02 October 2022

Wildtype 2022


Wildtype 2022

Wildtype, a two-day programme of new short films, began yesterday. Like last year’s event, Wildtype 2022 includes a strand dedicated to political documentaries, which is this year titled Politicx. Wildtype, curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, is an offshoot of Sonthaya Subyen’s Filmvirus group.

Politicx begins with Kanyarat Theerakrittayakorn’s Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds (เจริญวิริญาพรมาหาทำใน 3 โลก), a quest to reveal the true identity of the mysterious Viriyaporn Boonprasert, the pseudonymous director whose satirical films have perplexed Thailand’s close-knit cinephile community. There’s no Scooby Doo-style unmasking moment, though plausible suspicions are raised, followed by bemused denials.

The most directly political films in Politicx are both named after the pro-democracy red-shirt movement. Supamok Silarak’s Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไปไหนได้) documents the activities (or, in art terms, happenings) of Vitthaya Klangnil and Yotsunthon Ruttapradit, who formed the group Artn’t. The film shows the Thai flag they exhibited, with transparent material in place of the central blue stripe. Vitthaya is also shown carving ‘112’ into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges they faced. In the heartbreaking Red’s Scar (บาดแผลสีแดง), Nutcha Tantivitayapitak interviews a protester falsely accused of arson following the 2010 massacre. Tragically, his mother and son both died while he was in jail.

Wildtype 2022 runs until 9th October. Politicx was shown yesterday at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok and Chiang Mai University’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration. It will be shown again on 8th October at Mueang Thong Rama in Phayao and Bookhemian in Phuket.

01 October 2022

“A relentless barrage of highly personal attacks...”


The Mail on Sunday

The long-running BBC1 satirical panel show Have I Got News for You marked the end of Boris Johnson’s premiership with a special episode titled Have I Got News for Boris on 2nd September. The programme recounted Johnson’s numerous scandals (such as unlawfully proroguing parliament and breaking coronavirus pandemic restrictions), though two words in the script—“cosmic cunt”—led to tabloid outrage two days later. The Mail on Sunday’s front-page headline on 4th September was “BBC COMIC’S C-WORD JIBE AGAINST PM”.

The Mail accused presenter Jack Dee of insulting Johnson, though in fact the alliterative pejorative was a quote from The Times, which attributed it to an unnamed cabinet minister in an article published on 9th July. The Mail’s hyperbolic description of the show as “a relentless barrage of highly personal attacks” and “a torrent of ‘spiteful and crass insults’” is an indication of its anti-BBC bias.

Daily Star / The Sun

There have been two previous front-page tabloid headlines about the c-word. On 4th February 2017, The Sun (“BECKS C-WORD FURY AT ‘SIR’ SNUB”) reported a leaked email in which ex-footballer David Beckham called the Honours Committee “unappreciative cunts”. (Beckham had obtained an injunction preventing The Times from publishing the email, though other papers were not bound by it.) On 15th May 2015, the Daily Star (“BEEB CALLS FARAGE C-WORD ON TELLY”) gleefully highlighted a slip of the tongue by journalist Norman Smith, who referred to politician Nigel Farage as a “cunt” rather than a ‘cult’ during a live BBC News TV report.

23 September 2022

The Lord of the Rings:
The Rings of Power


The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit films (An Unexpected Journey, The Desolation of Smaug, and The Battle of the Five Armies) were prequels to his Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King), making the blockbuster new Amazon Prime Video series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power a prequel to the prequels. Released on 2nd September and directed by J.A. Bayona (who made The Impossible), the series is Prime Video’s first major franchise, and another escalation in the vast original-content budgets of the streaming platforms.

At a cost of $465 million, the first season of The Rings of Power averages $58 million per episode. (Compare that to Boardwalk Empire, with its $18 million pilot, which set records a decade ago.) So, on a per-episode basis, The Rings of Power is the most expensive show in the history of television. Yet it feels entirely cinematic rather than televisual: as in the original film trilogies, there are sweeping aerial shots of New Zealand’s vistas (filmed with drones this time, rather than helicopters) and theme music by Howard Shore. This epic spectacle is impressive, though stilted performances in the Elven sequences highlight the lack of A-list actors.

21 September 2022

“Shamefully presents a negative image of Thai society...”


Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture

As incredible as it may seem, thirty years ago a dictionary was burnt in the streets of Bangkok and banned by Thai police. The Longman Dictionary of English Language and Culture was published in 1992, and soon attracted controversy in Thailand, as its entry for Bangkok described the city as “a place where there are a lot of PROSTITUTES”. (The capitalisation indicated a cross-reference; it was not for emphasis.)

This mention of the city’s somewhat seedy reputation (on page 79 of the hardback edition) infuriated some Bangkokians, who burnt the dictionary in protest, and it was officially banned on 4th July 1993. The publishers quickly removed the offending text, in time for the paperback edition.

Censorship in Thailand is frequently a face-saving measure, a form of reputation management to ensure that negative images are whitewashed from cultural representations of the country. As discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored, this results in media, literature, and films “that present a rose-tinted view, rather than holding a mirror up to society.”

This has been the case for almost a century, as the silent film Suvarna of Siam (นางสาวสุวรรณ) was censored in 1923 to prevent the portrayal of capital punishment in the country. Similarly, one of the reasons given for the censorship of Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) was that it “shamefully presents a negative image of Thai society for foreign audiences.”

Bangkok Inside Out was banned here for the same reason, after the Ministry of Culture objected to its photo of a go-go bar. More than fifty years ago, the travelogue Bangkok After Dark (written by Fred Poole under the pen name Andrew Harris) was also banned for its focus on the city’s red-light districts.

20 September 2022

16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส


Rap Against Dictatorship

Rap Against Dictatorship released their new single 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส (‘it’s been 16 years, ai sat’) yesterday, on the sixteenth anniversary of the 2006 coup. The title echoes a lyric from another recent single, Long Live the People—“7-8 ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์” (‘it’s been 7-8 years, ai hia’)—and the จะ4ปีแล้วนะไอ้สัตว์ (‘it’s been 4 years, ai hia’) concert. (Ai sat and ai hia are both strong Thai insults.)

