Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The 400 Blows

The 400 Blows
On Sunday, the Alliance Française in Bangkok will be showing François Truffaut's wonderful The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups), the film that launched the French New Wave. The screening will be attended by the film's leading actor, Jean-Pierre Léaud, who was a teenager when he played the protagonist, Antoine Doinel.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Reinventing Hollywood

Reinventing Hollywood
One of David Bordwell's contentions in The Way Hollywood Tells It was that the post-modern storytelling associated with contemporary cinema has its roots in the classical Hollywood era. Bordwell expands on that theme in his latest book, the encyclopedic Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling, released this month. Reinventing Hollywood is a continuation of The Way Hollywood Tells It, bookended by chapters called "The Way Hollywood Told It" and "The Way Hollywood Keeps Telling It".

Bordwell identifies a variety of narrative experiments, including voice-over, flashbacks, alternate perspectives, and dream sequences (also discussed in a chapter of Film Noir: Light and Shadow), culminating in "Artifice in Excelsis", a chapter on self-reflexive cinema. There is one auteurist chapter, on Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles ("The Lessons of the Masters"), though Bordwell finds innovation in an impressive range of films, not only the established canon.

Reinventing Hollywood is concerned with how cinematic stories are told, rather than what they look like, though stylistic analysis can be found in Film Art: An Introduction (by Bordwell and Kristin Thompson) and The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (by Bordwell, Thompson, and Janet Staiger). Boom and Bust: American Cinema in the 1940s, edited by Thomas Schatz, covers the changes in the film industry during that decade.

Metaphors

Metaphors
Metaphors
Vapour
Last night, Bangkok's CityCity Gallery hosted film screenings and live performances to mark the release of an album of music from the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Metaphors: An Evening of Sound and Moving Image with Kick the Machine will take place again this evening, though tickets are sold out.

Screenings included Apichatpong's short films Ghost of Asia (previously shown at Indy Spirit Project and Apichatpong on Video Works) and Vapour (หมอกแม่ริม; with live music by Thanart Rasanon on guitar). There was a technical hitch after the intermission, and the schedule was slightly different from the one advertised, with Ghost of Asia as a substitute for I'm Still Breathing (ฉันยังคงหายใจ). The evening ended with an extract from Apichatpong's installation film Fever Room (ฉันยังคงหายใจ).

The album Metaphors: Selected Soundworks from the Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul features fourteen tracks, including music from Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ), Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (ลุงบุญมีระลึกชาติ), Mekong Hotel (แม่โขงโฮเต็ล), and Cemetery of Splendour (รักที่ขอนแก่น). Each ticket includes a copy of the album on CD.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Film Noir: Light and Shadow

Film Noir: Light and Shadow
Film noir experts Alain Silver and James Ursini have edited a new anthology on the subject, Film Noir: Light and Shadow, which was published earlier this year. There are chapters on various stylistic aspects of noir, and assessments of some key noir films, including the indispensable Double Indemnity ("an exemplar of film noir visual style and a pivotal, influential film that spurred the classic noir trend") and Touch of Evil. The highlight is a chapter on the often underrated Stranger on the Third Floor.

Silver and Ursini previously co-wrote American Neo-Noir, Film Noir, and The Noir Style. They co-edited the superb Film Noir: The Encyclopedia with Robert Porfirio and Elizabeth Ward. The new book (which feels like a continuation of their Film Noir Reader series) includes essays by Silver and Porfirio, though Ward has been somewhat relegated this time around: she "generously assisted with the proofreading." Ursini's role also appears comparatively limited, whereas Silver designed the book and wrote the introduction.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Censored

Censored
Censored
French photographer Tiane Doan na Champassak's book Censored features more than 4,000 photographs taken from 1970s Thai softcore magazines such as Siam's Guy (สยามหนุ่ม). The book was published last month, and is available with six different cover designs.

