Sunday, 31 October 2010

Adresseavisen

Adresseavisen
At the start of this month, the editor of Adresseavisen, Denmark's oldest newspaper, pulped an issue of its Uke-Adressa supplement before it was distributed. The issue included a drawing by Jan O Henriksen depicting Kurt Westergaard and his infamous Mohammed caricature.

This is not the first time that Henriksen has caused controversy by drawing Mohammed. In 2008, Adresseavisen published his cartoon of Mohammed as a naked suicide-bomber. That image was one of many Mohammed cartoons published in response to the protests surrounding another Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, which printed twelve Mohammed cartoons in 2005.

El Alma Nunca Piensa Sin Imagen

El Alma Nunca Piensa Sin Imagen
A diptych of photographs depicting two Argentine presidential candidates by artist Roberto Jacoby was removed from the Sao Paolo Biennial last month. Election officials claimed that the installation, titled El Alma Nunca Piensa Sin Imagen, constituted propaganda, and it was therefore banned from the exhibition.

A Siam Theatre Presentation

Gone With The Wind
Siam Theatre, destroyed by arsonists earlier this year, held a farewell open-air film screening yesterday evening: the first half of Gone With The Wind played to an audience watching from Siam BTS station. The film was last screened in Bangkok (in full) three years ago, during Lido's Festival Of Classic Movies.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

i

i
Today, The Independent launched the i, a new national UK newspaper. Much of the content is adapted from copy written by journalists from The Independent, and it will be interesting to see if the i cannibalises The Independent's readership, because - judging from its first issue - the i seems like a more attractive package than its sister paper.

The editor's letter on page three announces that the i is "not only a new paper, but a new kind of paper, designed for people with busy, modern lives. Colourful and accessible, concise and intelligent, it's your essential daily briefing." The first issue successfully lives up to that description: it is colourful (printed in full colour throughout), accessible (tabloid format), concise (with an emphasis on short news articles), and intelligent (with decent coverage of business and world news).

Sunday, 24 October 2010

A World History Of Art

A World History Of Art
A World History Of Art, by John Fleming and Hugh Honour, is a more comprehensive survey of the entire global history of art than any other single-volume publication. The book has been published by Laurence King since its second edition, and it remains the publisher's flagship title. (In America, it's published by Prentice-Hall as The Visual Arts: A History.)

Laurence King has subsequently commissioned histories of various artistic fields, such as A World History Of Architecture (more accessible, though less detailed, than Banister Fletcher's A History Of Architecture), A History Of Interior Design, History Of Modern Design, Graphic Design: A New History (more engaging, though less scholarly, than Philip B Meggs's A History Of Graphic Design), and Photography: A Cultural History (more up-to-date, and better organised, than Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography).

The revised seventh edition of A World History Of Art finally has a cover that does justice to the book's contents. The covers of previous editions seemed old-fashioned or insubstantial, though the latest cover - a detail from Picasso's Guernica - and the clean, bold typography on the spine, are suitably striking. There are only minor changes to the text and illustrations (as Michael Archer made more significant revisions in the sixth and seventh editions); one tiny regret is that a photograph of Damien Hirst's shark installation (The Physical Impossibility Of Death In The Mind Of Someone Living) has been removed.

EH Gombrich's concise text The Story Of Art remains the classic introduction to art history, though A World History Of Art is more comprehensive and (like all Laurence King publications) benefits from large, full-colour illustrations. Of the major American art textbooks, Helen Gardner's Art Through The Ages is one of the earliest surveys of both Western and non-Western art. Fleming and Honour also co-wrote The Penguin Dictionary Of Decorative Arts and (with Nikolaus Pevsner) the Dictionary Of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, and Honour contributed to World Furniture: An Illustrated History (edited by Helena Hayward).

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Red Eagle

The Red Eagle
The Red Eagle is Wisit Sasanatieng's remake of The Golden Eagle, a superhero film made in Thailand in 1970. Mitr Chaibancha, the star of the original film, died during the production, falling from a helicopter while filming the final sequence. Mitr has been replaced by Ananda Everingham in Wisit's updated version.

