Giles Ji Ungpakorn's book A Coup For The Rich: Thailand's Political Crisis, about the aftermath of the 2006 coup, has been banned by the Thai police. Thammasat University Bookstore, the only outlet brave enough to sell the book, has received a letter from the police to the effect that the book is being investigated for lese majeste (because it quotes one word ["pseudo-economics"] from The King Never Smiles) and must therefore be removed from sale.
29 January 2008
28 January 2008
To Catch A Thief is in many ways a typical Alfred Hitchcock film, though it doesn't have the tension or cinematic sophistication of much of his other work. The sophistication on display here relates to the costumes and locations, rather than the camerawork or editing. The pace is extremely slow, with excessive establishing shots of scenery and grand buildings, and over-long helicopter shots and chase sequences.
Cary Grant, one of Hitchcock's favourite actors, plays John Robie, a cat burglar who has retired to the French coast. Grace Kelly, probably Hitchcock's favourite actress, plays Frances Stevens, who falls in love with him. Robie is that archetypal Hitchcock figure, the persecuted innocent: he gave up burglary years before, though he is framed for a spate of recent jewellery thefts. To prove his innocence, he must catch the real burglar himself. The final revelation of the burglar's identity is hardly a surprise, and the whole plot is rather flimsy.
There are some amusing double-entendres, including Kelly asking Grant if he wants "leg or breast" (she's talking about pieces of chicken). Apparently, these moments were improvised by Kelly and Grant. Interestingly, Grant's character explains that he travelled around Europe performing in a circus during his youth - which is exactly what Grant did in his own youth. Grant is always a superbly suave actor, though he was better in Hitchcock's North By Northwest and Notorious. In this film his skin is alarmingly dark; his tan actually makes it difficult to recognise his face in some scenes.
26 January 2008
Artspace Germany, organised by the Goethe Institute of Bangkok, is an excellent opportunity to see works by highly influential modern artists. Arguably the highlights of the show are the sculptures by Nam June Paik and Joseph Kosuth.
Paik is regarded as the father of video art: in 1965, he and Andy Warhol, working independently, were the first artists to incorporate video footage into their work. Two of Paik's iconic video sculptures, constructed from TV monitors, are included in this exhibition: Internet Resident and Candle TV.
Kosuth's work demonstrates the principles of semiotics, with a real object exhibited alongside a photograph and dictionary definition of the object. Kosuth first demonstrated this concept in 1965, with a real chair, a photograph of the chair, and a written definition of 'chair' presented side-by-side. In this exhibition, the same principle is applied to a frying pan (One & Three Pans).
Artspace Germany is showing at PSG (Silpakorn University) from 6th-27th February.
17 January 2008
The 2008 Japanese Film Festival, organised by the Japan Foundation, takes place from 18th-25th January in Bangkok. The event's subtitle is The Hidden Treasures Of Japanese Cinema: Masterpieces From Its Golden Age - 1950s-1960s.
The 1950s were indeed a golden age for Japanese film (as, previously, were the 1920s), with Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon introducing international audiences to Japanese cinema for the first time. However, the cinema of Japan does not begin and end with Kurosawa. The Japanese Film Festival emphasises the lesser-known directors of Japanese cinema's second golden age.
The schedule includes Gion Bayashi (Saturday) by master director Kenji Mizoguchi, and the historical drama Wild Geese by Shirou Toyoda (Sunday). Also included is The Ghost Of Yotsuya (Sunday), a classic interpretation of Japan's most famous ghost story by its greatest horror director, Nobuo Nakagawa. (The legend of Yotsuya is the Japanese equivalent of the Thai folk tale Mae Nak, on which Nang Nak was based.) There are also two films by Mikio Naruse: Repast (Thursday) and Sound Of The Mountain (Friday). All films will be screened, free of charge, at the Grand EGV cinema, Siam Discovery Center.
12 January 2008
Hostel was directed by Eli Roth, one of a group of contemporary directors known as the Splat Pack due to the graphic violence of their horror films. The films themselves have been called 'torture porn', such is their emphasis on blood and gore.
Hostel begins with a group of three male backpackers, who are told about an Eastern European hostel full of attractive women. When they arrive at the hostel, they do indeed meet three ladies, though what they don't realise until far too late is that they have been drawn into a honeytrap. The women are prostitutes, hired by a Russian company called Elite Hunting, who bring the men to a derelict factory where they are to be tortured and killed by the company's paying clients. (Elite Hunting was supposedly inspired by a Thai organisation whose website Roth saw.)
The torture scenes are dank, dark, and hard to watch the first time. (I saw the unrated edition, which is slightly longer than the theatrical version.) During subsequent viewings I always have to look away when Josh's ankles split open. Jan Vlasak, who plays a Dutch businessman who uses Elite Hunting's services, gives a chilling, casually sadistic performance.
6 January 2008
A new short film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul is available online. The film, Prosperity For 2008, is a beautiful, abstract work, in which a dot of light travels slowly across a black background (and is perhaps a firework in the night sky).
2 January 2008
The Seduced exhibition catalogue presents representative images covering all aspects of the exhibition (Seduced: Art & Sex From Antiquity To Now) alongside contextualising essays by Marina Wallace, Martin Kemp, and Joanne Bernstein.
1 January 2008
I had seen neither the Jackass MTV series nor the original Jackass film, so I had little idea of what to expect from this sequel. Basically, it's a group of raucous men daring each other to perform a variety of risky stunts, directed by Jeff Tremaine.
What surprised me was how scatological many of these activities were - bodily fluids (both human and animal) were required (and ingested) for several stunts. The version I saw was the unrated DVD, and I don't know how much of this material was missing from the theatrical version.
The team are so over-enthusiastic that it's difficult to laugh at them too much, though it is genuinely fascinating in a disgusting kind of way, if only to wonder at how they cleaned up and recuperated afterwards. Also, there's a cameo by director John Waters, whose film Pink Flamingos rivals Jackass II for sheer abjection.