In their most famous music video, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), Rap Against Dictatorship recreated an infamous photograph of the 6th October 1976 massacre. For the 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส video, they have recreated the moment when Nuamthong Praiwan crashed his taxi into a tank to protest against the coup. The song is dedicated to Nuamthong, as was the documentary Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย เรื่องเศร้าของลุงนวมทอง), and the video includes extracts from his suicide note, as does the short film Letter from the Silence (จดหมายจากความเงียบ).

The 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส music video also features archive footage of some of the major political events of the past sixteen years, including the Ratchaprasong massacre, the announcement of the 2014 coup, and a Harry Potter-themed monarchy-reform protest. The song features guest vocals by Chaiamorn Kaewwiboonpan, whose single 12345 I Love You has become an anthem of the anti-government protest movement. Footage of the recent protests also appears in two previous Rap Against Dictatorship music videos, Ta Lu Fah (ทะลุฟ้า)—which references Chaiamorn in its lyrics—and Reform (ปฏิรูป).

12 September 2022

Silhouette of Memory


Silhouette of Memory Silhouette of Memory

Pornchai Lerdthamsiri’s Silhouette of Memory (เงาภาพ) features oil and watercolour paintings spanning the last sixteen years of Thai politics, from the 2006 coup onwards. The exhibition is at Kinjai Contemporary in Bangkok from 2nd to 17th September. (The gallery is also home to the Museum of Popular History, a collection of memorabilia and ephemera from contemporary Thai politics.)

Pornchai illustrates the resurgence of the yellow-shirt movement and their occupation of Suvarnabhumi airport in 2008, and the Constitutional Court’s dismissal of PM Samak Sundaravej that same year, though his main focus is the red-shirt protests. He captures the optimism of the red-shirt rallies in the first few months of 2010, followed by their violent suppression by the military. In one painting, soldiers are shown firing from the SkyTrain platform at wounded civilians sheltering at Wat Pathum Wanaram. (Wittawat Tongkeaw’s painting Interregnum/สิ้นสุดพุทธาวาส was also inspired by the Wat Pathum Wanaram incident.)

Silhouette of Memory Silhouette of Memory

Alongside these older works in oil are fifty new watercolour paintings documenting the recent student protests against Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government. Whereas other artists—including Wittawat, Lucky Leg, Tawan Wattuya, and Jirapatt Aungsumalee—have painted portraits of individual protest leaders, Pornchai’s watercolours show the protesters en masse. He also depicts the use of water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse the protests.

11 September 2022

“I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep...”


Sheep Village

Five publishers of children’s picture books were each given nineteen-month prison sentences in Hong Kong yesterday. They had been held in custody since their arrest more than a year ago, and were all convicted of sedition after a two-month trial. The defendants were members of the General Union of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, which has since been disbanded. They had published three books about a ‘sheep village’ (羊村) facing attack by wolves, a metaphor for China’s dominance over Hong Kong.

One of the titles, 羊村守衛者 (‘guardians of sheep village’), is an allegory of Hong Kong’s 2019 pro-democracy protests. Another, 羊村十二勇士 (‘twelve warriors of sheep village’), refers to a dozen Hong Kongers who were arrested in 2020 when they attempted to escape into exile by speedboat. The last book in the series, 羊村清道夫 (‘the cleaners of sheep village’), is a reference to medical workers who went on strike in an attempt to force Hong Kong to close its border with China at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

District Court Judge Kwok Wai Kin condemned the publishers for what he described as “a brain-washing exercise with a view to guiding the very young children to accept their views and values”. The defendants—Man-ling Lai, Sidney Ng, Samuel Chan, Tsz-ho Fong, and Melody Yeung—had all pleaded not guilty, and Yeung said in court: “My only regret is I couldn’t publish more picture books before getting arrested.” Referring to the political analogy in the books, she added: “I hope I can always stand on the side of the sheep.”

03 September 2022

Nevermind


Nevermind

A lawsuit against grunge rock band Nirvana was dismissed by a Central District of California judge yesterday. Spencer Elden, who was photographed as a baby for the cover of the classic album Nevermind in 1991, had filed three legal actions against the band, seeking compensation for alleged sexual exploitation. Judge Fernando Olguin ruled that the ten-year statute of limitations had expired, and therefore “it would be futile to afford plaintiff a fourth opportunity to file an amended complaint.”

Although Elden was clearly unable to consent to the use of his image at the time, he has since publicly endorsed the album cover, somewhat negating the accusations in his lawsuit. Nevermind is one of the most acclaimed albums of the 1990s, and its lead single, Smells Like Teen Spirit, is one of the most iconic songs of the decade.

31 August 2022

Battleship Potemkin


Battleship Potemkin

The classic Battleship Potemkin (Бронено́сец «Потёмкин») will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 7th September. The film is an agitprop dramatisation of the 1905 Russian Revolution, though it also demonstrates director Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary montage editing technique, and the ‘Odessa steps’ massacre is arguably the most famous sequence in silent cinema.

The archive’s 16mm print was donated by the embassy of the Soviet Union and first shown as part of the หนังดีที่สุดในโลก (‘greatest films in the world’) programme, one of the inaugural events of the Thailand Cultural Centre in 1987. The print is an unrestored, edited version (just under an hour long), with an English-language voice-over that fills in the gaps in the narrative.

Battleship Potemkin was previously screened at the archive in 2011, with live music by Nipat Chaisap. It was shown twice at Bangkok Screening Room, in 2018 (with a soundtrack by the Pet Shop Boys) and 2020 (with live music by Viveka).

26 August 2022

“He went to an Imam Hatip school, that’s why he’s perverted...”


Lolipop

Gülşen, one of Turkey’s most popular singers, has been arrested after joking about the country’s religious school system. At a concert on 30th April, she teased a member of her band, saying: “İmam hatipte okumuş daha önce kendisi, sapıklığı oradan geliyor” (‘he went to an Imam Hatip school, that’s why he’s perverted’).

A video clip of the on-stage comment, filmed at the JJ Arena in Istanbul, was posted online by an audience-member. The singer has been charged with inciting hatred and division. She was detained in custody yesterday, after bail was denied. Ironically, she also appeared behind prison bars in the music video for her most recent single, Lolipop, released earlier this year.

