29 December 2010

100 Films Incontournables

100 Films Incontournables
100 Films Incontournables, by Emmanuelle Le Roy Poncet, is a guide to 100 classic films, listed chronologically. Each director was restricted to a single entry.

The 100 Films Incontournables are as follows:
  • City Lights
  • Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
  • Port Of Shadows
  • Gone With The Wind
  • The Rules Of The Game
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • Rome: Open City
  • La Belle & La Bete
  • Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • All About Eve
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Jeux Interdits
  • Tokyo Story
  • Seven Samurai
  • Touchez Pas Au Grisbi
  • & God Created Woman
  • The Searchers
  • Vertigo
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The 400 Blows
  • Rio Bravo
  • La Dolce Vita
  • War Of The Buttons
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • Le Mepris
  • Les Tontons Flingeurs
  • Le Grand Vadrouille
  • A Man & A Woman
  • Belle De Jour
  • The Young Girls Of Rochefort
  • The Graduate
  • Le Cercle Rouge
  • The Things Of Life
  • Love Story
  • Death In Venice
  • The Godfather
  • Cabaret
  • Deliverance
  • Last Tango In Paris
  • The Sting
  • The Way We Were
  • A Woman Under The Influence
  • Barry Lyndon
  • The Old Gun
  • That Most Important Thing: Love
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Cria Cuervos
  • Annie Hall
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Alien
  • The Marriage Of Maria Braun
  • Serie Noire
  • La Boum
  • Garde A Vue
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Identification Of A Woman
  • Fanny & Alexander
  • A Nos Amours
  • Pauline At The Beach
  • So Long, Stooge
  • Once Upon A Time In America
  • Paris, Texas
  • A Sunday In The Country
  • Brazil
  • Shoah
  • Au Revoir, Les Enfants
  • The Big Blue
  • Die Hard
  • Dead Poets Society
  • GoodFellas
  • Pretty Woman
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Basic Instinct
  • Three Colours: Blue
  • La Reine Margot
  • Wild Reeds
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Four Weddings & A Funeral
  • La Ceremonie
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Titanic
  • Fight Club
  • The Virgin Suicides
  • Dancer In The Dark
  • In The Mood For Love
  • Amelie
  • The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Asterix & Obelisk Meet Cleopatra
  • L'Auberge Espagnole
  • The Pianist
  • Talk To Her
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Brokeback Mountain
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • The Lives Of Others
[Note that Some Like It Hot is the classic Billy Wilder comedy, and Titanic is the James Cameron blockbuster.] Clearly, the list has a French bias: more than a third of the entries are French-language films.

17 December 2010

Hope In The Dark

Hope In The DarkVicious Circle
Moral BoundaryMoral Boundary
Hope In The Dark, a new exhibition of paintings by Anupong Chantorn, opened in Bangkok yesterday. The show is named after a painting Anupong exhibited at the 2nd Bangkok Triennale last year. He caused controversy in 2007 with a painting depicting monks as scavenging birds, inspiring the butoh performance San-Dan-Ka; the new exhibition includes a similar drawing of a monk with a crow's beak, titled Vicious Circle.

Hope In The Dark also includes an even more provocative image. A drawing titled Moral Boundary shows three monks: one with an over-sized erect phallus, another being groped by the first, and a naked observer. The scene, albeit with slightly less nudity, has also been painted directly onto a monk's saffron robe.

Hope In The Dark also features an impressive collection of large bronze animal sculptures. The exhibition is at the Ardel Gallery of Modern Art until 30th January 2011.

Akira Kurosawa 100 Years Retrospective

Akira Kurosawa 100 Years Retrospective
Rashomon Seven Samurai
Judo Saga Judo Saga II
The Quiet Duel The Idiot
One Wonderful Sunday Drunken Angel
Scandal The Men Who Step On The Tiger's Tail
Ikiru Stray Dog
Throne Of Blood Red Beard
The Lower Depths The Hidden Fortress
The Bad Sleep Well Yojimbo
Sanjuro Dodesukaden
High & Low Madadayo
No Regrets For Our YouthI Live In Fear
The Most Beautiful
Next month, the Japan Foundation will present an Akira Kurosawa 100 Years Retrospective, with screenings of twenty-five classic Kurosawa films. This will be arguably one of Bangkok's greatest film festivals thus far, an incredible opportunity to see Jidai-Geki (historical) masterpieces such as Rashomon and Seven Samurai alongside Gendai-Geki (contemporary) dramas such as Ikiru.

