31 May 2010

'Black May' 2010

Bangkok is again recovering from the aftermath of a military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. A state of emergency was declared on 7th April and, three days later, the army opened fire on the UDD protesters who had gathered around Democracy Monument since March. Twenty-five people were killed.

The protesters then intensified their demonstrations, establishing city-centre protest camps at Siam Square and Sala Daeng. On 14th May, the camps were surrounded by armed soldiers, leading to a week of street battles between soldiers and protesters. Public transport in Bangkok remained closed throughout the week. The army fired live rounds, and the areas around the camps were designated as 'live-fire zones' by the army, with military snipers carrying out a shoot-to-kill policy. Thirty-nine people were killed.

On 19th May, armoured personnel carriers were dispatched to demolish the camp at Sala Daeng, and soldiers then began advancing on Siam Square. The protest leaders surrendered, and most protesters disbursed, though arsonists set fire to Siam Theatre, CentralWorld, and several other buildings. The King, who had intervened during the Black May massacre of 1992, made no statement. Even the Prime Minister remained at army HQ and made no public appearances.

A total of eighty-five people were killed, a death toll exceeding the most notorious military crackdowns in modern Thai history (October 1976 and May 1992). However, anti-UDD government propaganda (portraying the protesters as violent terrorists), and censorship of UDD media, have prevented a widespread public outcry against the military.

[A photograph of CentralWorld, depicting Ravinder Reddy's golden sculpture The Head and a torn Thai flag in front of the burning building, has become an iconic image of the massacre and its aftermath. It was taken by Adrees Latif for Reuters, and has been syndicated internationally; it appeared on the front page of The New York Times on 20th May.]

27 May 2010

Film Noir: The Encyclopedia

Film Noir
Film Noir: The Encyclopedia is the fourth edition of Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference To The American Style, and is edited by Alain Silver, Elizabeth Ward, James Ursini, and Robert Porfirio. Silver and Ursini also wrote Film Noir (edited by Paul Duncan) and The Noir Style, and recorded DVD commentaries for Call Northside 777, Boomerang!, and Panic In The Streets.

Panorama Du Film Noir Americain (by Raymond Borde and Etienne Chaumeton) is historically significant as the first book on film noir, and there are some significant analytical essays in the first volume of the Film Noir Reader anthology (edited by Silver and Ursini). Film Noir: The Encyclopedia, however, is still the most valuable reference to noir films.

The introduction from the previous edition has been retained, though the extensive essay on neo-noir has been considerably shortened for the new edition, and a useful literature survey has been removed. The numerous lists from the 3rd edition are a more understandable omission: they took up too much space, and were mostly superfluous. The book's design has been dramatically improved, and it's now much more compact and elegant.

Aside from some largely superficial new side-bar articles, Film Noir is now essentially a book of in-depth film reviews. Many entries from the previous editions have been revised or completely rewritten, and around 100 new entries have been included (reviewed by Richard Schickel, amongst others). The films are divided into two sections: classic noir (traditionally defined as the period from The Maltese Falcon to Touch Of Evil) and neo-noir (revisionist Noir from post-classical Hollywood, such as Chinatown and Blade Runner).

26 May 2010

42nd Street

42nd Street
42nd Street, directed by Lloyd Bacon, was the first of a series of Warner musicals choreographed by Busby Berkeley. The characters - a tormented director, an amorous financier, a plucky ingenue - became cliches in later musicals, though it was 42nd Street that initially established them. The plot, in which tense backstage preparations produce an ultimately triumphant show - also became a genre convention. Ginger Rogers is notable in a supporting role, filmed before her partnership with Fred Astaire.

As the film takes place largely during rehearsals, many of the songs are performed without costumes or sets. The final three production numbers, however, are much more lavish, with Young & Healthy featuring the first use of Berkeley's kaleidoscopic choreography. Berkeley arranged the chorus dancers on a three-tiered revolving circular platform, and filmed them from directly overhead to create geometric abstractions from their synchronised movements. He developed this technique in subsequent Warner musicals such as Footlight Parade (also directed by Bacon) and Gold Diggers Of 1933, both released shortly after 42nd Street.

