Saturday, 28 November 2009

Metro

Metro
Author Magdy El Shafee and his publisher, Mohamed El Sahrqawi, have been fined 5,000 pounds by an Egyptian court. They were convicted of writing and distributing an 'immoral' text, namely the graphic novel Metro, which was confiscated last year.

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Friday, 27 November 2009

Muhammad: The 'Banned' Images

Muhammad: The 'Banned' Images
Gary Hull's book Muhammad: The 'Banned' Images includes reproductions of the controversial Jyllands-Posten Mohammed caricatures and a selection of historical Mohammed images including The Remaining Signs Of Past Centuries (censored from a French textbook). Its cover is a rather bland depiction of an actor portraying Mohammed.

Hull describes his (self-published?) book as a "supplement" and "errata" to Jytte Klausen's book The Cartoons That Shook The World, as Hull includes Mohammed caricatures which were removed by Klausen's publisher. However, Klausen has not endorsed Hull's publication, and the two books have no official connection. The books Blasphemy and L'Affaire Des Caricatures provide more insightful coverage of the debate surrounding images of Mohammed.

Story Of The Eye

Story Of The Eye
Story Of The Eye, an exhibition of watercolour paintings by Tawan Wattuya and photographs by Tada Varich, was inspired by Georges Bataille's disturbing novella of the same name. It shares Bataille's fascination with sex and death, as Tada's photographs include borderline hardcore images and a foetus preserved in formaldehyde. Tawan's paintings are even more graphic, though less realistic.

Story Of The Eye is at Gossip Gallery, Bangkok, from 12th November until 12th December. (The anthology film L'Erotisme was also inspired by Bataille.)

Monday, 23 November 2009

Napoleon

Napoleon
Napoleon
Napoleon
Napoleon: The Greatest Movie Never Made, edited by Alison Castle, is a collection of ten volumes (Reference, Script, Production, Notes, Correspondence, Chronology, Text, Costumes, Location Scouting, and Picture File), and a poster, packaged inside an enormous, hollow book. It's outrageously expensive and extremely heavy (10kg), and is limited to 1,000 numbered copies (mine being #246).

Kubrick started pre-production for a proposed epic Napoleon Bonaparte biopic in 1968, and his research included collecting over 300 Napoleonic books (all of which are listed in Castle's bibliography), a database of 17,000 images (of which Castle reproduces 6,000; the full database is online), and 25,000 biographical index cards (of which Castle reproduces 100). The project was ultimately cancelled, however, after the box-office failure of another Napoleon film, Waterloo.

Castle's book, published by Taschen, features full reprints of Kubrick's Napoleon treatment and screenplay, and two drafts of his production notes. Selections from his thousands of letters, notebooks, and costume photographs are also included. Lengthy conversations between Kubrick and historian Felix Markham are meticulously and comprehensively transcribed.

After Kubrick died, his archive materials were displayed in a temporary Stanley Kubrick exhibition, and the permanent Stanley Kubrick Archive was established. The exhibition catalogue, published in 2004, contains a chapter about Napoleon (The Best Movie (N)ever Made, by Eva-Maria Magel), and Alison Castle's 2005 book The Stanley Kubrick Archives also includes a Napoleon chapter (The Epic That Never Was, by Gene D Phillips).

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The September Issue

The September Issue
The September Issue is RJ Cutler's fly-on-the-wall documentary following Vogue editor Anna Wintour and her senior staff as they prepare the magazine's September 2007 issue. Wintour was the inspiration for the Miranda Priestly character in The Devil Wears Prada, and The September Issue contains little that will soften her public image - even an initially sweet scene with her daughter, Katherine, concludes with Wintour encouraging an unwilling Katherine to become a fashion editor. (She seems genuinely supportive of a young Thai designer, Thakoon Panichgul, but that might change once he becomes truly established.)

