Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Artist As Jeweler

The Artist As Jeweler
The Artist As Jeweler: From Picasso To Jeff Koons is the catalogue of an exhibition (From Picasso To Koons) held in New York in 2011. The book features reproductions of around 200 items of jewellery, though not all pieces from the exhibition are included.

More than half of the exhibits are from the collection of Diane Venet, who edited the book and writes a long and self-serving introduction: "I also enjoy bringing out my different pieces from their jewelry boxes in order to expose them to the eyes of the collector." (Translation: she likes looking at them.) This is followed by an obsequious essay on Venet's collection by her friend Adrien Goetz: "Diane possesses all the rigor and discernment typical of the true collector."

The rest of the book comprises individual profiles of modern artist-jewellers and large, detailed photographs of jewellery from various private collections, including Venet's. Many of the pieces resemble miniature versions of the artists' most famous paintings or sculptures rendered in precious metal, and they were clearly made for commercial rather than purely artistic reasons. (One exception is a pendant by Nam June Paik, created by attaching a circuit board to a chain. Curiously, the book states that this is an untitled work from 1980, while the exhibition labels it as Sense Amplifier Inhibit Driver from 2012.)

H Clifford Smith wrote Jewellery, the first comprehensive history of the subject, in 1908. A History Of Jewellery 1100-1870 (Joan Evans, 1953) is another standard work. Modern Jewellery: An International Survey 1890-1963 (Graham Hughes, 1963) was the first guide to modern jewellery. 7,000 Years Of Jewellery (Hugh Tait, 1986) is the most comprehensive international history of jewellery.

The Fashion Book

The Fashion Book
The Fashion Book was first published by Phaidon in 1998, and the second edition appeared in 2013. It profiles more than 500 fashion designers, models, photographers (including Irving Penn, represented by his "exercise in graphic perfection" portrait of Jean Patchett), writers (notably Anna Wintour, "The most powerful person in fashion"), and style icons (such as Madonna, pictured in her Blond Ambition basque by Jean-Paul Gaultier).

The book has a similar format to others in the series, including The Art Book, The Photography Book, The Design Book, The Pot Book, and The 20th Century Art Book. The range of its fashion coverage is impressive, from the Victorian era ("The story of modern fashion began when Charles Frederick Worth... raised dressmaking to a new level called haute couture") to contemporary popular culture ("Lady Gaga was stitched into a dress made of raw beef for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards").

The History Of Modern Fashion is a narrative history covering the same period as The Fashion Book. Auguste Racinet's Complete Costume History was an early historical survey. Millia Davenport's Costume Book covered European and American costume history. Francois Boucher's 20,000 Years Of Fashion traced the entire history of European fashion. Patricia Rieff Anawalt's Worldwide History Of Dress and Leslie Steele's Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion have extensive coverage of non-Western traditional dress.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Movie Book

The Movie Book
The Movie Book (not to be confused with The Movie Book from Phaidon) is a guide to more than 200 classic and influential films, the latest in DK's Big Ideas Simply Explained series: "The movies gathered here are those that the authors feel... to have had the most seismic impact on both cinema and the world." The films selected are "an atlas of influence, a collection of landmarks" and represent "an attempt to build a narrative of film history out of the movies themselves".

The book was written by a team of authors (Louis Baxter, John Farndon, Kieran Grant, and Damon Wise), led by Danny Leigh. 116 films are included, cross-referenced and arranged chronologically, and entries range from a single page to six pages per film. There is extensive coverage of international cinema, with Latin American films especially well represented. Most directors are limited to single entries in the main list, though Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Victor Fleming, Ridley Scott, and Fritz Lang each have two films included.

Most entries include brief director profiles, infographics (some more informative than others), and plot timelines (which contain spoilers). Perhaps the best entry is that for Pulp Fiction, which includes a double-page spread with a quote and film still, a full-page poster, and a useful infographic that presents its non-linear narrative chronologically.

