Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Traces Of Siamese Smile

Traces Of Siamese Smile
Despite its corny title, Traces Of Siamese Smile: Art + Faith + Politics + Love could be one of the greatest exhibitions of the year. It features multi-media works by Thai artists and filmmakers including Wisit Sasanatieng, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook. International artists such as Andy Warhol, Marina Abramovic, and Nobuyoshi Araki are also included, and there are over 100 artists in total. Apichatpong's new video Luminous People features an abbot blessing boat passengers while they sleep and a young man singing about the death of his father. Wisit is represented by Norasinghavatar, part of the Short Film Project.

The exhibition was originally scheduled to open on 20th September, at the new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre. Then, the opening was postponed until 23rd September. Finally, at the very last minute, it was inexplicably postponed again, to open on 24th September. It will close on 26th November (not 23rd November as originally scheduled).

Monday, 29 September 2008

2008 Bangkok International Film Festival

Bangkok International Film Festival 2008
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
This year's Bangkok International Film Festival runs from 23rd September until tomorrow at CentralWorld's SF World cinema. The poster was designed by Tears Of The Black Tiger director Wisit Sasanatieng.

The future of the event had been in doubt following corruption charges filed against Juthamas Siriwan, the former head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, relating to money she received from the American company Film Festival Management; the budget is much reduced from last year, leading to a 'quality not quantity' agenda this time around. Children Of The Dark, a drama about child prostitution in Thailand, has been withdrawn from the schedule - a reminder that TAT is still the main sponsor.

The low-key opening film was Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The explicit Filipino drama Serbis won the Southeast Asian competition. Bruce La Bruce's gay zombie film Otto, or Up With Dead People was also included.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona is Woody's Allen's fourth consecutive European film, after three London productions (Match Point, Scoop, and the badly-received Cassandra's Dream). It stars Scarlett Johansson, who also appeared in Match Point and Scoop. The film feels very light and inconsequential, with its holiday-romance plot and an ending which puts all the characters back to the same positions they were in at the beginning. Penelope Cruz gives the most passionate performance; her final scene of jealous rage recalls Judy Davis's first scene in Deconstructing Harry. Barcelona's city council certainly got their money's worth: they funded the film, which is full of picture-postcard Catalan scenery.

In Otto, a young man (the Otto of the title) who thinks he's a zombie (and might actually be one) is hired by Medea, a pretentious art-film director, to star in a gay zombie film titled Up With Dead People. Medea's earnest revolutionary rhetoric recalls the sloganeering of The Raspberry Reich; she also paraphrases Apocalypse Now: "I love the smell of the graveyard in the afternoon. It smells like extermination". Ingeniously, her girlfriend, Hella, appears to be trapped in a silent movie: she is always shown in black-and-white, and her dialogue is delivered via inter-titles. The most notorious sequence is a more graphic version of a scene in David Cronenberg's Crash. The film was co-produced by Terence Koh, and his artworks can be seen in some of the sets.

Brillante Mendoza's film Serbis is, like La Chatte A Deux Tetes, set almost entirely in an adult movie theatre (named Family, apparently a real location). Like Persona, it opens with a 35mm print being threaded into a projector and ends with the celluloid burning up. In between, Serbis follows the lives of a family living and working in the Family cinema, as they deal with pregnancy, infidelity, a large boil, and a stray goat. Their cinema is patronised by 'service boys', whose services are shown in rather graphic detail (again, like La Chatte A Deux Tetes), though the real star is the dilapidated Family cinema itself.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time

The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time
Empire magazine's current issue features The 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time - and the magazine has 100 different covers, each featuring one of the films from the list. Empire asked its readers for their nominations last month. International directors and critics were also polled, making this survey, according to Empire, "THE MOST AMBITIOUS MOVIE LIST EVER ATTEMPTED".