The film basically confirms our perceptions of Wintour (her instant dismissals of clothes, photos, or comments she doesn't like), though more surprising are the supporting cast of Vogue's editorial staff. The likable, hippyish, down-to-earth Grace Coddington clomps around the office, and has Wintour's fashion instincts plus humour and sensitivity. In contrast, Andre Leon Talley is almost a caricature; with his ridiculous capes and designer towels, he looks like a huge, spangly potato.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Reincarnate

Reincarnate
Thunska Pansittivorakul's new film, Reincarnate, is a fictionalised portrait of Thunska and his leading actor, Panuwat Wisessiri. Panuwat discusses the filming process with Thunska, while never breaking character, thus blurring the boundary between behind-the-scenes footage and the scenes themselves. The camera films Panuwat's body as he sleeps, showers, and relaxes.

Thunska and Panuwat play Jenga, with the red, yellow, and blue blocks symbolising the various political groups in Thailand. (UDD supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra wear red shirts; their antagonists, who support the current government, wear blue shirts; the monarchist, anti-Thaksin PAD wear yellow shirts.) Thunska's film This Area Is Under Quarantine was more overtly political, though it was consequently banned. (His earlier films were screened at a retrospective in 2008.)

Reincarnate is arguably Thunska's most explicit film, with a brief sequence (featuring Tharapong Buasai) which is visually similar to, and even more graphic than, his short documentary Unseen Bangkok. In both films, the same camera angle is used, foregrounding a particular part of the anatomy, which the director can't resist touching. Reincarnate was intended partly as a protest against the 2009 Thai cinema ratings system, which prohibits frontal nudity amongst many other taboos; unsurprisingly, the film has not been submitted to the national ratings board.

There are some beautiful images in the film, such as Panuwat, in silhouette, framed by an open window. The film's ending, in which Panuwat describes giving birth to a daughter, who then entices his spirit to leave his body, is deliberately ambiguous, and tonally similar to the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who was a co-producer of Reincarnate.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

7th World Film Festival of Bangkok

7th World Film Festival of Bangkok
7th World Film Festival of Bangkok
This Area Is Under Quarantine
The 7th World Film Festival of Bangkok finished today, after opening on 3rd November. All screenings took place at Paragon Cineplex (the same as the 6th Festival, whereas the 5th was held at Esplanade Cineplex).

A Letter To Uncle Boonmee, part of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Primitive installation (which also includes Phantoms Of Nabua), was screened on 9th and 15th November, though a screening of For Alexis was cancelled. A Letter To Uncle Boonmee is similar to Morakot, with the camera gliding slowly though an empty building accompanied by a voice-over.

Sadly, This Area Is Under Quarantine, by Thunska Pansittivorakul, was not shown, after the Ministry of Culture refused to give it a rating. Fortunately, it has been screened at less censorious film festivals earlier this year, such as the Rotterdam International Film Festival (the Netherlands), the Torino International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (Italy), Queer Lisboa (Portugal), and the Q! Film Festival (Indonesia).

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Wednesday, 11 November 2009

The Remaining Signs Of Past Centuries

Histoire Geographie
Why We Left Islam
Mohammed: The Profit Of Islam
A copy of a medieval illustration from The Remaining Signs Of Past Centuries by Abu Rayhan Biruni has been censored from a French textbook, Histoire Geographie (written by Eric Chaudron and Remy Knafou). The book was originally published uncensored in 2005, though Mohammed's face was pixelated for the fifth edition's second printing.

(Jyllands-Posten published twelve Mohammed caricatures in 2005, inspiring numerous satirical Mohammed cartoons.) Mohammed, as depicted in The Remaining Signs Of Past Centuries, appears uncensored on the covers of two books published last year: Why We Left Islam: Former Muslims Speak Out (Susan Crimp and Joel Richardson) and a reprint of Mohammed: The Prophet Of Islam (HEE Hayes).

Monday, 9 November 2009

Controverses

Controverses
Controverses: Une Histoire Juridique & Ethique De La Photographie, by Daniel Girardin and Christian Pirker, is a Swiss exhibition catalogue featuring some of the most controversial photographs in history. The images include early publicity photos, photojournalism, and art photography.

One of the most powerful photographs is a picture of a severed hand, from a victim of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. The image (2001), by Todd Maisel, was published by only a single newspaper (New York's Daily News), while other American papers made a collective decision to avoid printing photographs of the victims.