The nudity in the images is self-censored (hence the book's title), to conform to the Thai obscenity law, though the book celebrates this censorship as a creative act in itself. The magazines employed artists to draw symbols and shapes over the models' erogenous zones, and the book crops the photos to focus on these painted and stencilled graphics. (Ironically, some pictures are censored with cigarette packets, which are themselves subject to censorship today.)

Thai erotic magazines are still prohibited from publishing frontal nudity, and they are occasionally withdrawn if they go too far. (For example, sales of Cute magazine were suspended in 2007.) Similarly, Thai television routinely censors nudity, guns, alcohol, and cigarettes by blurring parts of the screen, a technique parodied at the start of the comedy film SARS Wars: Bangkok Zombie Crisis (ขุนกระบี่ผีระบาด).

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Criterion Collection
Barry Lyndon (blu-ray)

Barry Lyndon
Making Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon was released this week on blu-ray and DVD by the Criterion Collection. Criterion titles are almost always superb, and Barry Lyndon is no exception: their new blu-ray is the film's definitive release.

Barry Lyndon has previously been available on Warner laserdisc and VHS, in its original 1.66:1 theatrical aspect ratio and mono soundtrack. It was also released in this format on DVD in 1999, as part of The Stanley Kubrick Collection. However, when it was remastered in 2001, the soundtrack was remixed to 5.1 surround sound, and this artificially enhanced version reappeared on subsequent DVD releases.

When the film was released on Warner blu-ray in 2011, its aspect ratio was cropped to 1.77:1 (the HD-TV format). Leon Vitali, one of Kubrick's assistants, defended the release by claiming that Barry Lyndon's aspect ratio had always been 1.77:1, and it had never been available in 1.66:1 (despite thirty-five years of theatrical, laserdisc, VHS, and DVD releases in 1.66:1). Even when a letter by Kubrick stating that it "was photographed in 1-1.66 aspect ratio" was discovered, Vitali maintained that Kubrick preferred 1.77:1.

Thankfully, the Criterion blu-ray returns the film to its correct 1.66:1 ratio, and its original mono soundtrack has also been restored. This meticulous attention to detail is unsurprising, as Criterion's Lolita, Dr Strangelove, and 2001: A Space Odyssey laserdisc transfers were supervised by Kubrick himself. They have also released excellent blu-ray editions of The Killing (and Killer's Kiss) and Dr Strangelove.

Criterion's Barry Lyndon blu-ray also features supplements covering various aspects of the film, notably the new documentary Making Barry Lyndon, which features extracts from Michel Ciment's interview with Kubrick, as broadcast on A Voix Nue. The documentary also includes the incredible (in both senses) story that Kubrick telephoned the Queen from the set of Barry Lyndon to ask her about royal etiquette!

Ciment (author of Kubrick: The Definitive Edition), and Christopher Frayling (author of Ken Adam: The Art of Production Design, Ken Adam Designs the Movies, and The 2001 File) are interviewed in other documentaries on the blu-ray. (Criterion has produced an entire disc's worth of extra features, whereas previous releases had no supplements apart from the trailer.)

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Radio Times Guide to Films 2018

Radio Times Guide to Films 2018
The 2018 edition of the Radio Times Guide To Films was published last month. Radio Times is the most recent of the annual film guides (first published in 2000), though it has outlasted all of its older competitors: Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide ceased publication in 2014, the Time Out Film Guide ended in 2012, Halliwell's Film Guide came to an ignominious end in 2008 as The Movies That Matter, and The Virgin Film Guide finished in 2005. That leaves the Radio Times as the last film guide standing, as the only comparable guide, VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever, is restricted to films released on video.

New entries include Alien: Covenant ("no particularly new ground is broken"), Wonder Woman ("as heartfelt as it is thrilling"), Guardians of the Galaxy II ("funny, imaginative and surprisingly soulful"), John Wick II ("just as enjoyable as the original"), and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets ("a sometimes silly space opera of the most bizarre yet exhilarating kind"). There are a couple of questionable star ratings: Baby Driver gets only two stars for its "disjointed plot", while Doctor Strange is apparently a five-star "visually dazzling fantasy". Dunkirk ("a glorious, breathtaking triumph") and Moonlight ("a film of rare empathy and shimmering beauty") are much more deserving of their five stars.