The 500 films are as follows:

1. The Godfather
2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
3. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Jaws
6. GoodFellas
7. Apocalypse Now
8. Singin' In The Rain
9. Pulp Fiction
10. Fight Club
11. Raging Bull
12. The Apartment
13. Chinatown
14. Once Upon A Time In The West
15. The Dark Knight
16. 2001: A Space Odyssey
17. Taxi Driver
18. Casablanca
19. The Godfather II
20. Blade Runner
21. The Third Man
22. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
23. Back To The Future
24. The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
25. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
26. Dr Strangelove
27. Some Like It Hot
28. Citizen Kane
29. Die Hard
30. Aliens
31. Gone With The Wind
32. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
33. Alien
34. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
35. Terminator II: Judgment Day
36. Andrei Rublev
37. A Clockwork Orange
38. Heat
39. The Matrix
40. Vertigo
41. The 400 Blows
42. Kind Hearts & Coronets
43. The Big Lebowski
44. Schindler's List
45. Psycho
46. On The Waterfront
47. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
48. This Is Spinal Tap
49. Evil Dead II
50. Seven Samurai
51. 8½
52. The Shining
53. Donnie Darko
54. The Lord Of The Rings II: The Two Towers
55. La Dolce Vita
56. Casino Royale
57. Lawrence Of Arabia
58. His Girl Friday
59. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
60. Come & See
61. The Usual Suspects
62. The Graduate
63. Sunset Boulevard
64. Oldboy
65. Harold & Maude
66. Edward Scissorhands
67. Tokyo Story
68. Annie Hall
69. Three Colours: Red
70. Stand By Me
71. The Night Of The Hunter
72. 12 Angry Men
73. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
74. The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre
75. A Matter Of Life & Death
76. Manhattan
77. Spartacus
78. Rosemary's Baby
79. The Thin Red Line
80. The Life & Death Of Colonel Blimp
81. Batman Begins
82. The Great Escape
83. Brazil
84. LA Confidential
85. Blue Velvet
86. Carrie
87. The King Of Comedy
88. Ferris Bueller's Day Off
89. Magnolia
90. When Harry Met Sally
91. Star Wars VI: Return Of The Jedi
92. Once Upon A Time In America
93. Spirit Of The Beehive
94. The Wild Bunch
95. Yojimbo
96. American Beauty
97. Reservoir Dogs
98. North By Northwest
99. Toy Story
100. Network
101. Raising Arizona
102. The Hustler
103. Rear Window
104. The Rules Of The Game
105. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
106. A Man For All Seasons
107. An American Werewolf In London
108. The Tree Of Wooden Clogs
109. Touch Of Evil
110. Before Sunset
111. Fitzcarraldo
112. I Am Cuba
113. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
114. The Conversation
115. Blazing Saddles
116. Rio Bravo
117. Miller’s Crossing
118. Withnail & I
119. The Wages Of Fear
120. The Battle Of Algiers
121. Los Olvidados
122. The Princess Bride
123. A Woman Under The Influence
124. The Silence Of The Lambs
125. Breathless
126. Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid
127. The Sting
128. Lost In Translation
129. Harvey
130. The Man Who Would Be King
131. The Last Of The Mohicans
132. Pan's Labyrinth
133. Double Indemnity
134. Seven
135. Duck Soup
136. Amadeus
137. Dances With Wolves
138. Cool Hand Luke
139. Blow Out
140. As Good As It Gets
141. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
142. Almost Famous
143. Cyrano de Bergerac
144. There Will Be Blood
145. Sophie's Choice
146. Shampoo
147. Notorious
148. Z
149. The Red Shoes
150. The French Connection
151. Gladiator
152. Boogie Nights
153. The Innocents
154. Betty Blue
155. Badlands
156. Saving Private Ryan
157. True Romance
158. Unforgiven
159. The Royal Tenenbaums
160. Being There
161. The Year Of Living Dangerously
162. A Nightmare On Elm Street
163. The Bridge On The River Kwai
164. The Searchers
165. Partie De Campagne
166. Goldfinger
167. Don’t Look Now
168. Tootsie
169. Viridiana
170. La Haine
171. Brief Encounter
172. The Wizard Of Oz
173. Memento
174. Superman
175. Rushmore
176. A Canterbury Tale
177. City Of God
178. Hellzapoppin'
179. Toy Story II
180. To Kill A Mockingbird
181. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
182. Performance
183. Le Samourai
184. Dirty Harry
185. Paths Of Glory
186. United 93
187. The Big Country
188. School Of Rock
189. Ghostbusters
190. Big
191. Brokeback Mountain
192. Eraserhead
193. Ed Wood
194. Bicycle Thieves
195. It's A Wonderful Life
196. Amelie
197. Point Break
198. Fargo
199. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
200. Before Sunrise
201. JFK
202. The Killer
203. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
204. Bride Of Frankenstein
205. The Addiction
206. The Exorcist
207. The Misfits
208. The Departed
209. Local Hero
210. Platoon
211. Moulin Rouge!
212. M
213. Songs From The Second Floor
214. Army Of Shadows
215. Jackie Brown
216. Sunday Bloody Sunday
217. The Magnificent Seven
218. M. Hulot's Holiday
219. The Outlaw Josey Wales
220. Far From Heaven
221. McCabe & Mrs Miller
222. Mother & Son
223. Safe
224. Distant Voices, Still Lives
225. Get Carter
226. Romeo & Juliet
227. Leon
228. No Country For Old Men
229. Festen
230. Howl's Moving Castle
231. Shaun Of The Dead
232. Jurassic Park
233. Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom
234. The Bourne Ultimatum
235. Battle Royale
236. Black Narcissus
237. Delicatessen
238. Requiem For A Dream
239. Cinema Paradiso
240. Forrest Gump
241. Brighton Rock
242. King Kong
243. Heimat
244. Dazed & Confused
245. Downfall
246. The Philadelphia Story
247. All That Jazz