21 May 2010

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!
Mail & Guardian
It all started last month with a spoof poster by cartoonist Molly Norris, titled Everybody Draw Mohammed Day! and featuring caricatures of Mohammed resembling domestic objects: a cup and saucer, a domino, a box of pasta, a cotton reel, a handbag, and a cherry. (Her concept that any object can be a Mohammed caricature was also used by the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen in 2005, when it labelled a series of unconnected artworks as Mohammed portraits, in response to the controversy surrounding the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons.)

Norris dedicated her poster to the creators of South Park, after Mohammed was censored from two recent episodes. When her poster was circulated on the internet, inspiring thousands of online Mohammed caricatures, Norris insisted that she had not intended for people to take the poster literally.

This month, students at three American universities (Ilinois, Northwestern, and Wisconsin-Madison) reacted to her u-turn by drawing stick-figure pictures of Mohammed in chalk. The chalk drawings were perhaps also inspired by the stick-figure Mohammed in South Park; also, just as a South Park character asked "Is that okay?", one of the chalk figures was captioned "is this okay?".

Zimbabwean cartoonist Zapiro drew an image of Mohammed commenting on the Norris poster, published in the Mail & Guardian newspaper this week. His drawing of a glum Mohammed complaining about over-reacting Muslims is similar to a front-cover cartoon published by Charlie Hebdo in 2006. (Zapiro also caused controversy when he depicted Jacob Zuma as a rapist in the Sunday Times last year.)


09 May 2010

Charlotte & Son Jules

Charlotte & Son Jules
Charlotte & Son Jules, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, features Jean-Paul Belmondo and Anne Collette. Collette plays Charlotte, who returns to her ex-boyfriend's apartment. Belmondo, playing her ex, immediately launches into a monologue which runs for almost the entire length of the thirteen-minute film. The self-pitying Belmondo mocks Collette and implores her not to leave him again; though the conclusion is funny, it's also predictable.

This was the last of Godard's short films, made shortly before his feature debut Breathless. Belmondo would go on to star in Breathless and two further Godard features, A Woman Is A Woman and Pierrot Le Fou. Charlotte & Son Jules was filmed in Godard's hotel room, and Godard himself dubbed Belmondo's voice.

Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede

Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede
Claude Ventura's documentary Chambre 12, Hotel de Suede, was made for the French television channel Arte in 1993. Ventura checks into room twelve in the hotel's final week of operation: it is demolished the day after he checks out. Room twelve was one of the principal locations for Jean-Luc Godard's New Wave masterpiece Breathless, and Ventura's documentary investigates the production of Godard's film.

Ventura interviews all of the key figures involved in the making of Breathless, including star Jean-Paul Belmondo, cinematographer Raoul Coutard, and 'technical adviser' Claude Chabrol. Chabrol confirms the rumour that he and François Truffaut (director of The 400 Blows, which launched the New Wave) were associated with the film merely to secure financing and distribution: they lent their names to the project because, at that time, they were more famous than Godard. Truffaut, and Belmondo's co-star Jean Seberg, both died before the documentary was filmed, as did producer Georges de Beauregard. Ventura finds an archive of production documents relating to Breathless, including a letter from de Beauregard insisting that Godard adopt more conventional filming practices.

Godard himself declined to be interviewed for the documentary, though Ventura does telephone him twice. Each call lasts for less than a minute, with Godard dismissing Ventura and hanging up. In the first conversation, Godard simply says "Dream on!" when asked to discuss Breathless. When Ventura calls back, asking specifically about the film's final lines of dialogue, Godard says he can't remember. In the Breathless production archive, there are discrepancies between Godard's hand-written dialogue notes and the continuity script, thus Belmondo's last words in the film remain ambiguous: when he says "degueulasse" ('disgusting'), is he criticising himself, Seberg's character, or life in general?