The Radio Times Guide to Films 2018 has had what editor Sue Robinson describes as "a judicious redesign," with a five-column layout on wider pages, replacing the previous four-column format. This has made space for 622 more film reviews, making an impressive total of 24,661 entries, a significant increase over last year. (In contrast, the number of reviews in VideoHound decreases each year.) Previews of forthcoming films are still included, accounting for at least 150 of this year's 542 new entries.

In a departure from recent editions, the cover now features a contemporary movie still: a publicity shot of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Great Gatsby. (The 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013 editions all had classic films or stars on their covers.) Also, the Barry Norman quote on the cover of previous editions has now been removed, following his death this year. (Similarly, the blurb by the late Roger Ebert has now been removed from 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.) People with only two entries have now been removed from the actor and director indexes, and DVD/blu-ray availability is no longer indicated.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Bangkok Screening Room

Blade Runner
6ixtynin9
Fun Bar Karaoke
Bangkok Screening Room will be showing Ridley Scott's Blade Runner next month. The film is a masterpiece of neo-noir cinematography, and its production design and special effects are among the greatest in Hollywood history. (Paul M. Sammon's book Future Noir is the definitive production history of the film.)

Blade Runner has been released in various versions: the international release had slightly more violence; the workprint had temporary music tracks; the 'director's cut' removed the voiceover and happy ending, and added a unicorn dream sequence; and the 'final cut' made some digital corrections. Thirty-five years after Blade Runner, Denis Villeneuve's sequel Blade Runner 2049 was released; like the original film, the sequel was critically acclaimed but not commercially successful.

Bangkok Screening Room will also be showing two films by Pen-ek Ratanaruang: 6ixtynin9 (เรื่องตลก 69) and his feature debut, Fun Bar Karaoke (ฝันบ้าคาราโอเกะ). Pen-ek's later films include Ploy (พลอย), Nymph (นางไม้), Headshot (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), and Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย). When I interviewed him in 2014, he discussed the Thai censorship of Ploy ("the cinemas were crawling with police!") and Paradoxocracy ("half of the footage that we have, you can't show to people. You'll just have to bury it in the ground somewhere").

Blade Runner (the 'final cut' version) will be shown on 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th November. Fun Bar Karaoke is screening on 1st, 2nd, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 23rd, 25th, and 26th November. 6ixtynin9 opened earlier this month, and will be shown on 18th, 19th, 21st, 22nd, 29th, and 31st October; and 1st November.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Art of Sound

The Art of Sound
Camera provided a history of photographic cameras, and The Art of Sound: A Visual History for Audiophiles (published by Thames & Hudson earlier this year) is the equivalent for recorded sound. Author Terry Burrows divides the history of sound recording into four broad eras (acoustic, electrical, magnetic, and digital), from the phonautograph (the first machine capable of recording sound waves) to the MP3 (the most common digital compression format). Each era is illustrated with photographs of recording and playback equipment from the EMI Archive Trust, along with blueprints and record sleeves.

The examples of audio equipment include devices using a stylus to reproduce sound from grooved cylinders or discs (the phonograph, graphophone, and gramophone), magnetic wire and tape recorders (the telegraphone, reel-to-reel recorders, eight-tracks, and cassette players), and digital storage media (CD, DAT, DCC, and MiniDisc). Most fascinating are miniature gadgets such as the Mikiphone and Minifon, and novelty items like the Stollwerck gramophone that plays schokoladedisken (chocolate records).