The two Iraq wars have produced similarly controversial images (not included in the book). A photo by Ken Jarecke of an Iraqi soldier's charred body was rejected by all newspapers except The Observer (which printed it on 10th March 1991), and "a gruesome image of a young child's head split open" was the subject of much debate in the UK media before finally being printed by The Guardian (on 28th March 2003).

Arguably the most shocking picture is Kevin Carter's photograph (1993) of a vulture following a starving Sudanese child. After taking the photograph, Carter shooed the potential scavenger away, though he was later criticised for not helping the child any further.

The book includes some famously provocative images, such as Oliviero Toscani's Benetton poster showing a nun kissing a priest (1992) and Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (1987). A Robert Mapplethorpe self-portrait (1978) is included, though it's one of Mapplethorpe's less graphic images.

Several controversial photographs of naked children are featured, including a sexualised portrait by Irina Ionesco (1970) of her daughter Eva, and notorious images by Graham Ovenden (1984) and Jock Sturges (1989). Annelies Strba's Sonja In Her Bath (1985) and a portrait of Brooke Shields by Gary Gross (1975), both of which have been removed by the police from UK galleries, are also included. Nan Goldin's "Klara and Adda Belly Dancing" [sic.] is mentioned though not reproduced.

A paparazzo photo of Princess Diana taken by Jacques Langevin in the moments before her car crash (1997) is included. The infamous photo of Diana receiving first aid after the crash is mentioned in the text without being reproduced.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Suicide Mind

Suicide Mind
Suicide Mind
For his new installation, Suicide Mind, Pornprasert Yamazaki has painted in his own blood on paper and ceramics. His works on paper, large reproductions of Thai and American banknotes, are hung on the walls, while on the floor are ceramic tiles painted with flower patterns. In the centre stands a vase of dead roses on a stone plinth. (The decaying flowers recall last year's Perishable Beauty exhibition and Otto Berchem's Deadheading from The Suspended Moment.)

Like Pornprasert, Kosit Juntaratip is another Thai artist who uses blood in his work. Blood has also featured in several Bangkok exhibitions from the past few years: Kristian von Hornsleth's Deep Storage Art Project, Manit Sriwanichpoom's Died On 6th October 1976 (from Flashback '76), and Chen Lingyang's Twelve Flower Months (from Women In A Society Of Double-Sexuality).

Suicide Mind opened at Whitespace Gallery in Bangkok on 23rd October, and will close on 6th December. The exhibition also includes a video showing Pornprasert extracting and painting with blood.

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Monday, 2 November 2009

European Union Film Festival 2009

European Union Film Festival 2009
California Dreamin'
The European Union Film Festival 2009 will take place at SF World (the cinema at CentralWorld) from 19th to 29th November. One of the highlights will be California Dreamin', by the late Romanian director Cristian Nemescu, screening on 22nd and 23rd November.

The 2007 festival also featured an outstanding Romanian film, Four Months, Three Weeks, & Two Days. Both of these films have also been screened at Chulalongkorn University's International Film Festival: Four Months, Three Weeks, & Two Days in 2008, and California Dreamin' at the 2008-2009 event.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

ภาพยนตร์ศรีศาลายา

Tears Of The Black Tiger
Last Life In The Universe
Tropical Malady
Thailand's National Film Archive (in Salaya, near Bangkok), is hosting a film festival this month, ภาพยนตร์ศรีศาลายา, screening one film per day from the past thirty years of Thai cinema. Highlights include Tears Of The Black Tiger (Wisit Sasanatieng; 20th November), Last Life In The Universe (Pen-ek Ratanaruang; 23rd November), and Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul; 26th November).

Art & Words

Art & Words
Art & Words is a catalogue of recent video works by Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook. In Conversation, Death Seminar, and The Class, Araya talks to (and even teaches) a group of cadavers. One of her Conversation videos was shown at The Suspended Moment in 2006, and an earlier work, Reading For Female Corpse, was shown at From Message To Media the following year.