06 May 2010

Daily Mirror

Daily Mirror
Bullingdon Club
Today's issue of the Daily Mirror newspaper features a photograph from 1987 of a group of Oxford University students who were all members of the Bullingdon Club. Conservative Party leader David Cameron is pictured in the photo, and the accompanying article begins: "THIS is the picture that David Cameron really, really doesn't want you to see."

The image was withdrawn from distribution in 2007 by its copyright owners, Gillman & Soame, to avoid causing Cameron any further embarrassment. Its publication in the Daily Mirror is clearly an infringement of the ban, though the Mirror presumably felt that any potential fine would be worthwhile due to the impact of printing the photo on its front page on the day of the UK general election.


George Cukor directed Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn in their first film together, Sylvia Scarlett, which was neither critically nor commercially successful. Holiday, Cukor's second film with Grant and Hepburn, also failed at the box-office, perhaps because audiences during the Great Depression could hardly relate to the central character's dream of retiring comfortably at thirty.

Grant plays Johnny, who is introduced to his fiancee Julia's rich father Edward, alcoholic brother Ned, and liberated sister Linda. Julia, played by the forgettable Doris Nolan, is never more than a supporting role; she is marginalised as soon as Johnny meets Linda, a typically assertive, charismatic Hepburn character. Our attitudes towards the characters shift during the course of the film: Julia, apparently infatuated with Johnny, initially appears sympathetic, while Ned seems insensitive and irresponsible; later, we are shown the harder side of Julia and the softer side of Ned.

'Screwball' comedies often featured fast, overlapping dialogue, pioneered by Howard Hawks who directed Grant and Hepburn in the excellent Bringing Up Baby. Holiday has its share of rapid repartee, especially when Johnny visits his friends the Potters and when Linda organises a playroom party. Adding to the occasionally manic atmosphere, Grant (who was a circus performer before he went to Hollywood) performs acrobatic stunts, and the Potters present a Punch and Judy show. Other sequences, involving Edward and his aristocratic social circle, are more restrained, with the comedy provided by the snobbish and hypocritical opinions expressed.

Cukor's The Philadelphia Story, also starring Grant and Hepburn, is lighter and more romantic. Holiday, however, particularly because of Linda's passionate rejection of protocol and privilege, seems a more significant film. Holiday was based on a play by Philip Barry, who also wrote The Philadelphia Story; the play was first adapted by Edward H Griffith in 1930, and Edward Everett Horton played the same role (Edward) in both film versions.


Fitna Fitna
Fitna, a short film made by Geert Wilders last year, was screened on 5th March at the House of Lords in London. (It has also been shown in Jerusalem, on 14th December 2008; and in Rome, on 13th February 2009.) Wilders had previously attempted to screen it on Dutch television, without success. There have been demonstrations against the film in several Islamic countries, as it includes a caricature of Mohammed carrying a bomb.

Fitna begins as an attack on the Koran. Passages from the book, which seem to incite violence, are followed by images of Islamic terrorism. Wilders presents Islam as a violent, intolerant religion; what he does not acknowledge, of course, is that there are some equally blood-thirsty passages in the Bible. The second half of the film, however, degenerates into a racist, anti-immigration polemic. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has criticised the film, saying that "it serves no purpose other than to cause offence".

05 May 2010

Stanley Kubrick
Fotografie 1945-1950

Stanley Kubrick: Fotografie
Edited by Rainer F Crone, Stanley Kubrick: Fotografie 1945-1950 - Un Narratore Della Condizione Umana is the catalogue for the Stanley Kubrick: Fotografo exhibition he curated in Italy. It includes over 200 photographs taken by Kubrick while he worked for Look magazine as a photojournalist, though they represent only a dozen of the photo-stories he worked on.