Each chapter begins with an essay outlining the technical developments in sound recording (such as stereophonic sound, Dolby noise reduction, and peer-to-peer file transfer), and their cultural impact. The book also profiles innovators of audio technology, including Thomas Edison (inventor of the phonograph), Guglielmo Marconi (radio pioneer), and Valdemar Poulsen (inventor of magnetic recording). However, some iconic brands and designs - such as Ekco radios, Nagra reel-to-reel recorders, and Braun hi-fi units - are missing, and there is no bibliography.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Jay Schneider, has been revised for 2017. The new edition, updated by Ian Haydn Smith, features a dozen new films. Therefore, twelve films have been deleted. 1001 Movies was first published in 2003, and has been updated annually ever since. It was completely revised in 2013, though other editions (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2016) featured only minor changes.

The new films in the 2017 edition are: I, Daniel Blake; Manchester by the Sea; La La Land; Hell or High Water; The Jungle Book; 13th; Under the Shadow; Jackie; Toni Erdmann; Arrival; Moonlight; and Victoria. The deleted titles are: Slumdog Millionaire, Black Swan, A Separation, Life of Pi, Ida, Under the Skin, Leviathan, The Look of Silence , Whiplash, Bridge of Spies, Straight Outta Compton, and The Big Short.

PDF

Friday, 13 October 2017

Mangasia

Mangasia
Mangasia: The Definitive Guide to Asian Comics, a survey of comics from across Asia by Paul Gravett, will be published next week by Thames & Hudson. Japanese manga inevitably dominates, though there is also ample coverage of China, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, and the Philippines. Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan, and other Asian countries are also represented, to a lesser extent. As Gravett writes, "In terms of the development of comics in Asia, manga is dominant, both in terms of its cultural influence and its extraordinary sales figures." (Chinese manhua and Korean manhwa, for example, are direct descendants of Japanese manga.)

The book (which accompanies an exhibition at the Barbican in London, Mangasia: Wonderlands of Asian Comics) has a foreword by Park Chan-Wook, director of Oldboy (올드보이), and begins with an illustrated manga timeline. After a brief historical introduction tracing the development of manga, from Hokusai's sketches via kamishibai, a handful of chapters explore the development of Asian comics. One chapter looks at censorship, such as shunga and the banning of Yuji Suwa's hentai (pornographic) comic Honey Room (蜜室). There are more than 800 illustrations, with captions giving the title of each comic in the script of its original language.

Unfortunately, Mangasia has no bibliography. Manga! Manga!, by Frederik L. Schodt, was the first English-language book on Japanese comics. Manga Design (revised as 100 Manga Artists), by Amano Masanao and Julius Wiedemann, profiles the most significant mangaka (manga artists). Comics: A Global History, by Dan Mazur and Alexander Danner, is an international history of comics from 1968 onwards. The World Encyclopedia of Comics, by Maurice Horn, features biographies of hundreds of comic artists. Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels, by Roger Sabin, is an introduction to the entire field of comic art.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Spielberg

Spielberg
Spielberg, Susan Lacy's feature-length documentary on the career of director Steven Spielberg, premiered on HBO on 7th October. The film is similar to Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Jan Harlan's profile of Kubrick: both documentaries are more than two hours long, and both benefit from extensive access to their subjects' archives.

Spielberg begins with Jaws, which is not only (arguably) Spielberg's greatest film but also the movie that (for better or worse) set the wide-release template for summer blockbusters that Hollywood has depended on ever since. Lacy then rewinds to Spielberg's short 8mm films, his television work for Universal, and his feature films in broadly chronological order.

The documentary features interviews with Spielberg himself, his fellow directors (Martin Scorsese, Francis Coppola, and George Lucas), and the leading actors from practically all of his films. In fact, there are so many A-list contributors that some of them (such as Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise) barely have time to say anything. Even Spielberg's mother (who died shortly afterwards) and his centenarian father are included.

Spielberg has made some of Hollywood's most entertaining and acclaimed films, including Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Schindler's List, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan, and these are explored in some depth in the documentary. Despite the long running time, interesting late-career films such as AI, Minority Report, and Lincoln are relegated to brief clips without much (or any) analysis.

