theme - not understanding Thai meant that there was a lot I missed out on. My central motivation for attending, however, Thunska's Middle-Earth, was as outstanding as I'd expected: a beautiful, tender, and ultimately playful film. The directors of each film took part in a Q&A session after the screenings.

Some of the titles listed in the official schedule may be incorrect. For example, The Duck Empire Strike Back is probably a misprint of The Duck Empire Strikes Back, and Bangkok Tank is surely a misprint of Bangkok Tanks. Letter From The Silence is listed as Letter From The Silience (and indeed the entire programme is listed as Spoken Silience, instead of Spoken Silence); these titles could be puns on 'lie' but are more likely misprints for 'Silence'.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

28 Days

28 Days
28+1
House Rama cinema (RCA, Bangkok) is currently in the middle of its 28 Days festival, screening over 200 films throughout August. The festival includes 28+1, a daily screening introduced by a Thai film-maker. The highlights are: Wisit Sasanatieng introducing Pan's Labyrinth on 21st August, Pen-ek Ratanaruang introducing Paradise Now on 24th August, and Nonzee Nimibutr introducing Audition on 25th August.

Friday, 10 August 2007

The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Movie
I've seen every episode of The Simpsons, and was eagerly awaiting The Simpsons Movie (directed by David Silverman). In pre-production for over a decade, they kept telling us; the script tweaked right up to the last minute, to make absolutely every line as funny as possible; a creative team composed of the very best writer-producers from the show's entire history.

OK, so we should know better than to believe all the publicity, but the build-up The Simpsons Movie had led us to expect a comedy masterpiece on a par with the greatest Simspons TV episodes. Well, it's entertaining and funny, but not quite laugh-out-loud funny. There are a few great jokes, such as the Fox ticker and Bart's "doodle", but overall the result is average rather than awesome.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Zelig

Zelig
Woody Allen's Zelig is one of his most technically accomplished films. It's structured as a 'mockumentary', purporting to examine the case of Leonard Zelig, whose personality disorder is so severe that he automatically assumes the physical characteristics of those around him in order to fit in. This provides opportunities for commentary on individualism, social acceptance, and self-expression.

Allen recreates 1930s film footage with impressive accuracy. His 'documentary' clips are convincingly grainy, scratched, and age-worn. The costumes and acting styles are also authentic-looking, making this one of the most successful fake documentary attempts since the March Of Time sequence in Citizen Kane. Only occasionally was real period footage utilised, for example when Zelig is inserted into the background during an Adolf Hitler speech; this technique predates Forrest Gump.

Zelig is, above all, a great comedy. The advanced college course, the disagreement with Freud, and the $600 Hebrew lessons are all classic Allen jokes.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Festival Of Classic Movies

Festival Of Classic Movies
Casablanca
North By Northwest
Ben-Hur
The Maltest Falcon
Gone With The Wind
The Adventures Of Robin Hood
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
Over the next few days, the Lido cinema in Siam Square, Bangkok, will present a Festival Of Classic Movies, to coincide with this year's Bangkok International Film Festival. Here are the highlights: Casablanca (Sunday); North By Northwest (Monday); Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ (Monday); The Maltese Falcon (Tuesday); Gone With The Wind (Tuesday); The Adventures Of Robin Hood (Wednesday); and The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Wednesday).