Following the 116 main entries, there is an appendix of eighty-eight extra films: "a selection of the movies that came close to being included in the main section, but did not quite make the final cut." This makes a total of 204 titles, though there are a few odd omissions: Man With A Movie Camera and On The Waterfront are not included, there are no 1930s gangster films, musicals and westerns are under-represented, there is only one 'spaghetti western' (Once Upon A Time In The West, in the appendix), and most film noir titles are relegated to the appendix.

The 116 main entries are as follows:
  • A Trip To The Moon
  • Intolerance
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Sunrise
  • Metropolis
  • Steamboat Bill Jr
  • The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
  • The Blue Angel
  • People On Sunday
  • City Lights
  • M
  • Duck Soup
  • King Kong
  • Zero For Conduct
  • The Bride Of Frankenstein
  • Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • The Rules Of The Game
  • Gone With The Wind
  • His Girl Friday
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • To Be Or Not To Be
  • Ossessione
  • Laura
  • Children Of Paradise
  • La Belle & La Bete
  • A Matter Of Life & Death
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • The Third Man
  • Rashomon
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Night Of The Hunter
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • Tokyo Story
  • The Wages Of Fear
  • Godzilla
  • All That Heaven Allows
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • Pather Panchali
  • Kiss Me Deadly
  • The Searchers
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Vertigo
  • Ashes & Diamonds
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The 400 Blows
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Breathless
  • Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
  • Last Year At Marienbad
  • La Jetee
  • The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
  • Black God, White Devil
  • Dr Strangelove
  • The Sound Of Music
  • The Battle Of Algiers
  • The Chelsea Girls
  • Playtime
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Wild Bunch
  • Easy Rider
  • La Boucher
  • The Godfather
  • Aguirre: The Wrath Of God
  • The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie
  • Don't Look Now
  • The Spirit Of The Beehive
  • Chinatown
  • Ali: Fear Eats The Soul
  • Jaws
  • Picnic At Hanging Rock
  • Taxi Driver
  • Annie Hall
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Alien
  • Stalker
  • Das Boot
  • Blade Runner
  • BLue Velvet
  • Wings Of Desire
  • Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown
  • Sex Lies & Videotape
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Raise The Red Lantern
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Three Colours: Red
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Toy Story
  • La Haine
  • Fargo
  • The Sweet Hereafter
  • Central Station
  • Festen
  • The Ring
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Spirited Away
  • Amelie
  • Lagaan
  • The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  • City Of God
  • Oldboy
  • The Lives Of Others
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Man On Wire
  • The White Ribbon
  • Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
  • Gravity
  • Boyhood
The appendix of eighty-eight films is as follows:
  • The Great Train Robbery
  • Nosferatu
  • Dr Mabuse The Gambler
  • The Jazz Singer
  • Un Chien Andalou
  • Freaks
  • The Grapes Of Wrath
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Sullivan's Travels
  • Meshes Of The Afternoon
  • Double Indemnity
  • Brief Encounter
  • Murders Among Us
  • Out Of The Past
  • The Red Shoes
  • All About Eve
  • Los Olvidados
  • The Big Heat
  • La Strada
  • Seven Samurai
  • Rififi
  • Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
  • Touch Of Evil
  • Elevator To The Gallows
  • Peeping Tom
  • Psycho
  • West Side Story
  • The Innocents
  • Jules & Jim
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Dry Summer
  • Jason & The Argonauts
  • Onibaba
  • I Am Cuba
  • Closely Observed Trains
  • Persona
  • The Graduate
  • Belle De Jour
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Salesman
  • Once Upon A Time In The West
  • Kes
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Harold & Maude
  • Land Of Silence & Darkness
  • Walkabout
  • The Harder They Come
  • A Woman Under The Influence
  • Sholay
  • Xala
  • Eraserhead
  • Dawn Of The Dead
  • Days Of Heaven
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Raging Bull
  • The Shining
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Scarface
  • Blood Simple
  • Paris, Texas
  • Come & See
  • Brazil
  • Down By Law
  • Jesus Of Montreal
  • Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
  • Hard Boiled
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Naked
  • Short Cuts
  • Heavenly Creatures
  • Drifting Clouds
  • Breaking The Waves
  • Taste Of Cherry
  • Werckmeister Harmonies
  • Amores Perros
  • In The Mood For Love
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Goodbye, Lenin
  • Tsotsi
  • Cache
  • Times & Winds
  • Ten Canoes
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Secret In Their Eyes
  • The Kid With A Bike
  • Holy Motors
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
[Note that Some Like It Hot is the 1959 Billy Wilder classic, and Scarface is the 1983 remake.]