22 August 2022

The Genius of Prince


Prince Vanity Fair The Genius of Prince

The US Supreme Court will rule later this year on a long-running copyright lawsuit between photographer Lynn Goldsmith and the Andy Warhol Foundation. Warhol was commissioned by Vanity Fair to create a portrait of Prince, and the magazine paid Goldsmith for the rights to use her black-and-white Prince photograph as the basis for Warhol’s painting. Both Warhol and Goldsmith were credited when the image was published in the November 1984 issue (on page 67), to illustrate an article titled Purple Fame.

The dispute stems not from that original publication, but from a commemorative magazine, The Genius of Prince, released in 2016 by the publisher of Vanity Fair. The cover illustration for The Genius of Prince was another Warhol portrait, also based on Goldsmith’s photo, and this time she wasn’t credited. Goldsmith sued the Warhol Foundation, though the Foundation counter-sued and argued that Warhol’s manipulation of her image was sufficiently transformative that it did not infringe her copyright.

The precedent for transformative works constituting fair use dates to a 1993 Supreme Court verdict that permitted The 2 Live Crew’s sampling of Roy Orbison’s single Oh, Pretty Woman. Even more directly relevant is the case of another photographer, Patrick Cariou, who sued the artist Richard Prince for copyright infringement. In that instance, most of Prince’s images were deemed fair use, though the legal status of five works remains unresolved, as the appeals court was unable to “make a determination about their transformative nature” and the case was ultimately settled out of court.

ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า


CD

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า EP was released on CD by t_047 last year. The title track, which was also released as a single, translates as ‘no one in the sky’, and in Thailand the sky is often used as a metaphor for the monarchy. The lyrics also criticise “people who claim to be deities which I find so lame”. But, perhaps to avoid accusations of lèse-majesté, the band added a disclaimer on their YouTube channel: “ไม่ได้มีเจตนาเพื่อโจมตีบุคคลใดบุคคลหนึ่ง แต่มีความตั้งใจตักเตือนบุคคลหลายกลุ่ม ที่ตั้งตนสูงส่งกว่าสามัญชนคนธรรมดา” (‘it was not intended to attack any individual, but with the intention of admonishing many groups who elevate themselves above ordinary people’).

The ไม่มีคนบนฟ้า music video features footage of riot police deploying water cannon against anti-government protesters. The EP also includes ความฝันยามรุ่งสาง (‘dreaming at dawn’), which was one of several singles released on the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre.

15 August 2022

Uninspired by Current Events:
Sorry Stories


Uninspired by Current Events

Saratta Chuengsatiansup, the artist behind the Uninspired by Current Events page on Facebook, has released a book of his work. Uninspired by Current Events: Sorry Stories reproduces some of the digital artworks he has been posting daily since last year, alongside a handful of new images.

Despite the ironic disclaimer in its title, Uninspired by Current Events provides a topical, satirical commentary on Thai news and politics. The book also features short poems, in both English and Thai, to accompany each illustration, and the poetry is as sharp and subversive as the images themselves.

14 August 2022

WeVo


WeVo

An exhibition in Bangkok yesterday and today marked two years since the formation of WeVo (We Volunteer), a group of volunteer guards who provide protection for protesters at anti-government rallies. The guards, led by Piyarat Chongthep, have previously been labelled agitators, and they were accused of using violent tactics—throwing firecrackers and other projectiles—to repel riot police (on 28th February last year, for example).

The 2nd Anniversary of We Volunteer (งานครบรอบ 2 ปีกลุ่ม We Volunteer) exhibition was held at the Jam Factory. Rubber bullets fired by riot police were on display, as was the mock guillotine previously seen at Democracy Monument on 18th July last year. Supong Jitmuang’s documentary Mob 2020-2021 was shown at the event yesterday.

12 August 2022

Quote of the day...


Quote of the day

“Prayut will respect the court’s opinions because he has never thought of himself as being above the law.”
— Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana

Today sees the resurrection of Dateline Bangkok’s ‘quote of the day’ feature, an occasional series of I-can’t-believe-they-said-that quotes from Thailand. A government spokesman was quoted by the Bangkok Post newspaper today, assuring Prayut Chan-o-cha’s critics that the Prime Minister “has never thought of himself as being above the law.” This is, to say the least, somewhat ironic given Prayut’s role as leader of the junta that overthrew an elected government in 2014.

Prayut himself has provided two previous quotes of the day: he claimed that “we respect democracy” barely a fortnight after his coup, and he admitted that the army still used GT200 devices three years after they were exposed as a hoax. Other quotes of the day from yesteryear: a PAD leader said that Thailand should be more like North Korea, the ICT Minister openly admitted to violating the Computer Crime Act, Suthep Thaugsuban hypocritically condemned protesters for blocking roads, an Election Commission spokesman claimed that an election would lead to a coup, and a Ministry of Culture official dismissed the work of Thailand’s most acclaimed filmmaker.

11 August 2022

“I have decided to take legal action against The Economist...”



An Iraqi soap opera actress has announced that she plans to sue The Economist over its use of her photograph. The magazine used a photo of Enas Taleb to illustrate an article about female obesity in the Middle East. Taleb told the online magazine New Lines: “I have decided to take legal action against The Economist... I am demanding compensation for the emotional, mental and social damage this incident has caused me.”

The article, headlined Weighty Matters, appears on page 34 of the current issue (vol. 444, no. 9,307) of The Economist, published on 30th July. The Economist was last successfully sued for damages in 2004, after it alleged “a whiff of nepotism” in the appointment of the Singaporean Prime Minister’s wife as head of a state investment agency.

08 August 2022

Dianagate


The Sun

This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of the so-called ‘Dianagate’ scandal, the publication of a telephone conversation between Princess Diana and James Gilbey, with whom she was having an affair. A transcript of their phone call was printed in The Sun newspaper on 24th August 1992, under the banner headline “MY LIFE IS TORTURE”. The headline is a quote from the tape: Diana says that Prince Charles “makes my life real, real torture, I’ve decided.” (The tape was later sampled by the techno band House of Windsor for their novelty single Squidgy, a reference to Gilbey’s pet name for Diana.)

