Saturday, 28 March 2015

Penguen

Penguen
Two Turkish cartoonists have received jail sentences after being convicted of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They were sentenced yesterday to fourteen months in prison, though the punishment was then reduced to eleven months and finally commuted to a 7,000 lira fine.

The cartoon in question, by Bahadir Baruter and Ozer Aydogan, appeared on the cover of the satirical magazine Penguen on 21st August last year. It depicts Erdogan meeting a civil servant, who is buttoning his jacket with one hand while greeting the President. A reader complained to the government that the civil servant's hand gesture was an insult implying that Erdogan was gay.

Penguen previously faced prosecution in 2011, when it published a cartoon containing the words "There is no Allah". In 2005, it was sued by Erdogan (who was then Prime Minister) after it depicted him as a variety of animals. Earlier that year, newspaper cartoonist Musa Kart was fined for depicting Erdogan as a cat. Erdogan sued Kart again last year in relation to another cartoon. In 2006, Erdogan sued artist Michael Dickinson, who had depicted him as a dog in the collages Good Boy and Best In Show.

Friday, 27 March 2015

ผลงาน Masterpiece ของ Alfred Hitchcock

ผลงาน Masterpiece ของ Alfred Hitchcock
Rope
The Trouble With Harry
Tomorrow, the Pridi Banomyong Institute in Bangkok will screen two films by Alfred Hitchcock: Rope and The Trouble With Harry. The screenings are free. (The Institute was also the venue for Design Nation in 2012, and Flashback '76 in 2008.)

Rope was Hitchcock's first colour film, and his first independent production. It was filmed in a series of long takes in order to create the illusion of continuous action (more than fifty years before Russian Ark, which was actually completed in a single take). Rope is also notable for its matter-of-fact treatment of homosexuality: the two male leads share a bedroom, and the film was based on the notorious Leopold and Loeb gay murder case.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower: The 300 Meter Tower is a folio reprint of a book originally issued by Gustave Eiffel in two volumes: one containing construction photographs by Edouard Durandelle (similar to those of Theophile Feau), and another featuring architectural drawings of the Eiffel Tower. The reprint, published by Taschen, includes an introduction written by Bertrand Lemoine.

The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 for the Exposition Universelle, and has since become one of the most celebrated icons of modern architecture. In The Shock Of The New, Robert Hughes calls it "the one structure that seemed to gather all the meanings of modernity together". A World History Of Architecture discusses the Tower's significance in the pre-skyscraper era: "Not until the completion of the Chrysler Building in New York was Eiffel's tower exceeded in height, and it remains the largest iron construction in the world".

Robert Hughes argues that various innovations at the turn of the 20th century (the Cinematographe, the x-ray, the Kodak camera, the motor car, and powered flight) offered new vantage points from which to see the world. He cites the bird's-eye view from the Eiffel Tower as the most significant of these new perspectives: "This way of seeing was one of the pivots in human consciousness. The sight of Paris vu d'en haut, absorbed by millions of people in the first twenty years of the Tower's life, was as significant in 1889 as the famous NASA photograph of the earth from the moon".

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Film Manifestos
& Global Cinema Cultures

Film Manifestos & Global Cinema Cultures
Scott MacKenzie, in his introduction to Film Manifestos & Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology, points out that manifestos written by filmmakers are often marginalised from traditional narratives of film history. Cinema history is usually classified into genres, time periods, or national film industries; even auteurist approaches to film history focus on the directors' cinematic styles rather than their written delineations of those styles.

MacKenzie's aim is "to outline a theoretically informed counterhistory that places film manifestos, often neglected, at the center of film history" and "to reconsider the status of the film manifesto in film theory". He has compiled a comprehensive and inclusive collection of film manifestos: his anthology "brings together film manifestos from the global history of cinema, constituting the first historical and theoretical account of the role played by film manifestos in filmmaking and film culture."

Many of the manifestos have a similar recurring theme, denouncing the traditional film industries of their respective countries, largely influenced by Francois Truffaut's "deliberately pessimistic examination... of a certain tendency of the French cinema". India's New Cinema Movement manifesto states: "A reaction to the vulgarities of the established commercial cinema has been in existence for several years in many countries, crystallising in many places, into a regular, conscious movement for better cinema." Mexico's New Cinema Group called for a "new cinema in Mexico, which without a doubt will be a far superior cinema than the one today." The New American Cinema Group proclaimed: "we know what needs to be destroyed and what we stand for". The Oberhausen Manifesto put it even more succinctly: "The old film is dead. We believe in the new one."