248. Pandora's Box
249. My Darling Clementine
250. Sunrise
251. Darling
252. The Leopard
253. First Blood
254. The Verdict
255. Ninotchka
256. Port Of Shadows
257. The Black Cat
258. The Blues Brothers
259. Groundhog Day
260. Field Of Dreams
261. Roman Holiday
262. The Virgin Suicides
263. Das Boot
264. American Graffiti
265. AI: Artificial Intelligence
266. Ghost World
267. Crimes & Misdemeanors
268. The Lady Vanishes
269. A Place In The Sun
270. The Death Of Mr Lazarescu
271. Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
272. The Bird With The Crystal Plumage
273. The Maltese Falcon
274. Sin City
275. My Neighbour Totoro
276. Layer Cake
277. On The Town
278. Carlito's Way
279. National Lampoon's Animal House
280. Mad Max II
281. Interview With The Vampire
282. The Godfather III
283. Ran
284. Scarface
285. Solaris
286. L'Avventura
287. Secrets & Lies
288. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
289. The Thing
290. Rashomon
291. Rocco & His Brothers
292. La Belle & La Bete
293. La Maman & La Putain
294. The Red Balloon
295. The Untouchables
296. All The President's Men
297. It Happened One Night
298. La Cercle Rouge
299. The Palm Beach Story
300. Sawdust & Tinsel
301. Love & Death
302. The Best Years Of Our Lives
303. Together
304. Radio Days
305. The Prestige
306. Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade
307. Midnight Cowboy
308. The Terminator
309. Transformers
310. Gremlins
311. American History X
312. Suspiria
313. Battleship Potemkin
314. Sweet Smell Of Success
315. Sense & Sensibility
316. Trainspotting
317. Midnight Run
318. Rebecca
319. The Lion King
320. Braveheart
321. Funny Face
322. Aladdin
323. The Last Seduction
324. Lone Star
325. Kill Bill I
326. Out Of Sight
327. The Nightmare Before Christmas
328. The Truman Show
329. The Lives Of Others
330. Star Wars III: Revenge Of The Sith
331. The Green Mile
332. The Sixth Sense
333. Grease
334. The Magnificent Ambersons
335. The Seventh Seal
336. Titanic
337. 300
338. Jules & Jim
339. Spirited Away
340. High & Low
341. The Passenger
342. The Gold Rush
343. Monsters Inc.
344. The Last Waltz
345. Fatal Attraction
346. Leave Her To Heaven
347. All About Eve
348. Au Hasard Balthasar
349. Arthur
350. Planet Of The Apes
351. Zulu
352. Unfaithfully Yours
353. Bugsy Malone
354. Un Chien Andalou
355. Sunshine
356. Napoleon
357. The Long Goodbye
358. Russian Ark
359. The Lady Eve
360. The Return
361. Clerks
362. The Elephant Man
363. Good Morning Vietnam
364. Natural Born Killers
365. The Bourne Identity
366. Pradator
367. Cabaret
368. Airplane!
369. The Breakfast Club
370. Rocky
371. Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl
372. Army Of Darkness
373. WALL-E
374. Hot Fuzz
375. Four Weddings & A Funeral
376. Zodiac
377. Mean Streats
378. The Goonies
379. Ratatouille
380. Children Of Men
381. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
382. Cache
383. Serenity
384. The Shop Around The Corner
385. Ace In The Hole
386. The Great Silence
387. Rain Man
388. The English Patient
389. Election
390. Two Days In Paris
391. Mulholland Drive
392. Paris Texas
393. Garden State
394. Cloverfield
395. Casino
396. The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
397. Night Of The Living Dead
398. Killer Of Sheep
399. Greed
400. The Incredibles
401. Batman Returns
402. Little Miss Sunshine
403. Do The Right Thing
404. RoboCop
405. Dirty Dancing
406. Iron Man
407. The Jungle Book
408. Zelig
409. Men In Black
410. A Hard Day's Night
411. Spider-Man II
412. Heathers
413. Finding Nemo
414. The Double Life Of Veronique
415. Dawn Of The Dead
416. Bad Taste
417. Lords Of Dogtown
418. V For Vendetta
419. Days Of Heaven
420. Jerry Maguirre
421. Lethal Weapon
422. A Man Escaped
423. Kill Bill II
424. To Have & Have Not
425. Wonder Boys
426. Enduring Love
427. Spring In A Small Town
428. The Enigma Of Kaspar Hauser
429. Danger: Diabolik
430. Big Trouble In Little China
431. Electra Glida In Blue
432. X-Men II
433. Good Will Hunting
434. The Cat Concerto
435. American Psycho
436. Beauty & The Beast
437. Spider-Man
438. The Lost Boys
439. Grosse Pointe Blank
440. Akira
441. Being John Malkovich
442. Atonement
443. Dog Day Afternoon
444. Hairspray
445. Dumb & Dumber
446. High Fidelity
447. Ten
448. A History Of Violence
449. Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
450. King Kong
451. Speed
452. Unbreakable
453. Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull
454. The Bourne Supremacy
455. Top Gun
456. 28 Days Later
457. Full Metal Jacket
458. Batman
459. Ikiru
460. Crash
461. Halloween
462. Dead Man's Shoes
463. Juno
464. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
465. 12 Monkeys
466. Snatch
467. The Deer Hunter
468. The Crow
469. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas
470. Glengarry Glen Ross
471. Harry Potter & The Prisoner Of Azkaban
472. Le Doulos
473. Into The Wild
474. Enter The Dragon
475. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
476. Santa Sangre
477. Rebel Without A Cause
478. Flesh
479. The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty
480. The Son's Room
481. Topsy-Turvy
482. Scream
483. The Big Red One
484. The Fountain
485. The Wicker Man
486. Breakfast At Tiffany's
487. Superbad
488. Princess Mononoke
489. Brick
490. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
491. Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
492. Amores Perros
493. In The Company Of Men
494. Sideways
495. Jailhouse Rock
496. Superman Returns
497. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
498. Back To The Future II
499. Saw
500. Ocean's 11

Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy. Note also that Beauty & The Beast is the Disney animated version, The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version, Casino Royale is the Martin Campbell version, Scarface is the Brian de Palma version, Carrie is de Palma's 1976 horror film, Ben-Hur is the William Wyler version, Romeo & Juliet is the Baz Luhrmann version, Titanic is the James Cameron version, and Crash is the Paul Haggis version. Two versions of King Kong appear: the original is #242, and the Peter Jackson remake is #450.

Empire published a list of 201 films in 2006, in which The Godfather was voted #5. The film has also appeared on the magazine's previous lists: 100 Favourite Films Of All Time, 1996 (#6); Your 100 Greatest Films Ever!, 1999 (#7); The 50 Best Films, 2001 (#4); 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time, 2004 (#6).

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
The 2008 edition of Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has now been published, marking the book's fifth edition. As with previous revisions, the only changes have been to films from the past ten years.

This time around, City Of God and Kill Bill I have fortunately been reinstated, having been deleted from the 2006 edition. Talk To Her, removed from the 2007 version, has also thankfully been restored for the new edition. The Lord Of The Rings I-III have now been incorporated into a single entry.


The Greatest Movies Ever

The Greatest Movies Ever
Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza's new book, The Greatest Movies Ever: The Ultimate Ranked List Of The 101 Best Films Of All Time!, is an updated of their previous Four-Star Movies, published in 2003. (Each book actually lists 102 films, because The Godfather and The Godfather II appear as a single entry at #1.)