According to The Sun, the call was accidentally recorded by a radio ham, Cyril Reenan, on New Year’s Eve 1989. A second amateur radio enthusiast, Jane Norgrove, subsequently provided the paper with her own tape of the call. The clarity of the tapes, and the unlikely coincidence of two accidental recordings of such a significant conversation, led to (as yet unproven) allegations that landlines in royal residences had been tapped.

Such speculation increased when a phone call between Charles and his mistress, Camilla Parker-Bowles, was also leaked. The transcript of this so-called ‘Camillagate’ tape—recorded a fortnight before Diana’s call, on 18th December 1989—was first published by New Idea on 23rd January 1993. At the time, the magazine was owned by Rupert Murdoch, proprietor of The Sun, and it’s likely that the story was planted in an Australian magazine to provide some distance from Murdoch’s UK tabloids. Camillagate caused even more of a sensation than Dianagate, as the conversation was more directly sexual, and Charles was recorded joking about being reincarnated as his lover’s tampon: “God forbid, a Tampax! Just my luck!”

Ornament and Crime:
Thoughts on Design and Materials


Ornament and Crime

Ornament and Crime (Ornament und Verbrechen), first delivered as a lecture in Vienna and later published as an essay, is one of the most famous polemics in the history of architecture and design. Architect Adolf Loos abhorred the decorative ornamentation of Art Nouveau and the Vienna Secession, as he proclaimed in Ornament and Crime’s succinct central thesis: “the evolution of culture comes to the same thing as the removal of ornament from functional objects.

Linking ‘primitive’ ornamentation to evolution is the most problematic aspect of Ornament and Crime, as Loos equated the tribal tattoos of Papua New Guinea with “degeneracy”. The essay is stridently moralistic, though it’s also arguably one of the first modernist manifestos, anticipating the functionalist architecture of Le Corbusier. Ornament and Crime: Thoughts on Design and Materials features two dozen essays by Loos, newly translated by Shaun Whiteside.

The Grammar Of Ornament, by Owen Jones, was the first systematic analysis of ornamental art, influencing Auguste Racinet’s L’ornement polychrome (‘polychromatic ornament’) and many other compendiums. Stuart Durant’s Ornament is a comprehensive history of pattern design and ornament since the Industrial Revolution. The more recent Histories of Ornament, edited by Gülru Necipoğlu and Alina Payne, is the first attempt at a global history of the subject.

16 July 2022

Come Here


Come Here

A group of four young friends, on vacation in Kanchanaburi, arrive at the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, only to discover that it’s closed for renovation. After their initial disappointment, they decide to explore the woodlands surrounding the museum instead, and their interest in the World War II ‘death railway’ soon wanes. Their (improvised) dialogue is deliberately inconsequential, highlighting the contrast between the area’s dark historical past and the oblivious group’s contemporary preoccupations.

Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Come Here (ใจจำลอง) is one of a handful of recent Thai films that explore what the Dutch artist Armando called ‘guilty landscapes’: tranquil spaces that bore silent witness to past violence. (Anocha’s black-and-white cinematography is a reminder of the area’s historical significance, and another contrast to the film’s youthful protagonists.) Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (จดหมายถงลงบญม) and Thunska Pansittivorakul’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) also examine Thailand’s ‘guilty landscapes’ (as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored), though Come Here has a closer connection to Taiki Sakpisit’s Seeing in the Dark, which also begins at the site of a state memorial.

Come Here also includes archive footage of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Dusit Zoo, two Bangkok landmarks that were closed to the public by royal decree. (Taiki’s Shadow and Act and Sorayos Prapapan’s Prelude of the Moving Zoo were also filmed at Dusit Zoo and, like Sorayos, Anocha captures the zoo’s final day of operation.) The zoo footage in Come Here seems unrelated to the film’s main narrative, though there is much that remains unexplained. Most puzzling is a subplot in which a young woman wanders around in distress, before morphing into a man, in a sequence inspired by An American Werewolf in London (and perhaps Michael Jackson’s Black or White music video).

Anocha is one of the most original voices in independent Thai cinema; her films Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก) and By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง)—and Krabi, 2562 (กระบี่ ๒๕๖๒), codirected by Ben Rivers—are truly unique. Like Come Here, Mundane History and By the Time It Gets Dark also draw on Thailand’s political history and feature repetition as a narrative device. Come Here feels less profound by comparison, though perhaps that’s inevitable, as its subtext of historical amnesia remains hidden beneath the surface.

10 July 2022

Kaali


Kaali

Indian filmmaker Leena Manimekalai is facing potential blasphemy charges after public outrage over the poster for her film Kaali. Manimekalai, who is based in Canada, portrays the Hindu goddess Kali in the short film, which was shown at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto on 2nd July. In the film’s poster, Kali is depicted smoking a cigarette and waving an LGBTQ rainbow flag. Complaints have been lodged with police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

05 July 2022

Thai Cinema Uncensored


Sojourn

Thai Cinema Uncensored is reviewed in the new issue of Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia (volume 37, number 2), on pages 374-377. In her review, Annette Hamilton writes: “This is a great read not just for those interested in film, but for anyone trying to understand the nexus between culture and politics in Thailand in recent times.” She concludes: “This book is a valuable addition to Thai cinema studies. It is well-written and instructive.” (The book has previously been reviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper, Art Review and The Big Chilli magazines, and the 101 World website.)

Thai Cinema Uncensored


The 101 World

The Thai news website The 101 World reviewed Thai Cinema Uncensored on 21st January 2021. (The book has also been reviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper, and Art Review and The Big Chilli magazines.)

In his 101 World review, headlined “ภาพยนตร์ไทยไม่ต้องห้าม” (‘Thai movies are not forbidden’), Matt Changsupan writes: “สิ่งที่ทำให้ Thai Cinema Uncensored แข็งแรงขึ้นในการนำเสนอเรื่องของการเซนเซอร์ในภาพยนตร์ไทย นอกจากข้อมูลที่อัปเดตมากๆ... ได้ให้ภาพของการตั้งคำถามเกี่ยวกับการเมืองการปกครองร่วมสมัยผ่านภาพยนตร์ได้อย่างค่อนข้างครบถ้วน” (‘what are the strengths of Thai Cinema Uncensored in its discussion of Thai film censorship? In addition to its very up-to-date content... it provides a rather complete picture of the questioning of contemporary politics through film’).