As an authorised retrospective, the documentary is largely positive in its assessment of Spielberg's career, though it accomplishes this by simply ignoring the less successful films, with the exception of 1941. There are a couple of dissenting voices among the talking heads, notably the screenwriter of Empire of the Sun, who criticises Spielberg's sentimental tendencies. There's a discussion about whether Spielberg really had the chutzpah to sneak into a vacant Universal office, but Spielberg himself is not asked to confirm or deny the rumour. (He told the story, unchallenged, in the documentary Spielberg on Spielberg and book Spielberg: A Retrospective, both by Richard Schickel.)

Sapuman

Sapuman
Another book of cartoons by Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque (known as Zunar) has been banned by the Malaysian government. Sapuman: Man of Steal, published in 2015, satirises Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and his corrupt business transactions. (In 2015, The Wall Street Journal revealed that $1 billion had been transferred from the state-owned company 1MDB to Najib's personal bank account.)

Zunar's book launches and exhibitions are raided by police on a fairly regular basis. An exhibition of his work was forced to close last year. Three of his older books were banned in 2015: Pirates of the Carry-BN, Komplot Penjarakan Anwar, and Ros in Kangkong Land.

PDF

Monday, 9 October 2017

Death: A Graveside Companion

Death: A Graveside Companion
Death: A Graveside Companion (2017), edited by Joanna Ebenstein, is a collection of images and essays exploring artistic and cultural attitudes to death, from ritual venerations of the deceased to macabre illustrations of skeletons. Many of the 1,000 photographs are from the collection of Richard Harris, whose archive was also the basis of a Wellcome Collection exhibition on the same subject in 2012.

The book's extensive range of material is encapsulated in an illustrated "timeline of death" in the introduction. The bibliography is quite brief, and mostly limited to recent publications. There is inevitable overlap with two books by Paul Koudounaris, The Empire of Death and Memento Mori, also published by Thames & Hudson. The Book of Skulls, by Faye Dowling, includes more recent examples of memento mori imagery.

Camera

Camera
Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerrotype to Digital, published in 2009, is a comprehensive history of the camera, featuring 350 vintage examples from the George Eastman House collection along with some examples of classic photographs. Seemingly every type of photographic camera is included, covering almost 200 years of technical development.

Todd Gustavson is credited as the book's author, and he wrote the introduction, though the acknowledgements page reveals that other chapters, and the extended captions, were written by others (including an essay by Steve Sasson, the inventor of the digital camera). There is no bibliography.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

By the Time It Gets Dark

By the Time It Gets Dark
A showing of Anocha Suwichakornpong's film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), which was due to take place yesterday at Warehouse 30 in Bangkok, was cancelled by the police at the last minute. The event, organised by Doc Club Theater, was planned as one of three screenings of the film yesterday.

The screenings at the National Film Archive and Thammasat University went ahead without any police intervention. Also, the film was released on DVD in Thailand on the same day, making the censorship of the Warehouse 30 screening even more inexplicable.

Friday, 6 October 2017

ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง

ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง
The Two Brothers
By the Time It Gets Dark
On 6th October 1976, at least forty-six people, most of whom were students, were killed in a military massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre remains one of the most shocking moments in Thailand's modern history, though it's also part of a cycle of military violence, with similarly brutal suppressions of pro-democracy protesters in 1973 (also at Thammasat), 1992 (Black May), and 2010.

The Thammasat students had been protesting against the return from exile of Thanom Kittikachorn, who was Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during an extended period of military rule (another familiar cycle) from 1957 to 1973. On 25th September 1976, two anti-Thanom activists (Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa) were hanged by the police, and on 4th October 1976 a group of Thammasat students staged a reenactment of the event. One of the students who posed as a hanging victim bore a resemblance to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Maha Vajiralongkorn), and on its front page on 5th October 1976, the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper printed his photograph and accused the students of hanging the Prince in effigy. The Bangkok Post newspaper published a similar photo, taken by Tham Luangmanotham, on the same day.