Crone previously curated the exhibition and catalogue Still Moving Pictures, and edited the monograph Drama & Shadows, which also document Kubrick's Look photography. Crone's essay from Still Moving Pictures is reprinted in the new catalogue, though the catalogue's full-page reproductions are similar in presentation to Drama & Shadows. Many photo-stories and individual photographs are duplicated in all three books. A useful appendix reprints the covers and layouts of sixteen vintage issues of Look magazine.

Ladro Di Sguardi was the first book to reproduce Kubrick's photographs, and a brief selection was also included in the exhibition and catalogue Only In New York. Kubrick's contact sheets can be found at the Stanley Kubrick Archive, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Library of Congress.

I have researched and compiled a comprehensive list of Kubrick's Look photographs, and this is reprinted as a chapter in Crone's new book (pp. 306-309) without permission or acknowledgement. I have been assured that, in any subsequent editions, this chapter will either be credited to me or removed from the book.


26 April 2010

Apocalypse Now (workprint)

Apocalypse Now (workprint)
The original theatrical version of Apocalypse Now (one of my all-time favourite films) was two-and-a-half hours long when it was released in 1979, and a further hour was added when the film was released in a Redux version in 2001. However, there is also a five-hour version (!) which has never been officially released. This workprint is only available as a bootleg, duplicated from six time-coded Betamax tapes, with consequently reduced image quality [as you can see from the photo].

Even though the workprint is double the length of the theatrical version, it is still incomplete: it contains numerous 'scene missing' cards, and some of the familiar highlights from the film (the "snail crawling along the edge of a straight razor" recording; the peaceful schoolyard before the helicopters attack; the buffalo sacrifice; the voice-over narration) are absent.

Much of the additional footage was eventually used in the Redux version, such as stealing Kilgore's surfboard, the French plantation sequence, finding the Playboy bunnies, and Kurtz quoting Time magazine. However, there are some sequences which are unique to the workprint: a prostitute is seen in Willard's bed in Saigon, the boat's crew-members are introduced in a double-exposure shot, Lance kills a buffalo and sees a floating booby-trap, and two boys dangle insects into Willard's cage. Natives taunting the caged Willard with spears, and Kurtz (renamed Leighley) reading The Hollow Men, are the workprint's longest exclusive scenes.

Dennis Hopper has substantially more dialogue, most of it profane and superfluous. His scene outside Willard's cage is an alternate take. He is shot by Colby, and his last words are: "Kill Kurtz! Kill him!". Kurtz himself is first seen wearing war paint, not emerging from the shadows as in the original version. His dialogue scenes with Willard are alternate takes. Also, there is less build-up to Willard's encounter with Kurtz: with no voice-over, and the long digression of the French plantation sequence, Kurtz is somewhat marginalised until he actually appears.

The workprint is also noticeably lighter in tone. Partly, this is because it de-emphasises the foreboding presence of Kurtz but also because there are three romantic scenes and the soundtrack consists of quite upbeat Doors songs such as Summer's Gone, People Are Strange, and When The Music's Over.

Empire magazine printed unofficial screengrabs from the workprint in March 1997 and November 2006, and Peter Cowie wrote an authorised synopsis of it in The Apocalypse Now Book. Clips from the French plantation sequence, and out-takes of Kurtz's monologues, were included in the documentary Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.

An alternate take of the Hollow Men reading is included as an extra on the Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier DVD, along with twelve time-coded workprint scenes and an additional non-workprint sequence in which Willard finds a sampan boat full of monkeys. An alternate ending featuring the destruction of Kurtz's compound, which is not in the workprint, was included as an extra on the original Apocalypse Now DVD.

The Offensive Art

The Offensive Art
The Offensive Art: Political Satire & Its Censorship Around The World From Beerbohm To Borat, by Leonard Freedman, is a survey of satirical comedy in America, Britain, India, and the Middle East. Its focus is on the subversive media representations of National Socialist and Communist dictators, and the criticisms of American presidents protected by the first amendment.

25 April 2010

Avatar (2D)

Avatar was filmed in 3D, creating an immersive theatrical experience, though the film retains its spectacle in 2D. As with any epic film, the screen size is more important than how many dimensions are involved. In fact, the 2D version actually seems brighter and more vibrant, perhaps because the 3D glasses in the cinema acted as a filter.