02 July 2022

Mob 2020-2021


Moving Images Screening Night

Mob 2020-2021

The third Moving Images Screening Night (คืนฉายภาพเคลื่อนไหว) took place at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok on 30th June. (The first Moving Images Screening Night, on 28th April, featured Jittarin Wuthiphan’s powerful short film Still on My Mind, his record of a mob in Phuket attacking a man they accused of disrespecting King Rama IX. The second event, on 25th May, included Suwaporn Worrasit’s Ratchadamnoen Route View 2482+.) Each screening is divided into two themed programmes, which for the third event were Eclipse and Lucid Memory.

The highlight of the evening was Supong Jitmuang’s Mob 2020-2021, a chronicle of the current student protest movement. Supong told me that the film is “handmade”, emphasising the intricate nature of this two-hour documentary. Audience members received a Moving Images Screening Night brochure (Phase 01: Program Book), which the organisers also describe as “handmade”: a zine-style publication with a limited print run. Mob 2020-2021 postcards were also available.

Mob 2020-2021 covers the first twelve months of the anti-government protest movement. Supong and his camera were at Thammasat University on 19th September 2020, for the overnight rally that later occupied Sanam Luang. On 14th October 2020, he filmed the march to Government House, after which a state of emergency was declared. On 17th November 2020, he was on the front line when protesters used inflatable ducks to protect themselves from water cannon fired by riot police. (Sorayos Prapapan’s short film Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship documents the same event.)

The protests intensified last summer, and Mob 2020-2021 shows the rally at Democracy Monument on 18th July 2021 marking the first anniversary of the anti-government campaign. Last August, there were almost daily confrontations between riot police and protesters, but rather than filming each event, Supong summarises them in a general written caption noting the “multiple continuous clashes that lasted many weeks” (Hopefully, the ongoing Sound of ‘Din’ Daeng documentary series will cover this period, and the violent tactics employed by the riot police, in more detail.)

The closest equivalent to Mob 2020-2021 is probably Ing Kanjanavanit’s Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์) though, of course, the two directors are from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Two renditions of Do You Hear the People Sing? in Mob 2020-2021, for example, serve as a counterpoint to Bangkok Joyride’s fetishisation of the national anthem. Bangkok Joyride and Mob 2020-2021 both provide an exhaustive record of street politics, though Mob 2020-2021 is a more objective account.

Mob 2020-2021 is the first feature-length documentary covering the recent protest movement. (The only other example, The Evil of Time’s Growth, focuses solely on the Thalufah group.) It’s an invaluable record of a profound social and political change in Thailand. Supong’s film also includes a written timeline of the protests, and its matter-of-fact neutrality is maintained throughout, except for a single reference to the “parasitic” government.

01 July 2022

กรุงเทพ กลางแปลง



A three-week festival of open-air film screenings will take place around Bangkok later this month. The event, กรุงเทพ กลางแปลง (‘Bangkok open air’), is the brainchild of the city’s popular new governor, Chardchart Sittipunt, who was elected last month. (His unelected predecessor, appointed by the 2014 junta, had been in office for the past six years.)

The festival includes recent and classic films, all screening at outdoor venues between 7th and 31st July. Highlights include Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters [sic] (2499 อันธพาลครองเมือง) on 7th July at Lan Khon Mueang Square; and Monrak Transistor (มนต์รักทรานซิสเตอร์) on 7th July at True Digital Park, and (with an introduction by director Pen-ek Ratanaruang) on 15th July at Khlong Toei Youth Center. (Dang Bireley’s and Young Gangsters was previously shown at an outdoor screening in 2010. Monrak Transistor had previous outdoor screenings in 2011 and 2018.)

29 June 2022

Boiled Angels:
The Trial of Mike Diana


Boiled Angels

Boiled Angel / Answer Me!

In 1994, cartoonist Mike Diana was convicted of producing and distributing obscene material, after Florida police obtained copies of his zine Boiled Angel (issues 7 and 8). Its twisted humour was certainly provocative—zine bible Factsheet Five described it as “designed to turn your stomach”—though this was precisely Diana’s intention. As he says in the excellent documentary Boiled Angels: The Trial of Mike Diana: “My goal was to make the most offensive zine ever made.”

Following the guilty verdict, Diana was denied bail. After four days in custody, he was fined $3,000 and sentenced to 1,248 hours of community service. The documentary, by horror director Frank Henenlotter, features interviews with Diana, his family, and the defence and prosecution attorneys. It’s a thorough recounting of Diana’s trial, and it also gives plenty of historical background on the Comics Code and the underground comix movement.

Diana’s case was very similar to that of Mark Laliberté, whose comic zine Headtrip (issues 1 and 2) was accused of obscenity in Canada. Laliberté and Diana had traded zines, and Laliberté’s copies of Boiled Angel were also cited in the Headtrip obscenity trial. The failure to secure a conviction in Canada perhaps made the US authorities all the more eager to prosecute Diana in Florida. (At least, that’s what Laliberté alleges in the documentary.)

Zap Comix / Nasty Tales / Meng and Ecker

Although Diana is the only artist ever convicted of obscenity in the US, there have been other prosecutions of comic art. Booksellers in New York were fined for stocking Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix (specifically the ‘family values’ parody Joe Blow in issue 4; charges against Zap’s publishers, the Print Mint, were later dropped). In a similar case in the State of Washington, booksellers were prosecuted in relation to Jim Goad’s zine Answer Me! (issue 4, with a cover illustration by Mike Diana), though they were eventually acquitted.

There have also been a handful of obscenity cases against comics in the UK. Charges against Oz magazine (issue 28) and the Nasty Tales comic (issue 1) were both related to Robert Crumb cartoons, and Crumb’s book My Troubles with Women was seized by customs in 1996. (In all three cases, the charges were eventually dropped or overturned.) David Britton was found guilty on obscenity charges relating to his novel Lord Horror and his comic Meng and Ecker (issue 1); the charge against the novel was overturned on appeal, though the conviction of the comic was upheld.

Ulysses


Ulysses

This year marks the centenary of James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which was first published in Paris in 1922. The book was officially banned in the UK and the US for more than a decade, declared obscene by customs officers on both sides of the Atlantic. (The US ban even predated the novel’s Paris publication, as the editors of the literary magazine The Little Review were convicted of obscenity in 1921 after serialising it.)

