Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sun City & Other Stories

Sun City & Other Stories
Sun City & Other Stories
An exhibition at Alliance Francaise in Delhi, Sun City & Other Stories: Paris - San Francisco - Delhi, by photographer Sunil Gupta, has been shut down following a request from the police. The exhibition opened on 23rd March, and was due to run until 15th April, though police intervened a day after it opened.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

MDNA

MDNA
Madonna's new album MDNA includes Masterpiece, a ballad from her film W/E, and Give Me All Your Luvin', which she sang (or mimed) at the Super Bowl earlier this year. Madonna has described the album's title as a triple-entendre. It's a pseudo-blend of her name (with every second letter omitted), it resembles M DNA (i.e. Madonna's DNA), and it's a pun on MDMA (the rave drug). One of the album's producers, William Orbit, previously produced Ray Of Light and remixed Justify My Love.

The album is surprisingly aggressive (Gang Bang) and confessional (I Fucked Up), though it also contains some pure dance tracks, such as the catchy Turn Up The Radio and Love Spent. Masterpiece is a ballad with a weak first line ("If you were the Mona Lisa, you'd be hanging in the Louvre"). Superstar, like the earlier non-album track Superpop, references some of Madonna's heroes ("You're like Brando on the silver screen").

Several songs - notably I Don't Give A and Best Friend - refer directly to her failed marriage, recalling Till Death Do Us Part on her earlier Like A Prayer album. In another link with Like A Prayer, there are numerous references to Catholicism: Girl Gone Wild begins with a confession, and I'm A Sinner includes a list of saints. MDNA represents a real return to form, with the insubstantial B-Day song being its only weak track.

The double-disc track-list is: Girl Gone Wild, Gang Bang, I'm Addicted, Turn Up The Radio, Give Me All Your Luvin', Some Girls, Superstar, I Don't Give A, I'm A Sinner, Love Spent, Masterpiece, Falling Free, Beautiful Killer, I Fucked Up, B-Day Song, and Best Friend. A single-disc version, containing fewer tracks, is also available, and both versions are also available in non-explicit editions.

Monday, 12 March 2012

100 Ideas That Changed Film

100 Ideas That Changed Film
100 Ideas That Changed Film, written by David Parkinson and published by Laurence King, is a guide to 100 significant technical and stylistic innovations from the Cinematographe to CGI. Each entry is allocated a single page of text accompanied by a full-page, full-colour photograph.

It's refreshing to see film-theory concepts like mise-en-scene, and structural elements such as flashbacks, given equal coverage alongside more mainstream entries. This will hopefully promote an awareness of film grammar (close-ups, zooms, continuity editing, etc.) and the historical development of the medium. Conversely, the chapters on major topics such as Film Noir are inevitably condensed.

The book, with its extensive and well-chosen illustrations, provides a practical and accessible introduction to film studies. It's a useful supplement to film-history surveys such as Cinema: The Whole Story and film-analysis primers like How To Read A Film.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Shadowlife

Shadowlife
Nigger
Shadowlife, an exhibition of Aboriginal video and photography, opened at BACC on 1st March. The exhibition includes Michael Riley's powerful series They Call Me Niigarr [sic.], portraits of a black man accompanied by racist insults. The exhibition will close on 29th April.

La Fete 2012

La Fete 2012
Cinema Picnic By Moonlight
A Trip To The Moon
This year's La Fete arts festival runs from 2nd February until 29th March, at various venues around Bangkok including Alliance Francaise. A highlight of last year's festival, Museum Siam's Cinema Picnic By Moonlight, returned on Valentine's Day with a free outdoor screening of the Georges Melies classic A Trip To The Moon.

A Trip To The Moon, silent cinema's first masterpiece, was presented in 35mm, in a hand-coloured version miraculously restored last year. The film predates continuity editing and montage, so it resembles a series of staged tableaux, and it's undeniably quaint and Victorian by today's standards. However, it's still a magical film, a quantum leap ahead of the cinema of its time.

Melies (the subject of Martin Scorsese's latest film, Hugo) was a pioneer of cinematic production design and special effects, and invented various editing tricks, though A Trip To The Moon also introduced sustained narrative to cinema for the first time. If we credit the Lumiere brothers with the technology of cinema, Melies deserves credit for cinema as art.

Air's soundtrack to the restored A Trip To The Moon felt incongruous because it's too contemporary and avant-garde. (The film has been shown in Bangkok before, at the 5th World Film Festival, with live piano accompaniment and narration, though that was a DVD screening; last month's glorious 35mm projection was far superior, despite Air's odd music.)

Friday, 2 March 2012

Boadwalk Empire

Boardwalk Empire
The premiere episode of Boardwalk Empire's first season was originally broadcast by HBO on 19th September 2010. The episode was directed by Martin Scorsese, and is perhaps the most expensive TV show ever produced.

Boardwalk Empire (the title of the premiere episode and the series) is a historical crime drama set in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the introduction of prohibition. At that time, Atlantic City was noted for its casinos and organised crime - a reputation that would later be inherited by Las Vegas, as portrayed in Scorsese's film Casino. Thus, Scorsese is in familiar territory, having directed gangster films such as GoodFellas and The Departed.

In fact, the episode contains potentially self-referential plot points, such as a casino owner dealing with an unwanted customer (as in Casino) and a gangster's well-educated crew-member being an FBI informant (as in The Departed). A brief montage at a police training centre looks remarkably similar to the FBI training sequence in The Departed. There is even a moment of arguable self-parody, with a boxing match between two dwarves (surely evoking Scorsese's masterpiece Raging Bull).

In the past decade, HBO has led a renaissance of creativity in American television drama, a welcome contrast to the unfortunate popularity of trashy 'reality TV'. Boadwalk Empire is the latest in a long list of acclaimed HBO shows, including The Sopranos (inspired by Scorsese's GoodFellas), The Wire, Oz, Deadwood, Sex & The City, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Six Feet Under. Being an HBO production, the series is not subject to the restrictions imposed on network television, thus it contains the strong language and flashes of extreme violence associated with Scorsese's films. Another of his directorial trademarks, the freeze-frame (as in GoodFellas), is also present.

Scorsese has previously directed documentaries for television, such as A Personal Journey Through American Movies, though Boardwalk Empire is his first TV drama. Alfred Hitchcock also ventured into television drama, with Alfred Hitchcock Presents; Hitchcock and Scorsese have also both added prestige to 3D cinema: Hitchcock with Dial M For Murder, and Scorsese with Hugo.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

The Battle Of Algiers

The Battle Of Algiers
The Battle Of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo's classic and realistic portrait of urban guerilla warfare, will be shown tonight at the FCCT in Bangkok. The screening is free.

Red Issue

Boardwalk Empire
Copies of Manchester United FC's fanzine Red Issue were seized by police last month, after the magazine printed a Ku Klux Klan mask on its back cover, with the slogan "SUAREZ IS INNOCENT". The slogan was a reference to Liverpool FC player Luis Suarez, who has been accused of racism. The magazine has now been reprinted with an alternate cover.