24 April 2010

Roberto Rossellini

Roberto Rossellini
Roberto Rossellini, Carlo Lizzani's documentary about the influential Italian director, features archive interviews with Rossellini, François Truffaut, and Federico Fellini. Martin Scorsese discusses Rossellini's influence on his own work, as he did in My Voyage To Italy. Lizzani (who contributed to the documentary Il Etait Une Fois...) gives quite a dry commentary, though he does reveal a surprising detail: that he met with Marlene Dietrich as background research for Rossellini's film Germany Year Zero.

Il Etait Une Fois... Rome: Ville Ouverte

Il Etait Une Fois...
Il Etait Une Fois... Rome: Ville Ouverte, directed by Marie Genin, is a France 5 TV documentary about the making of Roberto Rossellini's masterpiece Rome: Open City. It includes extensive archive interview footage of Rossellini, Federico Fellini, and François Truffaut.

One of the highlights is an account of the scene in which the priest is arrested. Apparently, during the filming of this sequence, a member of the public threatened the actors with a gun as he believed that the scene was happening for real. Rossellini's eventful personal life is also discussed, including his relationships with actresses Anna Magnani and Ingrid Bergman.javascript:void(0)

22 April 2010

Horror Cinema

Horror Cinema
Horror Cinema, written by Jonathan Penner and Steven Jay Schneider, is a survey of the horror genre edited, like Art Cinema, by Paul Duncan for Taschen. The book's format is very similar to Art Cinema's, with equally glossy photographs. However, both books also have the same limitations: an emphasis on breadth at the expense of depth, a pointlessly brief filmography, and the lack of an index.

The introduction, What Is 'Horror'?, provides a potted history rather than a satisfactory definition or demarcation, though it serves as a brief orientation before the subsequent thematic chapters on zombies, ghosts, demons, vampires, and werewolves. The authors take a "liberal view of what constitutes a horror film", also incorporating elements of the science-fiction and thriller genres.

One of the more original chapters discusses "revenge-of-nature" films, citing The Birds and Jaws as classic examples. As the authors explain, this sub-genre is "overlooked and insufficiently appreciated", and its inclusion in Horror Cinema contrasts with the emphasis on urban paranoia in Horror. The final chapter, however, The Monstrous-Feminine, is merely a summary of Barbara Creed's excellent book of the same name.

It's not clear if Jonathan Penner and Steven Jay Schneider wrote the entire book collaboratively or each wrote separate chapters. Penner is credited before Schneider, suggesting that the latter made a lesser contribution, which is disappointing as Schneider is by far the better writer. While Penner is more notable as a television actor, Schneider has edited some of the greatest books on horror (Fear Without Frontiers) and cinema in general (1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die).

21 April 2010

South Park: 200-201

South Park
South Park
South Park has again provoked controversy, by featuring censored depictions of Mohammed, in a two-part storyline which also featured a litigious Tom Cruise. In the 200th episode, broadcast on 14th April, Cruise threatened to sue South Park unless Mohammed was shown uncensored.

In response to the lawsuit, Mohammed was seen wearing a bear costume, and a stick-figure "sketch of what Mohammed could look like today" was also shown. [Charlie Hebdo published a more tasteless 'Mohammed today' cartoon in 2006.] Mohammed's other appearances in the episode, as one of the Super Best Friends league of divinities, were censored, though the other deities (including a cocaine-snorting Buddha) were uncensored.

In the 201st episode, broadcast today, Mohammed reappeared, though his image was censored and his name was bleeped out by Comedy Central. Mohammed was also censored from two South Park episodes in 2006 (Cartoon Wars I-II), though he appeared briefly in the show's sixth-season opening titles and prominently in the 2001 episode Super Best Friends.

video video

"Mohammed med hustru"

Skane Party
Skanepartiet, a Swedish anti-immigration party, has placed twenty posters around Malmo which feature naked portraits of Mohammed and his child-bride Aisha. The poster's caption reads "Mohammed med hustru" ("Mohammed with his wife"), and highlights the substantial differences in their ages.