The Kurosawa Retrospective marks a distinct contrast with the Japan Foundation's Hidden Treasures season from the 2008 Japanese Film Festival. Hidden Treasures, as the title suggests, highlighted some under-rated films from Japan's cinematic golden age, while the Kurosawa Retrospective showcases the work of Japan's most celebrated director.

Seven Samurai is Kurosawa's most widely-seen and critically-acclaimed film. As in Rashomon, Toshiro Mifune's animalistic characterisation is offset by Takashi Shimura's stoic performance. Isao Kimura plays an overly effete samurai who picks flowers in the forest, and his affair with a local girl is unexpected. After a long build-up, the final hour (and especially the final reel) is an epic battle complete with cavalry, burning buildings, and a rainstorm. Kurosawa greatly admired John Ford, and Seven Samurai sometimes feels like a Hollywood western on an epic scale.

Kurosawa's contemporary dramas are even more fascinating than his medieval epics. Drunken Angel, for example, stars Shimura in the title role as a belligerent, alcoholic doctor whose bark is worse than his bite. Kurosawa intended the film as a condemnation of organised crime, though the young yakuza played by Mifune (in his first performance for Kurosawa) ultimately redeems himself before dying of tuberculosis. The film's dark themes (gangsters and corruption in post-war Japanese society, symbolised by a filthy, stagnant pond) are counter-balanced by a light musical score, much of which is diegetic. A slow-motion dream sequence, in which the yakuza is chased by his ghost after his coffin is washed up on a beach, seems rather incongruous, however.

Scandal, a didactic protest film like Drunken Angel, also stars Shimura and Mifune. An artist, played by Mifune, is photographed by the paparazzi (though they were not yet called paparazzi, as Scandal predates La Dolce Vita), and he hires a second-rate lawyer, played by Shimura, to sue the photographer's boss. Kurosawa initially highlights the opportunistic, sensationalist nature of tabloid journalism, though this is followed by a surprising shift in narrative emphasis: the lawyer becomes the central protagonist, and the film develops into a character study of this weak-willed though ultimately honourable man. In fact, the lawyer is the only fully developed character, with the others being rather one-dimensional. There is also an excess of sentimentality, with long carol-singing sequences and a sub-plot involving the lawyer's angelic, bed-ridden daughter.

The Kurosawa Retrospective runs from 6th to 19th January at SF World (CentralWorld). 6th January: Rashomon; 7th January: The Quiet Duel; 8th January: Judo Saga, The Most Beautiful, Judo Saga II, and The Idiot; 9th January: No Regrets For Our Youth, One Wonderful Sunday, Drunken Angel, and Scandal; 10th January: Stray Dog; 11th January: The Men Who Step On The Tiger's Tail; 12th January: Ikiru; 13th January: Seven Samurai; 14th January: I Live In Fear; 15th January: Throne Of Blood, The Lower Depths, and The Hidden Fortress; 16th January: The Bad Sleep Well, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and Madadayao; 17th January: High & Low; 18th January: Red Beard; 19th January: Dodesukaden.

Two of Kurosawa's films will also be screened at the Japan Foundation after the Centennial Retrospective: Madadayao on 21st January, and Rashomon on 28th January. All screenings, at SF World and the Japan Foundation, are free.

15 December 2010


Rupture: Cause & Effect is an exhibition of photographs taken during the political protest this year. The exhibition features images by Olivier Pin-Fat (who is also the curator), Wolfgang Bellwinkel, Agnes Dherbeys, Piyatat Hemmatat, and Manit Sriwanichpoom.

Only one of the five artists, photojournalist Agnes Dherbeys, photographed the victims of the military crackdown. However, five of her images have been removed from the exhibition (leaving conspicuous white spaces on the gallery wall). The censored photos include a stunning portrait of a black-clad sniper (seemingly confirming the presence of 'men in black' at the protests), and disturbing images of injured and dead protesters.