For the new list, seven titles have been removed: Raise The Red Lantern, Saturday Night Fever, Belle De Jour, Thelma & Louise, Airplane!, Terminator II, and The Bridge On The River Kwai. Many titles occupy exactly (or almost exactly) the same positions in the new version, though there are a few dramatic changes: The Manchurian Candidate drops from #23 all the way down to #94, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid drops from #62 to #90, The Graduate drops from #18 to #33, and Sunset Boulevard climbs from #19 to #4.

The authors haven't included any silent films, noting that silent cinema is "too rich to sandwich in with a token choice or two". Of course, the same case could be made for Japanese or French cinema, each of which is indeed represented by less than a handful of titles. A list of 101 greatest films is, by its very nature, a reductivist exercise, so I'm not really convinced by the exclusion of silent movies.

The 101 Greatest Movies are as follows:

1. The Godfather I-II
2. Citizen Kane
3. Casablanca
4. Sunset Boulevard
5. Lawrence Of Arabia
6. North By Northwest
7. The Wizard Of Oz
8. Annie Hall
9. Chinatown
10. Singin' In The Rain
11. Nashville
12. Some Like It Hot
13. All About Eve
14. Psycho
15. Taxi Driver
16. Apocalypse Now
17. On The Waterfront
18. Gone With The Wind
19. To Kill A Mockingbird
20. The Searchers
21. La Dolce Vita
22. Double Indemnity
23. Pan's Labyrinth
24. Vertigo
25. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
26. GoodFellas
27. Jules & Jim
28. Funny Face
29. A Streetcar Named Desire
30. Saving Private Ryan
31. Strangers On A Train
32. It Happened One Night
33. The Graduate
34. It's A Wonderful Life
35. Raging Bull
36. The Best Years Of Our Lives
37. The African Queen
38. Dr Strangelove
39. Blade Runner
40. The Conformist
41. Schindler's List
42. The Lives Of Others
43. Diner
44. City Lights
45. The Deer Hunter
46. 8½
47. Top Hat
48. La Regle Du Jeu
49. 2001: A Space Odyssey
50. Bonnie & Clyde
51. King Kong
52. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
53. The 400 Blows
54. A Night At The Opera
55. My Fair Lady
56. The Night Of The Hunter
57. The Third Man
58. Dr Zhivago
59. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
60. Invasion Of The Body-Snatchers
61. Pinocchio
62. Shadow Of A Doubt
63. Fargo
64. Blue Velvet
65. Jaws
66. The Grapes Of Wrath
67. Do The Right Thing
68. Wild Strawberries
69. Bicycle Thieves
70. Bringing Up Baby
71. Paths Of Glory
72. The Maltese Falcon
73. Pather Panchali
74. The Lady Eve
75. The Last Picture Show
76. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
77. Rosemary's Baby
78. Midnight Cowboy
79. M*A*S*H
80. American Graffiti
81. The Producers
82. Rashomon
83. Cabaret
84. The Bank Dick
85. A Place In The Sun
86. Red River
87. The Conversation
88. Grand Illusion
89. LA Confidential
90. Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
91. Imitation Of Life
92. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
93. Spartacus
94. The Manchurian Candidate
95. Seven Samurai
96. A Hard Day's Night
97. Atlantic City
98. American Beauty
99. Pulp Fiction
100. The Shawshank Redemption
101. Groundhog Day

Note that The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version, which is actually a remake of an earlier Roy Del Ruth film. Also, Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival

12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival
Diseases & A Hundred Year Period
The 12th Thai Short Film & Video Festival opened on 29th August at the new Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, running until 14th September. Last year's 11th Festival provided an opportunity for Thai filmmakers to respond to the 2006 military coup, and featured several marquee-name directors.

This year's event began with Sompot Chidgasornpongse's film Diseases & A Hundred Year Period. Sompot was an assistant director on Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes & A Century, and his new film is a reaction to the Thai censorship of Apichatpong's work.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Tasting While Grumbling

The Constitutional Court announced today that Samak Sundaravej's term as Prime Minister must end, effective immediately. The Court ruled that he violated the constitution by hosting a cookery show, Tasting While Grumbling, on TV earlier this year. The constitution forbids a serving Prime Minister from receiving private income; it also stipulates that the entire cabinet must resign following the PM's disqualification. The disqualification of the Prime Minister and the cabinet, over something as trivial as a cookery show, follows the dissolution of TRT last year.