Random House sought to publish an American edition, and imported a copy from Paris to test the waters in 1932. The following year, New York City District Court judge John M. Woolsey ruled that the book was not obscene, leaving Random House free to publish it in the US. In his summing up, the judge argued that the novel was disgusting rather than titillating: “whilst in many places the effect of Ulysses on the reader undoubtedly is somewhat emetic, nowhere does it tend to be an aphrodisiac.” (The same argument was made by the Appeals Court judge in the Oz obscenity trial almost forty years later.)

Despite having read only forty-two pages of the novel, the UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Archibald Bodkin, dismissed it as “a great deal of unmitigated filth and obscenity.” All copies brought into the UK were therefore confiscated by customs, until Bodley Head—encouraged by the US verdict—released a British edition in 1936. No longer imported from overseas and seized under the Customs Consolidation Act, the book was henceforth subject to the Obscene Publications Act, which has a higher burden of proof. The Attorney-General, David Somervell, advised that such a conviction would be unlikely, and the Bodley Head edition faced no legal challenge from the government.

The next landmark cases in US and UK obscenity law both came in the late 1950s. Samuel Roth was jailed in 1957 after the US Supreme Court ruled that his quarterly book series American Aphrodite (vol. 1, no. 3), published in 1951, was obscene. The case set a precedent as the judgement redefined obscenity as material which “taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest”, thus preventing courts from convicting literature based on isolated extracts. Similarly, in 1959 the UK’s Obscene Publications Act added a stipulation that any material under scrutiny be considered in whole rather than in part. This led directly to the acquittal of D.H. Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterly’s Lover in 1960.

24 June 2022

Keep ’em in the East:
Kazan, Kubrick, and the Postwar New York Film Renaissance


Keep 'em in the East

Ironically, some of the greatest films from the so-called New Hollywood era (The Godfather, The French Connection, Annie Hall) were made on location in New York rather than in Los Angeles. New York City established a film commission in 1966 (the first in the country), leading to an immediate and dramatic increase in film production, which has since become known as the New York film renaissance. Richard Koszarski’s Keep ’em in the East: Kazan, Kubrick, and the Postwar New York Film Renaissance offers a revisionist history of the 1940s and ’50s New York film scene, arguing that the roots of the renaissance stretch back long before 1966.

Koszarski discusses the documentary-like police procedural thrillers filmed on the streets of New York (The House on 92nd Street, The Naked City, Boomerang!), demonstrating that, although this style evolved alongside Neo-Realism, it was not directly influenced by Italian cinema. Only one Neo-Realist film, Rome, Open City (Roma cittá aperta), had been released in the US during the peak period of the New York docu-dramas, thus their similar modes of production were largely coincidental.

The book’s final chapters alternate between the production histories of Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront and Stanley Kubrick’s Killer’s Kiss, which (incredibly) were among only three films made in New York in the winter of 1953 (the other being Hansel and Gretel). Interestingly, he reveals that Killer’s Kiss (under its original title, Kiss Me, Kill Me) was censored by four minutes by the MPAA, and that a further three minutes were cut by either Kubrick or the film’s distributor, United Artists, before its theatrical release.

21 June 2022

ลุกไหม้สิ! ซิการ์



ลุกไหม้สิ! ซิการ์ (‘burning cigar!’), a short collection of poems written anonymously by ‘Chatchon’ in 2010 and 2020, offers a literary commentary on Thailand’s political protests. The bulk of the poems are reflections on the red-shirt rallies that culminated in the May 2010 military massacre. Uneducated People! highlights the condescension aimed at the pro-democracy movement by the rival yellow-shirts. ความสงสัย (‘doubtfulness’) addresses the killing of protesters on 10th April 2010 (an event also memorialised by Tawan Wattuya’s Amnesia and Parinot Kunakornwong’s 10th April). เด็กหนุ่มในบทกวี (‘the boy in the poem’) is a remembrance of the final week of the 2010 massacre (as was Pisitakun Kuantalaeng’s installation Ten Year: Thai Military Crackdown [sic]).

Similarly, the poems written in 2020 address the student-led protest groups that have formed over the last two years. One poem is dedicated to Arnon Nampa, one of the protest leaders, who is himself a poet. Another is titled เก่งมาก กล้ามาก ขอบใจ (‘very good, very brave, thank you’), clearly evoking a comment made by the King to one of his supporters during a walkabout on 23rd October 2020—“กล้ามาก เก่งมาก ขอบใจ” (‘very brave, very good, thank you’)—which is also the title of a song by Paeng Surachet. This poem also quotes the protest chant “1 2 3 4 5 I Hear Too”, a pun on the Bottom Blues single 12345 I Love You. (“I Hear Too” is a homophone for ‘ai hia Tu’, an insult directed at Prayut Chan-o-cha.)

18 June 2022

Pääministerin morsian



Matti Vanhanen, Prime Minister of Finland from 2003 to 2010, was largely seen as rather bland during his two terms in office. That reputation was briefly tested when a book by his former girlfriend, a caterer called Susan Kuronen, was published in 2007.

There was nothing scandalous about Vanhanen’s relationship with Kuronen—he and his wife were already divorced—so her somewhat tawdry kiss-and-tell book, Pääministerin morsian (‘the Prime Minister’s bride’), had no real public-interest defence. In fact, more than 50,000 Finns signed a petition calling on bookshops to refuse to stock it.

Vanhanen sued the publisher for invasion of privacy, as the book included personal text messages he had sent to Kuronen during their relationship. He sought $1,450 in damages (plus $83,200 in royalties and profits), and initially lost the case, though he won on appeal, a decision upheld by Finland’s Supreme Court in 2010. Kuronen lost her appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in 2014, seven years after Vanhanen’s lawsuit was first filed.

Boiled Angels

The case has interesting parallels with former UK prime minister John Major. Like Vanhanen, Major was perceived as grey and dull (a reputation caricatured by Spitting Image), and he also sued over reports of an alleged affair with a caterer. In that case, however, the allegation was false, though Major was having an affair with one of his ministers, Edwina Currie, at the time.

