Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Love & Money

Love & Money
TCDC's new exhibition, Love & Money (20th July to 16th September) features twenty examples of modern and contemporary British design, including the Berliner redesign of The Guardian and Channel 4 TV's new corporate identity.

Monday, 30 July 2007

"VOTE NO"

vote no
There is to be a referendum in Thailand on 19th August, in which the public will have the opportunity to vote for or against a new constitution. The proposed constitution has been drafted by committees appointed by the Council for National Security, after they abrogated the previous 1997 constitution.

A 'yes' majority would lead to the adoption of the new constitution, though what would happen in the eventuality of a 'no' vote has not been made clear. There have been hints that, if the new constitution were rejected, the 1997 version would be reinstated, but Sonthi Boonyaratglin refuses to confirm exactly which previous constitution would be resurrected if the new one were rejected.

A 'yes' vote is also being promoted by the Constitution Drafting Assembly as a vote for a quick election. However, Sonthi promised to hold elections this year anyway, regardless of the referendum result. While the CDA is distributing propaganda, "VOTE NO" campaign posters (with illustrations by Pracha Suveeranont) have been seized and taxi drivers are being fined 1,000 baht for displaying anti-constitution stickers.

The proposed new constitution includes an amnesty for the coup leaders. This alone is reason enough to reject it.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Introverted Joel (Jim Carrey) and his kooky girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) break up, and she impulsively visits Lacuna Inc., a memory-removal company. All her memories of Joel are deleted, so that, when they next meet, she has no idea who he is and he is puzzled at her ignoring him. Feeling rejected, Joel also visits Lacuna, to remove his memories of Clementine. However, during the process, he realises how important memories are, and mentally resists the erasure procedure.

Much of the film takes place inside Joel's head, as he fights to preserve the memory of Clementine before Lacuna can wipe it. The script, by Charlie Kaufman is, in this respect, similar to Kaufman's script for Being John Malkovich, which takes place largely inside Malkovich's head. Memory deletion is a science-fiction concept, though Eternal Sunshine could not really be described as a sci-fi film. The concept was used to disturbing effect at the end of OldBoy, though it was pioneered by novelist Philip K Dick.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (directed by Michel Gondry) is one of a small group of films (alongside Memento, Fight Club, and others) singled out by David Bordwell for their narrative complexity. It shares with Pulp Fiction a non-linear narrative structure in which the time-frame jumps back-and-forth and key sequences are repeated. (Babel and The Fountain also employ these devices, though less successfully.)

Although Joel and Clementine both delete their memories of each other, they cannot control fate, so they are destined to meet each other again and fall back in love. Kaufman originally intended the film's ending to imply that the characters were locked in a cycle of meeting, separating, erasing, and meeting again. To me, though, it feels more optimistic, because although they recognise each other's faults (listening to Lacuna session tapes, recalling 'the list' in Friends), they are meant to be together.

2007 Bangkok International Film Festival

Bangkok International Film Festival 2007
Ploy
Shortbus
Un Chien Andalou
Belle De Jour
This year's Bangkok International Film Festival finishes today; unlike last year, however, I've not had the time to see anything. It opened on 19th July at CentralWorld's SF World cinema. Today is probably the Festival's best day, with a chance to see the graphic Shortbus (which would surely be cut if it was shown outside the Festival) and two films concluding a Luis Bunuel retrospective: Un Chien Andalou (one of the greatest films of all time, in my view) and Belle De Jour.

The Festival was originally scheduled for February, and then postponed. The entire management team has been replaced, following extensive criticism of last year's expensive follies (star guests who left as quickly as they arrived; corporate events which were abandoned after the first day), though it is still organised by the Tourism Authority, which is not an ideal situation. The only serious mistake this year was to withdraw the proposed opening film, Persepolis, after pressure from the Iranian government. (Because, of course, maintaining diplomatic relations with Iran is essential. Not.) The highlight was probably an uncut screening of Ploy (a cut version of which went on general release in Thailand earlier this year). Whether or not the event returns next year is currently unclear, but let's hope it does.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

El Jueves

El Jueves
Yesterday's issue of El Jueves, the satirical Spanish magazine, featured a cartoon of Prince Filipe and his wife having sex, with Filipe telling her: "if you get pregnant this will be the closest thing I've done to work in my whole life". The magazine has consequently been banned by the Spanish High Court.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Zoolander

Zoolander
Zoolander is the first Frat Pack comedy that I really laughed at. The film's main strength is the presence of Ben Stiller as actor, co-writer, and director. Stiller is arguably the most talented of the Frat Pack group. His co-star, Luke Wilson, is one of the rare Frat Packers capable of emotional performances rather than simply broad comedy. (Stiller and Wilson also appeared in Meet The Parents, a quasi-Frat film.) Yes, Will Ferrell has a large role in Zoolander, and I'm not the world's biggest Will Ferrell fan, but at least his Zoolander role is so exaggerated that Ferrell's inability to play realistic characters goes un-noticed.

There is an extended homage to Kubrick's 2001, with Stiller's dim-witted search for files accompanied by Also Sprach Zarathrustra. Also, the list of cameo appearances is very impressive: David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Trump, Claudia Schiffer...

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Live Earth

Live Earth
Madonna performed yesterday at Wembley Stadium, London, as part of Al Gore's consciousness-raising Live Earth concert. She sang La Isla Bonita, Ray Of Light, Hung Up, and a new song, Hey You.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Babel

Babel
Babel, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, is a cross-cultural account of miscommunication, with a quartet of loosely inter-related narratives set in Morocco, Japan, and Mexico. Its structure, in which each strand revolves around a single event, is similar to Inarritu's earlier film Amores Perros.

It was Jean-Luc Godard who said that a film should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, though not necessarily in that order. Kubrick demonstrated the concept with The Killing, and Quentin Tarantino copied it from Kubrick with Reservoir Dogs and from Godard with Pulp Fiction. While the narrative fragmentation of Amores Perros was masterful, the technique doesn't quite work in Babel, as it effectively removes any suspense or surprise. When scenes are replayed from different perspectives, the technique is little more than a gimmick (in contrast to Tarantino's use of the technique in Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, in which each replay reveals new meanings).

Also, it's hard to feel much sympathy for the majority of Babel's characters. Rinko Kikuchi's mixed-up, deaf-mute Japanese teenager is perhaps the only truly sympathetic character, while the others (a frustrated American tourist, a Mexican maid staggering around the desert in high heels, and two amoral Moroccan children) deserve all they get. The naturalistic Gael Garcia Bernal is wasted in a small role, his character simply disappearing and never returning.

Finally, the exposition is extremely distracting. Characters mention things like virginity, cot-death, and suicide in un-natural ways, filling us in on their back-stories. This happens in many films, but in Babel it seems so frequent and unrealistic as to distance us from the characters and events.

1,000 Films To See Before You Die

From Monday to Friday last week, The Guardian printed an alphabetical list of 1,000 essential films chosen by a "panel of experts". Being 1,000 titles, there aren't a great number of important omissions, though as with many such lists some very recent films (such as Borat and Pan's Labyrinth) are included already, before they've had time to mature. Also, there are a few frankly bizarre choices, like Pumping Iron. But, of course, watching most of these 1,000 films would be time well spent.

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