Monday, 16 November 2015

Light Art From Artificial Light

Light Art From Artificial Light
Light Space Modulator
Light Art From Artificial Light: Light As A Medium In The Art Of The 20th & 21st Centuries, edited by Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen, is the catalogue of an exhibition held in Germany from 2005 to 2006, "the first comprehensive, indeed encyclopedic, show of artists' engagement with artificial light since the exhibition KunstLichtKunst (1966)". The catalogue, with more than 700 pages and almost 1,000 illustrations, is a truly definitive survey of light art.

The exhibition traces the history of light art back to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's kinetic Light-Space Modulator and Zdenek Pesanek's neon sculptures of the 1920s, though it also includes contemporary artists such as Dan Flavin and Tracey Emin. The catalogue contains both English and German text; its German title is Lichtkunst Aus Kunstlicht.

One of the catalogue's essays is by Frank Popper, whose Origins & Development Of Kinetic Art (1968) and Art Of The Electronic Age (1993) also discuss light art. Rudi Stern's Let There Be Neon (1979) was the first history of neon art.

Dreams Month

Spirited Away
Spirited Away
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is currently hosting a Dreams Month film season, which concludes on 25th November with Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away. Jam's previous seasons have included Forking Paths Month, Resizing Month, Banned Month, Doppelganger Month, American Independent Month, Anime Month, 'So Bad It's Good' Month, Philip Seymour Hoffman Month, and Noir Month.

Sunday, 15 November 2015


sPACEtIME, co-directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul, Harit Srikhao, and Itdhi Phanmanee, is a documentary about the three directors and their friend Nathapong Kaewprom, playing truth or dare and discussing their (sometimes painful) love lives. Their mutual sexual histories are gradually revealed, particularly the relationship between Thunska and photographer Harit. (Harit's photographs, including images of preserved foetuses, punctuate the film.)

In Thunska's earlier semi-documentary Reincarnate, a character asks him about the meaning of his tattoos. In that film, he doesn't answer, though in sPACEtIME he explains their emotional significance. The participants all appear as themselves, and the film is completely naturalistic, though the dramatic ending (involving a power cut) invites questions about the line between documentary and 'structured reality'.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

50 Greatest Films

Fifty greatest films, in chronological order, selected from a database of 500 titles. See also: Ten Essential Films.

A Trip To The Moon (Georges Melies, 1902)

The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919)

Nanook Of The North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927)
Un chien andalou (Luis Bunuel & Salvador Dali, 1928)
Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
The Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931)
42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1939)
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937)
Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
The Rules Of The Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
Le jour se leve (Marcel Carne, 1939)

His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947)
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)

Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
Tokyo Story (Yasujiri Ozu, 1953)
On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
Creature From The Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954)
Les diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
Dont Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

The Godfather (Francis Coppola, 1972)
Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)

Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979)

Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Polaroid Years

The Polaroid Years
The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography & Experimentation, an exhibition catalogue edited by Mary-Kay Lombino, is "the first comprehensive look at the groundbreaking art made with Polaroid photography". The exhibition was held in New York in 2013, and featured Polaroid prints by artists and photographers from the past forty years.