Manifestos associated with major artistic movements such as Futurism (cinema as "polyexpressive symphony"), Constructivism ("the vitality of the cine platform of constructivism"), and Surrealism ("the sexual instinct and the death instinct" in L'Age d'Or) are included alongside more obscure manifestos such as Nick Zedd's Cinema of Transgression ("We... propose to break all the taboos of our age by sinning as much as possible"). I've been collecting film and art manifestos for several years, and the book includes several that are new to me. B Ruby Rich's essay The New Queer Cinema is the only notable omission.

Some of the essays are among the most famous works of film theory: John Grierson's criticism of Berlin: Symphony Of A Great City as "the most dangerous of all film models to follow", Glauber Rocha's Cinema Novo: "Our originality is our hunger and our greatest misery is that this hunger is felt but not intellectually understood", Stan van der Beek's "expanded cinema, as a tool for world communication", and Laura Mulvey's psychoanalytic study of "the way the unconscious of patriarchal society has structured film form." Collating so many key texts in a single volume is a rare achievement, and the book ranks alongside Film Theory & Criticism and Movies & Methods.

My only criticism is that MacKenzie's introduction is quite repetitive: one paragraph explains that the book "brings together film manifestos from the global history of cinema" and the next paragraph tells us that it "brings together key manifestos of the last 110 years". Also, the footnotes include a surprisingly catty comment about how the Village Voice "couldn't get any worse".

A few of the essays are also included in 100 Artists' Manifestos. The first manifesto anthology, Manifesto: A Century Of Isms by Mary Ann Caws, covers art movements though not cinema. Icon magazine published a Manifesto Issue containing fifty design manifestos in August 2007. Unlike some texts in other anthologies, the manifestos in Film Manifestos & Global Cinema Cultures are unabridged, with the Salamanca manifesto ("Spanish cinema is still a cinema of painted dolls") being the sole exception.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Essential Eames

Essential Eames
Essential Eames
Essential Eames
Essential Eames
After a long hiatus, Bangkok's TCDC is once again hosting a major design exhibition. Essential Eames: Icons Of 20th Century Design, a Charles and Ray Eames retrospective, opened on 20th March and runs until 31st May.

Charles and Ray Eames were arguably the greatest furniture designers of the last 100 years. As Charlotte and Peter Fiell wrote in 2000: "Charles and Ray Eames did more to change the public perception of Modern design than just about anyone else in the 20th century" (Industrial Design A-Z).

The Eames plywood LCW chair (1946) epitomised the Mid-Century Modern style, and was named the greatest design of the century by Time magazine in 1999. Their lounge chair and ottoman (models 670 and 671, 1956) are included in TCDC's permanent collection (What Is Design?).

Essential Eames is curated by Eames Demetrios (grandson of Charles Eames), and is based on his book An Eames Primer. The exhibition was organised by furniture manufacturer Herman Miller; a previous Herman Miller exhibition in Bangkok, Get Real, also included several Eames chairs.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

An Eames Primer

An Eames Primer
LCW
An Eames Primer serves as an introduction to "the key projects, themes, ideas, and arcs of the lives and work of Charles and Ray Eames." The author, Eames Demetrios, is Charles Eames' grandson, and director of the Eames Office. The book was the inspiration for the Essential Eames exhibition, which opens tomorrow at TCDC. The revised edition includes a chapter assessing Eames publications and other resources.

Charles and Ray Eames were most celebrated for their Mid-Century Modern furniture designs, especially their plywood LCW chair (1946), lounge chair (model 670, 1956), and ottoman (model 671, 1956). As Charlotte and Peter Fiell wrote in Industrial Design A-Z: "Charles and Ray Eames did more to change the public perception of Modern design than just about anyone else in the 20th century."

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The Modi Effect

The Modi Effect
The Modi Effect: Inside Narendra Modi's Campaign To Transform India is an authorised account of Indian Prime Minister Modi's 2014 election campaign. Modi won a rare overall majority in the world's largest democracy; as David Cameron told him, he "got more votes than any other politician anywhere in the universe".

Author Lance Price was granted "several hours of interviews" with the PM: "Modi had agreed to give me unprecedented access to help me analyse the campaign that had brought him to power. No other writer, Indian or foreign, was to be allowed the same privilege." (Price begins by describing their first meeting: "as a gift I gave him a copy of my second book on British prime ministers and their relationship to the media [Where Power Lies]. He told me he didn't really read books any more, which was a little disheartening".)

Modi's election campaign was highly presidential, emphasising the personality of Modi himself: "The name Bharatiya Janata Party translates simply as the Indian People's Party. Its motto is 'country first, party second, self last'. Yet... you could have been forgiven for thinking it was now, 'Modi first, Modi second, Modi last'. It was an unashamedly, some might say shamelessly, presidential campaign". Famously, he appeared at hundreds of rallies simultaneously by means of holographic projection. During a state visit to the US after his victory, he appeared, like a rock star, at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Price is clearly impressed by Modi's oratory and charisma, though as a former spin doctor he retains a healthy skepticism: "in my conversations with Narendra Modi I did my best to listen politely to what he had to say, and to bite my tongue when the temptation arose to respond with 'oh, come off it', as it sometimes did... I didn't feel able to take everything he told me at face value".