Photographs by the other four artists depict only the aftermath of the protest: burnt buildings, plumes of smoke, and barricades of tyres. Manit, for example, photographed bystanders while they photographed the ruins of CentralWorld. This presents the protesters simply as arsonists, and ignores the army's violent crackdown. (Manit has previously portrayed military suppression of protesters more directly, with images in the From Message To Media and Flashback '76 exhibitions.)

Rupture is showing at BACC, Bangkok, from 25th November 2010 to 9th January 2011. Note that the five censored photographs are included in the exhibition catalogue.

The Body Show

The Body Show
The Body Show, an exhibition of preserved human corpses, opened at President Park in Bangkok today. The show is one of several imitators of Bodyworlds, the anatomical exhibition created by Gunther von Hagens. Another imitator, Our Body, was banned in France last year.

The exhibits on show here are less controversial than those of Bodyworlds - there are no pregnant women or copulating couples - and they are posed less sculpturally/artistically. Unlike at Bodyworlds, visitors are permitted to photograph, and even touch, the bodies. The Body Show will close on 3rd April 2011.

13 December 2010

Movies On The Beach

Movies On The Beach
The Golden Eagle
The Red Eagle
This month, a season of classic Thai films will take place at Ramada Plaza in Bangkok. Nonzee Nimibutr's Dang Bireley's and Young Gangsters [sic], the film that launched the Thai New Wave, will be screened on 22nd December. On Christmas Eve, there's a double-bill of Mitr Chaibancha's The Golden Eagle and Wisit Sasanatieng's remake The Red Eagle. The season starts on 17th December, and runs until Boxing Day.

Burden Of Dreams

Burden Of Dreams
Burden Of Dreams, directed by Les Blank, documents the making of Werner Herzog's Fitzcarralo. It's one of the very best making-of documentaries, perhaps second only to Hearts Of Darkness, Eleanor Coppola's documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now.

There are several parallels between Fitzcarraldo and Apocalypse Now, which are exposed by the two respective documentaries. Both films were made on location in tropical jungles, both suffered significant logistical problems and lengthy delays, both had to replace their leading actors, and both feature a central character leaving civilisation behind on an upriver journey.

Burden Of Dreams reveals how Herzog and his team of labourers struggled to pull a ship over a hill, and how this and other obstacles almost derailed the film's production. Fitzcarraldo's star, the temperamental Klaus Kinski, is only interviewed briefly, complaining that there is "no escape from this fucking stinking camp". Kinski's volatile temper is not revealed in Burden Of Dreams, though Herzog discusses Kinski in his own documentary My Best Fiend.

Even the usually intrepid Herzog seems burnt out by the production of Fitzcarraldo: "There is a lot of misery, but it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees are in misery and the birds are in misery. I don't think they sing, they just screech in pain". His monologue is accompanied, ironically, by beautiful images of jungle animals and insects.

06 December 2010

Avatar (Collector's Extended Cut)

Avatar (Collector's Extended Cut)
After last year's original versions of Avatar (in 3D and 2D), and this year's extended Special Edition, comes an even longer version, the Collector's Extended Cut, available on video in 2D. The Special Edition featured eight minutes of additional footage; the Collector's Extended Cut adds a further eight minutes of material, making it sixteen minutes longer than the original version.

Additions to the Collector's Extended Cut include an explanation of why the school (introduced in the Special Edition) was abandoned, and a rather dark and violent prologue set on Earth (with lots of rain and neon, like Blade Runner). This prologue is tonally different to the rest of the film, and I therefore prefer the original version. Generally, the additional footage in the Collector's Extended Cut is narratively less significant than that of the Special Edition.

02 December 2010

My Soul To Take

My Soul To Take
Wes Craven has directed some classic horror films - The Last House On The Left, A Nightmare On Elm Street, New Nightmare, Scream I-III - though My Soul To Take is not one of them. Craven's best films are post-modern genre deconstructions, though My Soul To Take is simply a generic teen slasher film. It was pointlessly and ineffectively converted into 3D, though it's also showing in a 2D version.