Polaroid often commissioned works from photographers, including Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe, both of whom became famous for their Polaroid portraits. Warhol is the artist most often associated with Polaroid, and a Warhol self-portrait is one of the first images in the catalogue. The book also features a timeline of Polaroid's corporate history, and an essay by editor and curator Lombino on the various photographic techniques and genres represented in the exhibition.

Polaroid's founder, Edwin Land, invented the instant camera, and Polaroid was one of the few camera companies to achieve a level of brand recognition equal to Kodak. (Both companies eventually filed for bankruptcy, after being eclipsed by digital photography.) Polaroid's most famous camera was the iconic SX70 (Phaidon Design Classics #749), and The Polaroid Years includes stills from an SX70 promotional film by Charles and Ray Eames.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Sunday Mail

The Sunday Mail
Three journalists from The Sunday Mail, a Zimbabwean state newspaper, were arrested on Monday. Editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba, and reporter Tinashe Farawo are facing charges of slander related to a front-page story published on Sunday headlined "Top cop fingered in poaching saga".

The article, written by Chitemba and Farawo, claimed that an assistant police commissioner was among several officials involved in elephant-poaching at Hwange National Park. The report has not been deleted from the newspaper's website. The three journalists are due to appear in court today.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The World History Of Animation

The World History Of Animation
The World History Of Animation, by Stephen Cavalier, is a chronological history of film and television animation, divided into five eras: "The Origins of Animation" (the pre-history of cinema), "The Era of Experimentation" (silent animated films), the "Golden Age of Cartoons" (including the Disney classics), "The Television Age", and "The Digital Dawn" (CGI and Pixar).

The book begins by summarising the histories of the animation industries of four world regions: North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Each region has a timeline and a few pages of narrative history. Four other world regions - Scandinavia, Australasia, Latin America, and Africa - are given timelines only.

The rest of the book consists of reviews of significant animated films and television series, many of which are accompanied by colour illustrations. (Most of the images are frame-enlargements, though a few - such as Filmstudie and Mothlight - are photographs of actual celluloid film strips.) There are also profiles of notable animators and studios.

The author notes that "Although it is impossible for any book to be an exhaustive survey of the entire industry, I have tried to include examples from as many different genres and styles as possible." The book's entries are certainly wide-ranging: its definition of 'animation' encompasses not only cartoons but also photographic experiments, art films, and movie special effects.

The greatest book on animation is Giannalberto Bendazzi's Cartoons: 100 Years Of Cinema Animation (1994). Cavalier's book, with its brief coverage of African and Latin American cartoons, is more international than most animation histories, though Bendazzi's Cartoons is the only truly global study. However, Cavalier's book is useful as it's more up-to-date than Bendazzi's, and it includes more illustrations. (Bendazzi's three-volume Animation: A World History, the definitive history of the subject, will be published later this year.)

The World Encyclopedia Of Cartoons (1980), edited by Maurice Horn, contains biographies of hundreds of animators from around the world. The Anime Encyclopedia and Anime: A History provide the best coverage of Japanese animation. Moving Animation is a history of computer animation.

The Art Of Pop Video

The Art Of Pop Video
The Art Of Pop Video, by Michael P Aust and Daniel Kothenschulte, is the catalogue of an exhibition that opened in Germany in 2011 and transferred to the UK in 2013. The book (accompanied by a DVD) includes several short essays, and features images from more than 100 music videos. (Each video is represented by a grid of twelve small screenshots, arranged like a storyboard.)

Experimental films by Man Ray and Len Lye are included, as is the Bob Dylan documentary Dont Look Back (described as the "most quoted music video of all times"). Most of the videos are from the MTV era, such as Michael Jackson's Thriller ("the first music video blockbuster") and Madonna's Express Yourself (inspired by Metropolis; directed by David Fincher).

Michael Shore's Rolling Stone Book Of Rock Video has more background on the history of music videos (including earlier formats such as Soundies and Scopitones), though it was published in 1984. The Art Of Pop Video is therefore more up-to-date, and it has many more illustrations.