Military-owned radio stations demonised the students as Communists who should be killed, and militia groups (the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs) joined the police and army in storming Thammasat. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, of a man ready to hit a corpse hanging from a tree with a folding chair, has come to symbolise the extreme violence and prejudice of the massacre. (The photograph was reprinted in Moments, on page 113.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom exhibited blood-red photographs of the victims at Flashback '76. Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentary The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) included archive footage of the massacre. Thunska's most recent documentary, Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), highlights the violence inflicted by the militia groups, in contrast to the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as Sombat Methanee's หนักแผ่นดิน. Ulevich's photograph was appropriated by Manit (for Horror in Pink) and Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities), and was recreated in Samanrat Kanjanavanit's banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย).

Today, the National Film Archive in Salaya will commemorate the anniversary of the massacre with an event titled ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง. Four films that address the tragedy will be screened: They Will Never Forget, directed by Ooka Ryoochi; พีเจ้น ('pigeon'), by Pasit Promnampol; The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), by Patporn Phoothong and Teerawat Rujenatham; and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), by Anocha Suwichakornpong. (A similar event, 41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน, is taking place simultaneously at Thammasat.)

They Will Never Forget is a compilation of 8mm news footage. พีเจ้น is a student film inspired by the aftermath of the massacre. The Two Brothers is a short documentary about the two men whose hangings were reenacted by Thammasat students; Patporn interviewed relatives of massacre victims for his earlier documentary Respectfully Yours (ด้วยความนับถือ). By the Time It Gets Dark uses actors to recreate scenes from the massacre; it was shown with Respectfully Yours earlier this year in Chiang Mai.

(The Two Brothers is part of a project to document the massacre, and features the controversial Dao Siam front page. A photo of the newspaper was censored in Prachuap Amphasawet's book พลิกแผ่นดิ: นประวัติการเมืองไทย 24 มิย 2475 ถึง14 ตค 2516, and Somsak Jeamteerasakul wrote a chapter about it in ประวัติศาสตร์ที่เพิ่งสร้าง, though it has rarely, if ever, been reproduced.)

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน

41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน
The Two Brothers
By the Time It Gets Dark
On 6th October 1976, at least forty-six people, mostly students, were killed in a military massacre at Thammasat University in Bangkok. The massacre remains one of the most shocking moments in Thailand's modern history, though it is also part of a cycle of military violence, with similarly brutal suppressions of pro-democracy protesters in 1973 (also at Thammasat), 1992 (Black May), and 2010.

The Thammasat students had been protesting against the return from exile of Thanom Kittikachorn, who was Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister during an extended period of military rule from 1957 to 1973. On 25th September 1976, two anti-Thanom activists were hanged by the police, and on 4th October 1976 a group of Thammasat students staged a reenactment of the hanging. One of the students who posed as a hanging victim bore a resemblance to Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (who is now King Rama X), and on its front page on 5th October 1976, the Dao Siam (ดาวสยาม) newspaper printed his photograph and accused the students of hanging the Prince in effigy. The Bangkok Post newspaper published a similar image, taken by Tham Luangmanotham, on the same day.

Military-owned radio stations demonised the students as Communists who should be killed, and militia groups (the Village Scouts, Nawaphon, and Red Gaurs) joined the police and army in storming Thammasat University. A photograph by Neal Ulevich, of a man about to hit a corpse hanging from a tree with a folding chair, has come to symbolise the extreme violence and prejudice of the massacre. (Ulevich's photograph was reprinted in Moments, on page 113.)

Manit Sriwanichpoom showed blood-red photographs of the victims at the Flashback '76 exhibition. Thunska Pansittivorakul's film The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) included archive footage of the massacre. Thunska's most recent film, Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), highlights the violence inflicted by the militia groups, in contrast to the heroic portrayal of the Village Scouts in anti-Communist propaganda films such as Sombat Methanee's หนักแผ่นดิน. Ulevich's photograph was appropriated by Manit (Horror in Pink) and Kosit Juntaratip (Allergic Realities), and was recreated in Samanrat Kanjanavanit's banned film Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย).