The premise (seven teenagers are attacked by a serial killer who died on the day they were all born; they are possessed by his soul, and he reclaims their souls) is convoluted and unrealistic. The prologue (with its excessive body count and exploding ambulance) is laughably melodramatic. The killer's identity is obvious after the first murder, thus the subsequent misdirections and twists are unconvincing and unsurprising. Worst of all, the film is neither scary nor shocking, merely predictable and conventional.

26 November 2010

Princess Mononoke

Princess Mononoke
Princess Mononoke is one of Hayao Miyazaki's most successful films both in Japan and elsewhere, and was his most internationally-acclaimed film until the release of Spirited Away. Unlike My Neighbour Totoro or Ponyo, this is animation for teenagers and adults, though its anti-deforestation theme is consistent with the ecological messages of Ponyo and Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind.

The film opens with an exhilarating action sequence in which a boar attacks a group of villagers. The boar, which actually resembles a large spider, has its eye pierced by a spear, and the film is filled with equally exotic monsters and similarly violent battles.

24 November 2010


Hideo Nakata directed the J-Horror films Ringu, Ringu II (and its American version, The Ring II), and Dark Water. Ghost films were successful throughout Asia in the 1990s, with Whispering Corridors (from South Korea) and Nang Nak (from Thailand) being notable examples. Nakata's Kaidan is a return to the classical era of Japanese horror cinema, evoking 1950s ghost films such as The Ghost Of Yotsuya. Unfortunately, the slow pacing and the combination of two genres - Kaidan-Eiga (ghosts) and Ken-Geki (samurai) - result in a film that's more melodramatic than horrific, and certainly not scary. (However, I wasn't scared by Ringu either.)

For classic Japanese horror, see the films of Nobuo Nakagawa, especially Black Cat Mansion (creepy and atmospheric, except for the unconvincing ghost-cat) and Jigoku (surprisingly graphic and gruesome). Kenji Mizoguchi directed one of the first Japanese ghost films, Passion Of A Woman Teacher (now lost, like so many of Japan's silent films), and one of the very best, Ugetsu (one of Mizoguchi's masterpieces). The stylised portmanteau film Kwaidan is arguably the best introduction to Japanese horror.

14 November 2010

Decision Points

Decision Points
George W Bush has been making various media appearances this week, to promote his memoir Decision Points. James Harding's occasionally sarcastic article in The Times was the most hard-hitting (or the least softball) interview, though the low-point came in Oprah Winfrey's show when she reassuringly held Bush's hand. (Bush previously gave extensive interviews to Robert Draper for Dead Certain in 2007.)

Decision Points is credited solely to Bush, though in the acknowledgements he explains ambiguously that he "worked with" Chris Michel. It's unlikely that someone famous for Bushisms like "Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream" [sic!] could write a coherent manuscript, therefore we can assume that, unlike Tony Blair's memoir A Journey, Decision Points was ghost-written. Nevertheless, it does have some characteristic Bush lines: after 9/11 he wanted to "find out who did this, and kick their ass".

Unsurprisingly, Bush does not admit to many regrets, and the few that he does acknowledge are presentational rather than ideological. The premature "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner was "a big mistake", but he still justifies waterboarding, Guantanamo Bay, and the invasion of Iraq. He attempts to refute his image as a warmonger, detailing his efforts to secure the required UN resolutions, though he later appears impatient with diplomacy: "It felt like it was taking forever". Reading this book produced a very similar feeling.

13 November 2010

Manden Bag Stregen

Manden Bag Stregen
Manden Bag Stregen
Manden Bag Stregen, a biography of Kurt Westergaard written by John Lykkegaard, includes a new version of Westergaard's infamous caricature of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. Westergaard was interviewed by NRK television in Norway on 23rd October, and the programme includes footage of him drawing another new Mohammed cartoon, in which the bomb's fuse is replaced by a flower.

Westergaard's Mohammed cartoon was first published by Jyllands-Posten in 2005. He drew a new version of it for Bloody Cartoons in 2007.