15 June 2022

My Own Private Idaho


My Own Private Idaho

Gus van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho opens at House Samyan in Bangkok this week. The film is an essential example of New Queer Cinema, the term coined by B. Ruby Rich to describe a wave of independent gay filmmakers in the early 1990s. It was previously shown at the (much missed) Bangkok Screening Room in 2019, as part of their LGBT+ Film Festival, and the upcoming screenings coincide with Pride Month. My Own Private Idaho will be shown at House on 17th, 18th, 19th, 24th, 25th, and 26th June.

12 June 2022

เดินไล่ตู่


Voice TV

Riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at anti-government protesters in Bangkok yesterday, in the first clashes between police and protesters this year. A few hundred people marched from Democracy Monument to Victory Monument yesterday afternoon, in an event promoted online as เดินไล่ตู่ (‘march to remove Tu’, a reference to Prime Minister and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha).

Most of the protesters had dispersed by the early evening, though some stragglers (a hard core of around fifty people) attempted to make their way to the PM’s residence at the military barracks on Viphavadi Rangsit Road. They threw fireworks and other projectiles at riot police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. A police pickup truck was also set alight.

Last night’s events were an echo of similar clashes that took place on multiple occasions last year, including almost daily street battles at Viphavadi Rangsit Road last August. Police fired rubber bullets against anti-Prayut protesters on 28th February; 20th March; 2nd May; 18th July; 7th, 10th, 11th, 13th, and 15th August; and 14th November 2021.

10 June 2022

A Conversation with the Sun


A Conversation with the Sun
A Conversation with the Sun

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new exhibition A Conversation with the Sun opened at Bangkok CityCity Gallery on 28th May. The centrepiece is a two-channel video installation, with a smaller image projected onto the center of another. The footage, which the gallery calls “a personal memory archive,” was filmed by Apichatpong over the course of several years. A white scrim on motorised rails glides slowly up to and away from the screen, partially obscuring the image. A Conversation with the Sun runs until 10th July.

09 June 2022

“A young man 23 years old by the name of Stanley Kubrick...”


Stanley Kubrick

The story behind the premiere of Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire has been published by the organiser of the Venice Film Festival, La Biennale di Venezia. Kubrick’s first feature was shown out of competition in Venice in 1952, after Joseph Burstyn recommended it in a letter to the event’s director, Antonio Petrucci. Burstyn assured him that the film, “made by a young man 23 years old by the name of Stanley Kubrick... could be the great surprise of your Festival.” (He neglected to mention that he was the film’s US distributor: he was lobbying Petrucci, under the guise of a friendly recommendation.)

Petrucci cabled Kubrick, declining to show the film in competition due to its “LENGTH AND CHARACTER”. (Fear and Desire is barely an hour long, and Petrucci may have felt that it didn’t qualify as feature-length.) Instead, he agreed to screen it as part of a sidebar programme, though this prompted a surprisingly indignant reply from Kubrick, who asked for further clarification: “you can well understand the state of confusion I am presently in. Is there anything you can do to shed some light on my problem?”

The correspondence between Burstyn, Petrucci, and Kubrick—posted on La Biennale di Venezia’s website yesterday—was unearthed during research for a new book by Gian Piero Brunetta (author of The History of Italian Cinema), the foremost historian of Italian film. The Venice screening of Fear and Desire, under the working title Shape of Fear, was first reported by James Fenwick in Stanley Kubrick Produces.

08 June 2022

No Love Deep Web


No Love Deep Web

No Love Deep Web has one of the most provocative covers of any album: an uncensored photograph of an aroused phallus. Specifically, the organ belongs to Zach Hill, the drummer from the band Death Grips, and the record was released in 2013. (The album was rereleased in 2020 with a plain slipcase.) Frontal nudity on record sleeves is very rare, and this is the first and only erection on an album cover.

Perhaps the closest equivalent is the explicit H.R. Giger painting Penis Landscape, which was issued as a poster with the Dead Kennedys’ LP Frankenchrist. After a fourteen-year-old girl bought that album in California, her mother made a police complaint, and the record label was charged with distributing harmful material to minors. (Coincidentally, another music-related obscenity case was also unwittingly instigated by a fourteen-year-old girl: the daughter of a Canadian police officer bought the Dayglo Abortions albums Here Today Guano Tomorrow and Feed Us a Fetus, and her father filed an obscenity charge.)

Home


Home

Canadian band Numenorean caused controversy in 2016 by using a post-mortem photograph of a two-year-old girl as the cover for their debut album Home. (On the CD version, the exploitative cover is inside a slipcase.) Kristen MacDonald was killed by her father in 1970, in a well-documented murder case, and the band explained their use of her image in the album’s liner notes: “Perhaps what we are really searching for is the innocence that we once had as a child. However, since we are incapable of ever getting that back, the only place we can perhaps find this comfort once more is in death.”

The first photograph of a dead body on a record cover was perhaps the Dead Kennedys’ single Holiday in Cambodia, released in 1980. The 12" single appropriated Neal Ulevich’s image of a public lynching after the 6th October 1976 massacre. Another notorious lynching appeared on the cover of the Public Enemy single Hazy Shade of Criminal in 1992: Lawrence Beitler’s 1930 photograph of the hangings of J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham S. Smith in Indiana. (This photo also inspired the writing of Strange Fruit, one of the most powerful protest songs in popular music history.)

There have also been two examples of severed heads on album covers. Pungent Stench’s 1991 album Been Caught Buttering used Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph Le baiser (‘the kiss’)—a decapitated head sawn in half, appearing to kiss itself—as its cover image. Then, in 1993, Brujeria bought the reproduction rights to a photo of the head of a murder victim from the Mexican tabloid magazine ¡Alarma! (‘warning!’), for the cover of their album Matando Güeros (‘killing whiteys’).

UK goregrind band Carcass used montages of autopsy photographs as the covers for their albums Reek of Putrefaction in 1988 and Symphonies of Sickness a year later. Both albums were seized when police raided Earache Records in 1991, though no charges were filed. The raid was prompted by the earlier seizure of cover art for the Pain Killer album Guts of a Virgin. That image—an autopsy photo of a woman with her intestines exposed, in a tasteless pun on the album title—was destroyed by customs as potentially obscene, and the album was released with a modified cover. (The uncensored photo was used for the Japanese CD release.) Clearly, goregrind record sleeves are as gross as their titles, and Last Days of Humanity’s albums, such as Hymns of Indigestible Suppuration from 2000, are particularly nauseating examples.