The poster is gratuitously offensive, and Skanepartiet is an extremist and Islamophobic party with an abhorrent manifesto. A less provocative drawing of Mohammed appeared on a Danish political poster in 2007. Images of Mohammed and Aisha have appeared in the Thai magazine Sex No Go and the Dutch book Misselijke Grappen.

16 April 2010


Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn, is an action comedy in which a teenager decides to become a real-life superhero. There is a refreshing lack of stars, with most leading roles played by relatively unknown and average-looking young actors. The violent action sequences and comic-book references are rather Tarantino-esque, with Kill Bill presumably a key influence. The arch-villain's HQ is adorned with artworks by Marc Quinn, Damien Hirst, and Andy Warhol.

The character attracting most publicity is Hit-Girl, played by pre-teen actress Chloe Grace Moretz; she is a deadly assassin (like the pupils in Battle Royale), and her use of strong language has provoked controversy in the media. In the Daily Mail, Christopher Tookey even called the film a "crime against cinema", but it's really no different than thirty years ago when child-actress Linda Blair played the violent, profane Regan in The Exorcist.

One word in particular, spoken by Hit-Girl in the teaser trailer for Kick-Ass, was used by an equally surprising character in Legion, also released this month. In that film's most (or only) enjoyable scene, Gladys, who appears to be a sweet old lady, turns into a foul-mouthed demon.

15 April 2010

Cinema Of Death (DVD)

Cinema Of Death
Hollywood Babylon
Le Poeme
Cinema Of Death is a DVD compilation of five transgressive underground films, limited to 2,500 copies (of which mine is #785). It also includes five postcards. The five films are:

(a young man invites a woman to his apartment, then shoots and eats her; directed by Olivier Smolders)

(a disabled little girl wearing a mask explores a deserted house; directed by Brian M Viveros and Eriijk Ressler)

(a man in a pig mask abuses his bondage/murder victim; directed by Nico B)

Hollywood Babylon
(an exhibition at the Museum of Death; directed by Nico B)

Le Poeme
(an autopsy on a male cadaver, accompanied by a poetry recital; directed by Bogdan Borkowski)

The films are similar in tone to the L'Erotisme anthology. All except Le Poeme are monochrome, though Disturbia is tinted. None contain spoken dialogue, though Adoration and Le Poeme both feature narrators reciting poetry. In Adoration, the narration is diegetic: a woman reads a poem into a microphone, and, after she dies, her recording is played back; in Le Poeme, the narrator represents the voice of the cadaver: when the dead man is placed in a body bag, the narration stops.

Adoration, with professional lighting and special effects, has the highest production values. The camera, filming in a static long-shot with a wide-angle lens, remains objective, though the protagonist approaches the camera and his gaze directly confronts the viewer.

Le Poeme features a real human autopsy. Some horror films (Superbeast, George Schenck; Beyond The Darkness, Joe D'Amato; Autopsia, Juan Logar; Men Behind The Sun, TF Mous) and music videos (Live & Confused, Hijohkaidan; Despair, SPK) have also incorporated genuine autopsy sequences, though Le Poeme is closest in tone to Stan Brakhage's underground art film The Act Of Seeing With One's Own Eyes and the Alain Resnais drama Providence.

Hollywood Babylon and Dislandia are both largely hand-held, and sometimes barely in focus. Dislandia is somewhat unsettling, as a little girl with apparent mental and physical disabilities wears a slightly sinister mask. According to the director, the mask was coated with various bodily fluids and buried for three days.

Hollywood Babylon, an amateurish record of an exhibition based on Kenneth Anger's book, includes morgue photographs of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe (also featured on one of the postcards included with the DVD). Pig, by the same director, is much more effective, and is perhaps the most disturbing film in the collection. It reminded me of images by Robert Mapplethorpe (X Portfolio) and Charles Gatewood (Forbidden Photographs).