Samak had been under pressure to resign for over a week, following the People's Alliance for Democracy's continued occupation of Government House. However, he had repeatedly refused to step down, arguing that an elected PM should not give in to mob rule. The Election Commission voted unanimously to recommend the dissolution of the PPP last week. Their decision was based on the Supreme Court's conviction of PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyaphairat, following the EC's investigation into vote-buying during the 2007 general election. Yongyuth was found guilty of vote-buying by the EC in May, though they had initially endorsed him, in a rush to approve sufficient MPs to enable the parliamentary session to begin.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Ken Adam Designs The Movies

Ken Adam Designs The Movies
Ken Adam Designs The Movies
Ken Adam Designs The Movies: James Bond & Beyond is a new book by Ken Adam and Christopher Frayling, featuring reproductions of Adam's sketches and other pre-production art from the various films he has designed. It's an excellent companion to their previous book, which was an extended interview accompanied by a smaller selection of images.

Adam worked for Stanley Kubrick on Dr Strangelove and Barry Lyndon, and the earlier book quotes a letter sent to Adam by Kubrick after Adam initially refused to work on Barry Lyndon. Ken Adam Designs The Movies includes a copy of the letter, at the back of the book.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Bangkok Post Sunday

Bangkok Post Sunday
The Bangkok Post today relaunched its Sunday edition, substantially expanding its pagination. In contrast, today's edition of The Sunday Nation is extremely thin: only eighteen pages in total, with virtually no advertising at all.

The Nation does at least include national news now, which it had dropped following the launch of the Daily Xpress. The Xpress itself is now twenty pages shorter than it used to be (and is seemingly no longer published on Sundays, replaced by The Sunday Nation).

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Sukiyaki Western Django

Sukiyaki Western Django
Sukiyaki Western Django was directed by Takashi Miike, the prolific Japanese horror/exploitation filmmaker most famous for the unsettling Audition and the extremely violent gangster film Ichi The Killer. Django, an early 'spaghetti western', provided the inspiration for Sukiyaki Western Django, and indeed Miike's film is technically a Django prequel.

In a prologue with a painted backdrop resembling Tears Of The Black Tiger, we learn about the Genpei War, a conflict between rival Genji and Taira gangs. Then, in an isolated town, the descendants of the rival groups prepare for a showdown, with one side in white and the other in red. I was reminded of the current political situation in Bangkok: two sides and two colours (anti-government, in yellow; pro-government, in red) facing each other in a violent confrontation.

The lead character is a lone cowboy (clearly inspired by Clint Eastwood's character in A Fistful Of Dollars, itself derived from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo) who arrives in town, proves he is quick on the draw, then puts an end to the feud between the two gangs by defeating both of them (just as Eastwood's character does). The stoical cowboy's role is not substantial, though, as he mostly bides his time until the final duel. Arguably more central to the story is a silent young boy whose mother and father belonged to different gangs.

Miike has put a Japanese twist on the Italian spaghetti western genre, a genre which was itself partly inspired by Japanese cinema - A Fistful Of Dollars was an unofficial Yojimbo remake. There have been similar attempts from other countries, the closest equivalent to Miike's being the Japanese 'noodle western' Tampopo. From India came the 'curry western' Sholay, and the Spanish film 800 bullets has been called a 'marmitako western'. This year, the South Korean The Good, The Bad, & The Weird was marketed as a 'kimchi western'. There are also 'borsch westerns' from Russia, 'Spätzle westerns' from Germany, 'kartoffel westerns' from Denmark, 'boureka westerns' from Isreal, 'camembert westerns' from France, and 'paella westerns' from Spain.

Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino makes an amusing cameo appearance in the prologue, wearing a poncho in another echo of Clint Eastwood; when we return to his character near the end of the film, however, he has become a ridiculous old man in a wheelchair. Other characters are equally implausible. Neither gang leader is remotely menacing: one rolls his eyes, cowers behind his men, and recites Shakespeare very badly; the other has the weak-looking, lithe physique of Russell Brand. The most absurd character is the sheriff, who becomes severely schizophrenic in an unsuccessful attempt at slapstick comedy.

The film's dialogue is delivered in English, though the actors are largely Japanese, and their thick accents make many of their lines incomprehensible. There is stunning cinematography in several sequences, notably the prologue with its artificial backdrop and a couple of scenes with stylised blue lighting, though the characters and dialogue make it hard to take the film seriously. (The version released in Japan is twenty minutes longer.)