Today, Thammasat University will commemorate the anniversary of the massacre with an event titled 41 ปี 6 ตุลา ปกป้องประชาธิปไตยประชาชน. Two films that address the tragedy will be screened: The Two Brothers (สองพี่น้อง), by Patporn Phoothong and Teerawat Rujenatham; and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง), by Anocha Suwichakornpong. (A similar event, ลืมเสียเถิดอย่าคิดถึง, is taking place simultaneously at the National Film Archive.)

The Two Brothers is a short documentary about the two men (Choomporn Thummai and Vichai Kasripongsa) whose hangings were reenacted by Thammasat students; Patporn interviewed relatives of massacre victims for his earlier documentary Respectfully Yours (ด้วยความนับถือ). By the Time It Gets Dark uses actors to recreate scenes from the massacre; it was shown with Respectfully Yours earlier this year in Chiang Mai.

(The Two Brothers, part of a project to document the massacre, features the controversial Dao Siam front page. A photograph of the newspaper was censored in Prachuap Amphasawet's book พลิกแผ่นดิ: นประวัติการเมืองไทย 24 มิย 2475 ถึง14 ตค 2516, and Somsak Jeamteerasakul wrote a chapter about it in ประวัติศาสตร์ที่เพิ่งสร้าง, though it has rarely, if ever, been reproduced.)

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Napoleon (DVD)

Napoleon
Napoleon
Last year, the BFI released Abel Gance's Napoleon on DVD and blu-ray. The BFI edition features a 332-minute version of Gance's silent masterpiece, meticulously restored by Kevin Brownlow, with a score composed by Carl Davis. (The bonus features include an interview with Brownlow, his BBC documentary on Gance's films, and a booklet with an extract from his book on the film.) Napoleon famously climaxes with a triptych sequence, and each of the three panels is included on a separate disc, so the triptych effect can be recreated (if you have three DVD/blu-ray players and three TVs side-by-side).

This UK release of Napoleon is the first time Brownlow's restoration has been released on any video format. Even theatrical screenings are rare events, partially due to the logistics of the triptych finale though also because of an excessive copyright claim by Francis Ford Coppola. Coppola's father composed a score to accompany a truncated version of the film, and this version has previously been released by MCA in the US on VHS (in 1989) and by Universal in Australia on DVD (2003). Coppola's version is almost 100 minutes shorter than Brownlow's restoration, though until the BFI's release, Coppola's was the only version available.

The Bird with the
Crystal Plumage
(blu-ray)

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L'uccello dalle piume di cristallo), Dario Argento's directorial debut, reinvented the Giallo thriller template established by Mario Bava's Blood and Black Lace. Argento would later direct arguably the greatest Giallo film, Deep Red, and the horror classic Suspiria.

Italian DVD editions of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage were framed at 1.85:1 rather than the original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio. In the US, VCI released it on DVD (in 1999 and 2013) and blu-ray (2015), in the original aspect ratio, though a transfer error cut the first word of dialogue from the line "Right, bring in the perverts." This error was repeated on the Blue Underground DVD (released in 2005) and blu-ray (2011). The Blue Underground releases also used English-language opening titles and closing credits, and replaced the original mono soundtracks with surround sound remixes.

In the UK, Arrow released the film on DVD and blu-ray in 2011, in an uncut print, with original Italian and English mono soundtracks, and both the English and original Italian opening titles and closing credits (via seemless branching). This release also included an audio commentary by horror experts Kim Newman and Alan Jones (also available on the Blue Underground editions). The only flaw in Arrow's release was that the film was reframed to 2.0:1, the Univisium ratio retroactively applied by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. (Apocalypse Now, also with cinematography by Storaro, suffered from the same issue in all its video versions, until the Full Disclosure edition of 2010.)