Monday, 16 March 2015

Becoming Steve Jobs

Becoming Steve Jobs
Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution Of A Reckless Upstart Into A Visionary Leader, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, is a biography of the late Steve Jobs authorised by Apple and Jobs's family. (Schlender wrote the May 2012 Fast Company cover story The Lost Steve Jobs Tapes, amongst many other articles.) The authors interviewed Jobs's widow Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple executives Tim Cook and Jony Ive, Pixar's John Lasseter, and Microsoft's Bill Gates.

The most revealing anecdote comes from Tim Cook, who confirmed that he offered to donate part of his liver to the terminally ill Jobs: "Cook decided to undergo a battery of tests that determine if someone is healthy enough to be a living donor." Cook recalls Jobs's angry refusal of his offer: "'No,' he said. 'I'll never let you do that. I'll never do that!'... Steve only yelled at me four or five times during the thirteen years I knew him, and this was one of them."

Walter Isaacson wrote a fully authorised Jobs biography in 2011, and Apple's unusual decision to co-operate with Schlender and Tetzeli perhaps indicates their dissatisfaction with Isaacson's book. Becoming Steve Jobs quotes Tim Cook: "I thought the [Walter] Isaacson book did him a tremendous disservice." In an interview with The New Yorker last month, Jony Ive was equally critical of Isaacson's biography: "My regard couldn't be any lower".

The World Of Ornament

The World Of Ornament
The World Of Ornament is a reprint of two French studies of ornamental designs: L'Ornement Polychrome by Auguste Racinet (published in two volumes between 1869 and 1888) and the less well-known Art Industriel: L'Ornement Des Tissus by M Dupont-Auberville (1877). Both works are early examples of chromolithography, and both were heavily influenced by Owen Jones's classic study The Grammar Of Ornament (1856).

The plates from Racinet and Dupont-Auberville's works are beautifully reproduced in two volumes, though they have been renumbered and rearranged into a single chronological sequence, and the respective Racinet and Dupont-Auberville plates are not identified. The book comes with a keycard providing access to online reproductions of the individual elements within each plate, though again there is no attempt to label the Racinet and Dupont-Auberville plates.

The reprint, published by Taschen, includes a brief introduction by David Batterham discussing encyclopedias of ornamentation. However, Stuart Durant's book Ornament, published twenty years earlier, contains the most authoritative survey and bibliography of ornament encyclopedias. Durant praises L'Ornement Polychrome for "the splendor of its chromolithographic plates", and describes it as "the most extensive published compendium of decoration". Racinet's Le Costume Historique has also been reprinted by Taschen, as The Complete Costume History.

Memento Mori

Memento Mori
Paul Koudounaris, author of the excellent The Empire Of Death, has written another guide to the display and veneration of human skeletons. Memento Mori: The Dead Among Us is more global in its coverage, featuring examples of ornamental and ceremonial human remains from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America. Less Gothic than its predecessor, Memento Mori is also exquisitely designed, with a blue satin cover and full-page colour illustrations (including a fold-out spanning four pages).

Memento Mori includes some of the ossuaries featured in Koudounaris's first book, though the photographs are previously unpublished and are even more dramatic than those in Empire Of Death. An overhead shot of the Lampa ossuary (Peru) is particularly striking. New material includes chapters on secular memorials and Bolivian 'natitas' skulls, and photographs of decorated 'kapala' skulls. An annotated introduction cites Georges Bataille, amongst others. (Restless Bones, by James Bentley, is a similar guide to human relics, focusing on those of saints and Biblical figures.)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Hitchcock On Hitchcock II

Hitchcock On Hitchcock II
Hitchcock On Hitchcock: Selected Writings & Interviews Volume II has been published twenty years after the first volume of Hitchcock On Hitchcock appeared in 1995. Like the first volume, it's an anthology of interviews and articles written by Hitchcock (or "articles with his byline", as authorship of publicity material is hard to verify). Editor and Hitchcock scholar Sidney Gottlieb wrote one of the best essays in 39 Steps To The Genius Of Hitchcock.

The texts have been transcribed from newspaper and magazine articles published between 1919 and 1978. Highlights include two newly translated interviews by Francois Truffaut from Cahiers Du Cinema, and A Lesson In Psycho-logy, in which Hitchcock explains Psycho's marketing campaign. There are also a few previously unpublished pieces, including an extensive transcript of a conversation between Hitchcock and Stage Fright's production supervisor Fred Ahern.