12 April 2010

Shutter Island

Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Edward Daniels, a US Marshal investigating the mysterious disappearance of Rachel Solando, a patient from a mental institution on an isolated island. The Solando case (which acts as a MacGuffin for Daniels and a red herring for the audience) is complicated by the Marshal's obsessions with both his dead wife, Dolores Chanal, and the man who killed her, Andrew Laeddis.

Scorsese sets up the island as a foreboding and sinister environment, leading us to expect a Spellbound-style revelation about evil psychiatrists, though the plot twist is actually closer to that of Memento or even The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari. Everything is turned on its head, and there is a great deal of misdirection, with frequent dream sequences and hallucinations. It remains debatable whether the final explanation is either therapy or conspiracy; the former seems far too elaborate, while there are coincidences that appear to disprove the latter.

The avant-garde soundtrack, comprised exclusively of modern classical music, includes compositions by Krzysztof Penderecki and Gyorgy Ligeti, who were both also used by Stanley Kubrick for The Shining. This may be more than accidental, as Kubrick's film also features a delusional and violent protagonist. Both films involve dead children, though Shutter Island's exploitation of Holocaust victims is surprisingly tasteless.

Like Scorsese's previous film The Departed, also starring DiCaprio, the events take place in Boston. (The actor and director have also collaborated on Gangs Of New York and The Aviator, both of which were less successful.) The supporting cast includes the legendary Max von Sydow as a somewhat menacing German doctor; Ben Kingsley, who was surely chosen for his work in Death & The Maiden rather than Gandhi; and Elias Koteas, in a cameo role, who is the spitting image of former Scorsese collaborator Robert De Niro.

08 April 2010

Free Willy

Free Willy
A shopkeeper in Leeming Bar, northern England, has had a phallic garden ornament confiscated by North Yorkshire police officers, after they received complaints from the public. Ten of the stone sculptures had been sold at Jason Hadlow's shop, Simply Dutch, before the police intervened, and Hadlow has ordered a further 150 from the suppliers in Indonesia. He has also formed a campaigning group, Free Willy, to protest against the confiscation.


This month's issue of the German satirical magazine Titanic features a painting of a priest standing in front of a large relief of the crucified Jesus. In the image, by Rudi Hurzlmeier, the position of the priest's head could be interpreted as a sexual innuendo. Consequently, the magazine's editor is now facing two criminal charges.

04 April 2010


National Gallery
Zimbabwean artist Owen Maseko has been released on bail, after spending four nights in jail following his arrest on 25th March. Maseko's exhibition at Zimbabwe's National Gallery in Bulawayo has been closed, and the police have covered the gallery's windows with newspapers to prevent the twelve paintings and three installations from being seen.

Maseko's exhibition, titled Sibathontisele, is a direct attack on President Robert Mugabe, and a commentary on the Gukurahundi massacres carried out on Mugabe's orders in the 1980s. Sibathontisele is the second anti-Mugabe exhibition to be closed in Zimbabwe in the past few weeks, following the closure of the Reflections exhibition in Harare.



Zimbabwean police seized sixty-five photographs from Gallery Delta in Harare on 23rd March. The images, collected by ZimRights, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, depict violence meted out to opponents of President Robert Mugabe, and the exhibition was scheduled to run for ten days.

The photographs were returned to the gallery the following day, following a ruling by the High Court, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai presided over the opening of the exhibition. However, the police returned to the gallery that evening, again demanding that the photographs be removed. Although the gallery refused to hand over the pictures again, ZimRights decided to close the exhibition early due to police intimidation. Reflections will now be held at Amakhosi, an art centre in Bulawayo.



A gallery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, was closed by police on 22nd March, to prevent the exhibition of a series of photographs by Shahidul Alam. The exhibition, titled Crossfire, exposes the extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Rapid Action Battalion, a branch of the Bangladeshi police force.