Featuring rapid-montage fight sequences, and filmed largely with hand-held cameras, The Red Eagle is a surprisingly commercial action film from a director more comfortable with indie cinema. Like his previous film The Unseeable, it's a mainstream genre movie, though its over-the-top violence echoes that of his cult debut Tears Of The Black Tiger. While that first film - and its follow-up, Citizen Dog - were vibrantly coloured and somewhat kitsch, The Red Eagle is visually and thematically darker.

As played by Ananda, Red Eagle is as much a criminal as a superhero. Like Iron Man, he is dependent on pain-relieving medication; like Batman in The Dark Knight, he rides a gleaming black motorbike; like both of them, he has no superpowers. He is pursued by a black-caped figure and sought by a mysterious cabal of masked men, adding stylised elements to an otherwise conventional film. Political corruption is a major theme, and scenes in which the Thai Prime Minister's car is surrounded by protesters are a reminder of last year's demonstrations in Bangkok.

Wisit has announced that The Red Eagle may be his final studio film, as he is apparently tired of compromising his artistic integrity. Thailand's National Film Archive screened all of his previous films last month.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

European Union Film Festival 2010

European Union Film Festival 2010
Cameraman
The European Union Film Festival 2010 opens today at the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, and will close on 31st October. (The venue of last year's Festival was damaged following the recent 'Black May' protests.) All screenings are free.

Craig McCall's documentary Cameraman: The Life & Work Of Jack Cardiff is this year's highlight, and is screening on 30th October. Cardiff directed films including Sons & Lovers and Scent Of Mystery, though he is most famous as the cinematographer of three films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (A Matter Of Life & Death, The Red Shoes, and Black Narcissus). The documentary includes contributions from director Martin Scorsese and actor Charlton Heston, among many others.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The History Of Italian Cinema

The History Of Italian Cinema
The History Of Italian Cinema: A Guide To Italian Film From Its Origins To The 21st Century is an English translation of Gian Piero Brunetta's Guida Alla Storia Del Cinema Italiano 1905-2003; the Italian edition was published in 2003, and the English version includes a new afterword written in 2007. Brunetta has written extensively on the history of Italian cinema; his magnum opus is the four-volume Storia Del Cinema Italiano, though this is not (yet) available in an English translation.

For almost two decades, Brunetta's various Italian cinema histories remained the definitive accounts of their subject, with Peter Bondanella's Italian Cinema providing an impressive though inferior English-language alternative. However, Bondanella's A History Of Italian Cinema, with its new coverage of Italian film genres and its extensive bibliography, now equals or arguably even surpasses Brunetta's work.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Trespass

Trespass
Trespass: A History Of Uncommissioned Urban Art, edited by Ethel Seno, surveys the work of 150 street artists, and presents the first global history of graffiti and other site-specific guerrilla art. The book's wide scope also includes culture jamming and urban performance art. (The Faith Of Graffiti was the first study of graffiti as an art form, and Advertising Is Dead discusses how corporations employ the same tactics as guerrilla artists.)

Friday, 15 October 2010

A Social History Of The Media

A Social History Of The Media
A Social History Of The Media: From Gutenberg To The Internet, by Asa Briggs and Peter Burke, is a concise history of media and communications technologies, including newspapers, radio, television, and the internet. Now in its third edition, it's far more comprehensive than its nearest rival, Media & Society In The 20th Century.

Tarantula

Tarantula
Tarantula, directed by Jack Arnold, features an enormous radioactive spider (the titular tarantula) that terrorises a small town. It was clearly inspired by Them!, which features enormous ants, though its special effects (back-projections of a real tarantula, and miniature sets) are a significant improvement. Like Godzilla, it has an anti-nuclear subtext.