Arrow released the film again this year on DVD and blu-ray, this time in the correct 2.35:1 ratio, making their 2017 edition the first definitive video release of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. This new edition, limited to 4,000 copies, comes in a deluxe package with a poster, lobby cards, and a booklet. It features a different selection of bonus features, and unfortunately the previous audio commentary has been replaced.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Doc Club Theater

Doc Club Theater
Anocha Suwichakornpong's By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) will be screened by Doc Club Theater on 6th October at Warehouse 30 in Bangkok. The film has previously been shown at the International Conference on Thai Studies, Homeflick, and Echoes of French Cinema.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism is the catalogue to an exhibition held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London last year. In his foreword to the catalogue, the RA's President describes it as "the greatest exhibition of Abstract Expressionism ever assembled." Editor and co-curator David Anfam begins the catalogue with an overview of Abstract Expressionism's history and influence. (He also wrote a book on the subject for the World of Art series.)

The catalogue and exhibition are notable for their broad definition of Abstract Expressionism, expanding beyond New York painters to encompass photography, sculpture, and post-War European art. The catalogue also includes an illustrated chronology. The Triumph of American Painting, by Irving Sandler, remains the definitive history of American Abstract Expressionist painting, though the RA's substantial catalogue is a fascinating revisionist survey of the movement.

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970

The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970
The Illustrated Dust Jacket 1920-1970, published next week by Thames & Hudson, is a survey of "the work of artists whose hand-rendered pictorial illustrations were reproduced on book jackets over a period of fifty years, from a time when publishers were beginning to see the possibilities of high-quality artwork in this context around 1920, to one when photography increasingly began to usurp the traditional artists' skills at the end of the 1960s." Author Martin Salisbury profiles fifty-three European and American artists in alphabetical order, beginning with "the twentieth century's most important and influential illustrator," Edward Ardizzone.

There have been previous books on dust jackets that focus on individual illustrators, publishers, or countries, though there is no comprehensive history of dust jacket design. A History Of Book Illustration, by David Bland, is a superb history of illustrated books. Steven Heller and Seymour Chwast's Illustration: A Visual History is a concise survey of a century of illustration. Fifty Years of Illustration, by Lawrence Zeegen and Caroline Roberts, covers illustration from the 1960s onwards. History of Illustration (edited by Susan Doyle, Jaleen Grove, and Whitney Sherman) will be published next year.

Insects in the Backyard

Insects in the Backyard
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit's film Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) will finally receive a theatrical release, when it opens on 30th November at Bangkok's House Rama cinema. The film was screened at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010, though requests for an '18' or '20' age rating were denied, making it the first film formally banned under the Film and Video Act of 2008. Tanwarin appealed to the National Film Board, which upheld the ban, so she sued the censors in the Administrative Court. On Christmas Day 2015, the Court ruled that the ban should remain.

As Tanwarin told me in an interview earlier this year, the censors initially described the entire film as immoral: "When we asked the committee who considered the film which scenes constituted immorality, they simply said that they thought every scene is immoral, and they didn't give us any more details." She also said that the Film Board had a similar reaction: "we were told by one of the committee members that we should have made the film in a 'good' way. This was said as if we did not know how to produce a good movie, and no clear explanation was given."

Although it upheld the ban, the Administrative Court's verdict did represent a victory of sorts, as the Court dismissed the idea that it was an immoral film. As Tanwarin told me: "The Court's verdict was that there are no immoral scenes in the film as it's a film focussing on problems in Thai society." The Court also announced that the film could be released if a single brief shot was removed. (The three-second clip shows a hardcore scene from a gay porn film.)

House RCA has occasionally shown explicit films uncut, such as Taxidermia, though it will screen Insects in the Backyard minus the three-second porn clip. Tanwarin has discussed the ban at BACC (Freedom on Film) and FCCT (Art, Politics, and Censorship), and a costume from the film was shown at TCDC (Ploy Saeng 100).

After Insects in the Backyard, Shakespeare Must Die (เชคสเปียร์ต้องตาย), Boundary (ฟ้าตํ่าแผ่นดินสูง), and อาบัติ were also banned. Shakespeare Must Die's director is still in the process of appealing the ban, though Boundary and อาบัติ were both released after cuts were made. (I wrote about Thai film censorship for Encounter Thailand magazine in 2012.)