Hitchcock has been written about more than perhaps any other director. Paul Duncan's Hitchcock: Architect Of Anxiety is an illustrated summary of Hitchcock's career. Francois Truffaut's book-length interview Hitchcock, and Donald Spoto's filmography The Art Of Alfred Hitchcock, are both essential reading. There are shorter Hitchcock interviews in Who The Devil Made It (Peter Bogdanovich) and The Men Who Made The Movies (Richard Schickel). Bill Krohn wrote the concise Masters Of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock and the excellent Hitchcock At Work. Spoto's The Dark Side Of Genius is the standard Hitchcock biography, and John Russell Taylor wrote Hitch, an authorised biography. Laurent Bouzereau's Hitchcock: Piece By Piece and Dan Auiler's Hitchcock's Notebooks both contain material from the Hitchcock archives.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Harmonia Macrocosmica

Harmonia Macrocosmica
Harmonia Macrocosmica
Harmonia Macrocosmica Of 1660: The Finest Atlas Of The Heavens is a Taschen reprint of a celestial atlas by Andreas Cellarius. It's a perfect companion to Joan Blaeu's Atlas Maior, and these two atlases represent the pinnacle of the golden age of Dutch cartography. (It was originally published by Johannes Janssonius, Blaeu's chief competitor.) Michael Benson described Harmonia Macrocosmica as "one of the greatest celestial atlases" in his book Cosmigraphics.

The reprint, a facsimile of the original 1660 Latin edition, features twenty-nine magnificent double-folio plates, with an introduction by Robert van Gent (a contributor to David Woodward's ongoing History Of Cartography project) and a concise bibliography. The introduction outlines the history of astronomy and uranography (celestial cartography), from geocentrism (the Ptolemaic system) to heliocentrism (the Copernican system), and the hybrid model of Tycho Brahe.

Most of Harmonia Macrocosmica's ornate Baroque plates illustrate the inaccurate Ptolemaic model, though Taschen's cover shows a detail from one of the few Copernican plates. Gent singles out the 'scenographia' plates, depicting the celestial and terrestrial hemispheres simultaneously, as "universally admired for the breathtaking beauty and originality of their design".

Monday, 9 March 2015

Silhouette

Silhouette
Silhouette: The Art Of The Shadow, by Emma Rutherford, is the first international survey of silhouettes for seventy years. (E Nevill Jackson, author of the first history of silhouettes, also wrote Silhouette: Notes & Dictionary; it has since been reprinted, though the original 1938 edition has an embossed cover and several colour plates.)

Rutherford's book traces the history of the silhouette from the eighteenth century onwards, with individual chapters highlighting silhouette production in Britain and America. There are many full-page illustrations, and a bibliography.

The Anime Encyclopedia

The Anime Encyclopedia
"The world's most comprehensive book on anime", The Anime Encyclopedia: A Guide To Japanese Animation Since 1917, was written by Jonathan Clements (author of Anime: A History) and Helen McCarthy (author of The Art Of Osamu Tezuka). The second edition, published in 2006, adds 1,000 new entries covering animated films and television series produced since the first edition of 2001.

This revised edition also includes entries on genres, studios, and directors: "new thematic entries offer not only signposts to more in-depth discussion of certain topics within anime, but also concise histories of the medium itself". The cover depicts Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy, "erroneously described as the first TV anime... it was the first anime to be broadcast abroad." The World Encyclopedia Of Cartoons (Maurice Horn) contains some entries on Japanese animation.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Cinema Winehouse

Star Wars
Star Wars
City Of God
Lawrence Of Arabia
The Usual Suspects
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse schedule this month includes a triple-bill of George Lucas's original Star Wars trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return Of The Jedi), screening tomorrow. City Of God, directed by Fernando Meirelles in the Rio favelas, will be shown on 25th March.

On 29th March, there's a screening of Bryan Singer's The Usual Suspects, starring Kevin Spacey, who also appeared in Seven, American Beauty, and the House Of Cards remake. The Usual Suspects (whose title comes from Casablanca) is one of my favourite thrillers, with its complex, non-linear narrative and perfect twist ending. The following day's film is David Lean's extraordinary epic Lawrence Of Arabia.

India's Daughter

India's Daughter
Leslee Udwin's Storyville documentary India's Daughter: The Story Of Jyoti Singh was broadcast yesterday in the UK by BBC4. It was originally scheduled to be shown in India this Sunday, though the Indian government has prevented its transmission. Police in India banned it on the grounds that it included an inflammatory interview with a convicted rapist, though the authorities did not actually viewed the film before prohibiting it.

The documentary examines the case of Jyoti Singh, who was gang-raped and murdered in 2012. The fatal attack on Singh led to protests in support of rape victims, and a national debate about attitudes towards sexual assault. The programme interviews one of the rapists, Mukesh Singh, who shows no remorse and even blames the victim for his crime.

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