Arnold directed a series of classic sci-fi films in the 1950s in addition to Tarantula, including Creature From The Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space. His pulp masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man also features a battle with an arachnid. Tarantula was spoofed nearly forty years after it was made, by Eight Legged Freaks.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

BFI Film Classics
2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey
Peter Kramer's slim monograph on Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey is part of the BFI Film Classics series. Like others in the collection (even the best ones, such as The Exorcist by Mark Kermode, The Birds by Camille Paglia, Citizen Kane by Laura Mulvey, Cat People by Kim Newman, Double Indemnity by Richard Schickel, and Annie Hall by Peter Cowie), it contains a superfluous plot synopsis. However, Kramer's book also includes useful new research, as he quotes production materials from the Stanley Kubrick Archive.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Quota Quickies

Quota Quickies
In Quota Quickies: The Birth Of The British 'B' Film, Steve Chibnall discusses the films released in the aftermath of the 1927 Cinematograph Films Act. The Act required UK cinemas to screen a quota of British films, to avoid Hollywood productions dominating the market. The result, however, was an influx of low-budget and low-quality films that have been been maligned by critics ever since.

Chibnall re-evaluates the extant films of the period, including a case-study of the early films directed by Michael Powell. He also provides statistical analysis, albeit from a data set that's limited to cinemas in Leicester.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

501 Must-See Movies

501 Must-See Movies
The second edition of 501 Must-See Movies, written by Ronald Bergan (author of Film), Chris Darke, Rob Hill, Ann Lloyd, Cara Frost-Sharratt, and Paul Frost-Sharratt, features 501 films arranged chronologically within ten categories. Fifty films have been removed, replaced exclusively by titles released after the first edition was published. The book contains only 500 entries, though Kill Bill I and II appear as a single combined entry, making a total of 501 films.

The new additions include Oldboy, Shaun Of The Dead, A Cock & Bull Story, Kill Bill, Drag Me To Hell, Sweeney Todd, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, The Dark Knight, Cache, Casino Royale, and The Departed. Unfortunately, among the deletions are classics such as Children Of Paradise, Alexander Nevsky, The Man In The White Suit, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Minority Report, and The Asphalt Jungle.

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Saturday, 2 October 2010

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The 2010 edition of Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has now been released. As in the 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005 versions, only 1% of the films have been changed. Eleven films have been removed, all of which were released within the previous decade. The eleven new films, all from the past two years, include The White Ribbon, Inglourious Basterds, and Avatar.

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Radical Abstractionism VIII

Radical Abstractionism VIII
The Russian Ministry of Culture has prevented the Louvre in Paris from showing Radical Abstractionism VIII (2004), a painting by Avdei Ter-Oganyan. The work was to be included in the Louvre's forthcoming Counterpoint: Russia Contemporary Art exhibition, though the Russian authorities allege that the painting incites violence against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The painting is a geometric abstraction, though its caption reads: "This work urges you to commit an attack on statesman VV Putin in order to end his state and political activities". Ter-Oganyan also took part in the provocative Forbidden Art 2006 exhibition in Moscow. (Another Russian artist, Alexander Shednov, has also faced censorship over his satire of Putin.)

Tavshedens Tyranni

Tavshedens Tyranni
Flemming Rose, who commissioned Jyllands-Posten's infamous Mohammed caricatures, has written Tavshedens Tyranni, a book about the controversy generated by the twelve drawings. (The book also reprints all of the caricatures.) Since they were first published, they have been extensively reprinted, and three books have been written about them: Gary Hull's Muhammad, Mohamed Sifaoui's L'Affaire Des Caricatures, and Jytte Klausen's The Cartoons That Shook The World.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Obama's Wars

Obama's Wars
Obama's Wars (published in Britain with the subtitle The Inside Story), by Bob Woodward, is an account of Barack Obama's policies regarding the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Woodward, one of the world's most famous investigative reporters following his exposure of the Watergate scandal, has interviewed many of Obama's senior staff, though most of them are quoted anonymously. (Woodward employed the same 'deep background' reporting style for his books about Obama's predecessor, as did John Heilemann and Mark Halperin for Game Change.) Woodward was granted an hour-long Oval Office interview with Obama, as well as interviews with the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sloth

Sloth
Mark Goldblatt's novel Sloth is unrelated to Islam, though the author has retrospectively announced that the cockroach on its cover is a depiction of Mohammed. He was reacting to the Everybody Draw Mohammed Day! controversy.