Following an appeal by the artist, the police finally withdrew from the gallery on 31st March (Crossfire's original closing date) and allowed the exhibition to open. Crossfire will now close on 14th April.

[Three years ago, a Bangladeshi cartoonist was jailed after a newspaper printed his "Mohammed cat" cartoon.]


03 April 2010


An exhibition intended as a direct challenge to Ireland's blasphemy law opened yesterday in Dublin. Titled Blasphemous, it features provocative works including the poster image God Dates Fags (a subversive reappropriation of the anti-gay slogan 'God hates fags') by Will St Leger.

Blasphemous is at the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art until 25th April. A similar exhibition, Forbidden Art 2006, was held in Russia, and S Brent Plate's book Blasphemy examines blasphemous art.

22 March 2010

Democracy Monument

Democracy Monument
Democracy Monument
UDD protesters in Bangkok have painted pro-democracy images and slogans in blood, and wrapped the paintings around the city's Democracy Monument. At a UDD rally last week, thousands of UDD supporters donated 10cc of blood each, which was then symbolically poured onto the ground outside Government House and other political sites in Bangkok. (Government House was illegally occupied by the PAD in 2008.)

The current UDD campaign was launched after last month's seizure of Thaksin Shinawatra's assets by the Supreme Court. The protesters are also opposed to the 2007 constitution (drafted by the military), the 2006 coup (allegedly organised by the Privy Council), and the governing coalition (formed by the military following the dissolution of TRT and the PPP). Unlike the riots last year, the current UDD demonstrations are peaceful, despite scaremongering by Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban.

[Thai artists Pornprasert Yamazaki (Suicide Mind), Kosit Juntaratip, and Manit Sriwanichpoom (Flashback '76) have also used blood in their work. Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood donations for his Deep Storage Art Project.]


18 March 2010


This Area Is Under Quarantine
Thunska Pansittivorakul's documentary This Area Is Under Quarantine, which was banned from last year's World Film Festival, will open the Cinema@MERZ film season at MERZ Art Space, Bangkok, on 27th March. The season will run until 24th April.

Another Side

Another Side
A group exhibition, Another Side: Contemporary Artists' Dreams, opened on 13th March. The show includes The Altar, a new video by Thunska Pansittivorakul (director of Reincarnate, This Area Is Under Quarantine, and many short films). (As of today, Thunska's video had not yet been installed.)

The show also features Chaisiri Jiwarangsan's video The Illuded Moon, a record of an eye operation which is not for the squeamish. The video was made in collaboration with Apichatpong Weerasethakul (director of Syndromes & A Century) and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (whose video works have previously been shown in From Message To Media and The Suspended Moment).

Most impressive are the ceramic works by Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch and Flora Cruells Benzal. Wasinburee has created a guardian angel with the body of a Transformer, and Benzal's Chimerical Six is a disturbing series of Gothic babies' heads. Another Side, at La Lanta in Bangkok, will close on 30th April.

10 March 2010

Lars Vilks

Seven people have been arrested in Ireland in connection with an Al Qaeda plot to murder the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. Vilks depicted Mohammed as a dog in a series of drawings which were removed from the Hunden I Konsten exhibition in 2007. The plot to murder Vilks comes after a man was arrested in January for the attempted murder of Kurt Westergaard, who created the most notorious of the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed caricatures.

08 March 2010

Chaotic Victory

Chaotic Victory
Chaotic Victory, an exhibition of new works by Vasan Sitthiket and Iwan Wijono, will open at Whitespace Gallery, Bangkok, from 12th March to 11th April. Vasan has a simultaneous exhibition at Number One Gallery, Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic].

Vasan has produced a series of self-portraits, depicting himself as Buddha and a terrorist. Wijono's paintings comment on the hypocrisy of iconic figures such as Barack Obama and Andy Warhol. Like Santiago Sierra, he works with economically marginalised labourers, though his projects are genuinely collaborative and mutually advantageous in contrast to Sierra's exploitation.