02 June 2022

“It sets back the clock...”


Fairfax County Circuit Court

Johnny Depp has won his defamation case against his ex-wife Amber Heard, after the trial concluded yesterday. Depp had sued Heard for libel in relation to three sentences in an op-ed she wrote, and Heard counter-sued Depp over three quotes attributed to his lawyer. Although Heard won in one of those instances, the trial was a victory for Depp, who won in all three of his cases and was awarded the maximum legal entitlement of $10 million in damages.

Depp’s lawsuit related to a Washington Post op-ed published in 2018, in which Heard described her personal connection to domestic violence: “I became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out.” She also wrote: “I had the rare vantage point of seeing, in real time, how institutions protect men accused of abuse.” The jury determined that both statements defamed Depp, even though he was not named in the article. They also concluded that the op-ed’s online headline (“I spoke up against sexual violence — and faced our culture’s wrath. That has to change”) was defamatory, and that Heard was liable for this even though she had not written it. (Like other headlines, it was written by a subeditor.)

Heard counter-sued for $100 million over three statements issued by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, to the Daily Mail. Waldman was first quoted in the Mail on 7th April 2020 (on page 38), and on the newspaper’s website the following day: “Amber Heard and her friends in the media use fake sexual violence allegations as both a sword and shield, depending on their needs. They have selected some of her sexual violence hoax ‘facts’ as the sword, inflicting them on the public and Mr Depp.” He was quoted again online on 27th April 2020: “we have reached the beginning of the end of Ms Heard’s abuse hoax against Johnny Depp.” Those statements were not regarded as defamatory by the jury.

A third quote from Waldman, which also appeared online on 27th April 2020, was deemed defamatory, for which Heard was awarded $2 million in damages. Waldman said: “They set Mr Depp up by calling the cops, but the first attempt didn’t do the trick. The officers came to the penthouses, thoroughly searched and interviewed, and left after seeing no damage to face or property. So Amber and her friends spilled a little wine and roughed the place up, got their stories straight under the direction of a lawyer and publicist, and then placed a second call to 911.” (The Mail has deleted each of these Waldman quotes from its website, though the Washington Post has not deleted Heard’s op-ed.)

The verdict was in stark contrast to the outcome of Depp’s libel case in the UK two years earlier. He had sued The Sun after it referred to him by name as a “WIFE-BEATER” in a headline, though he lost the case and the judge described the allegation as “substantially true”. US defamation law is much stricter than that of the UK, with a requirement to prove ‘actual malice’ in cases involving public figures, making the outcome all the more surprising. The jury’s verdict seemingly reflects their belief that Heard deliberately falsified her abuse claims in a vendetta against Depp.

Perhaps the key difference between the UK and US cases is that the former was decided by a judge whereas the latter was a jury trial. The US trial was televised, and Heard had been convicted in the court of public opinion long before the jury’s verdict was announced. It’s possible that the (unsequestered) jury was influenced by the extensive coverage the trial received on social media, which was overwhelmingly negative towards Heard, or that the jurors themselves formed the same opinion of her as the armchair pundits.

After the verdict, Heard described it as a retrograde decision: “It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.” Depp, on the other hand, welcomed the apparent vindication of his “quest to have the truth be told”. (Heard and Depp were photographed in Fairfax County Circuit Court by Jim Lo Scalzo.)

30 May 2022

Bai Pid


Bai Pid Tears of the Black Tiger

Bai Pid (ใบปิด), an exhibition of Thai film posters, opened at the Woof Pack building in Bangkok last week. Organised by Doc Club and Pub (the boutique cinema and bar at Woof Pack) and the Thai Film Archive (the film museum at Salaya, near Bangkok), the exhibition features more than fifty vintage Thai posters, and some of the original paintings that they were based on. Most of the works are included in a large, glossy catalogue, Thai Cinema Poster Exhibition, edited by Chonnatee Pimnam and Suparp Rimtheparthip.

Bai Pid opened on 25th May, and runs until 17th July. It includes painted reproductions of posters for classic Thai films—notably A Man Called Tone (โทน) and Monrak Lukthung (มนต์รักลูกทุ่ง)—and Thai releases of American movies, such as จอว์ส (the Thai-language title of Jaws). A painting by Banhan Thaitanaboon based on his Tropical Malady: The Book poster (unveiled at the 2018 Bangkok Art Book Fair) is also on show, and Banhan designed the Bai Pid exhibition poster.

Tone

The highlight of the exhibition is surely Somboonsuk Niyomsiri’s original painting for his Tears of the Black Tiger (ฟ้าทะลายโจร) poster, previously on display at the Film Archive’s Wisit Sasanatieng retrospective. Somboonsuk (also known as Piak Poster) directed more than two dozen films, including a A Man Called Tone, though he also had a prolific career as a poster artist. (A Man Called Tone will be screened at Doc Club and Pub on 5th June.) Wisit, director of Tears of the Black Tiger, created the posters for the 2008 and 2009 Bangkok International Film Festival.

The poster artists who emerged after Somboonsuk were either taught by him or influenced by his style. He ran his studio like a Renaissance workshop, creating posters bearing the master’s signature yet produced with the assistance of apprentice artists under his supervision. For the Monrak Lukthung poster, for example, Somboonsuk painted the two lead actors (Mitr Chaibancha and Petchara Chaowarat, Thai cinema’s greatest stars) while his assistants worked on the background. The poster for A Man Called Tone also bears Somboonsuk’s signature—effectively a brand logo for his studio—though it was painted entirely by Banhan.

There have only been two previous exhibitions of Thai poster art: Thai Film Posters (ใบปิดหนังไทย, 1984) in Bangok, and Eyegasm: The Art of Thai Movie Posters (2012) in Palm Springs, California. Gilbert Brownstone’s Affiches de cinéma thaï (‘Thai film posters’), published in three languages (French, English, and Thai) in 1974, was the first book on the subject. There’s a short essay on Thai film posters in Thai Cinema, and vintage posters are illustrated in Dome Sukwong’s A Century of Thai Cinema and Philip Jablon’s Thailand’s Movie Theatres.