Friday, 30 September 2011
Wednesday, 28 September 2011
A Clockwork Orange is almost unique in British film censorship, as it was screened privately for the Home Secretary before its public release. Also, Kubrick famously requested that the film be withdrawn from the UK (not because of its violent content, but because his family received death threats).
Saturday, 24 September 2011
As in The Purple Rose Of Cairo, there's a Magical Realist twist; in this case, Wilson is transported back to the 1920s every night at midnight, discussing his novel with F Scott Fitzgerald, pitching The Exterminating Angel to Luis Bunuel, and falling in love with Pablo Picasso's muse. There's an attention to detail here that's been missing from most of Allen's recent films, and, even though the plot sometimes feels like Goodnight Sweetheart, the film is romantic and charming. Allen continues his European odyssey, after several films in London and Barcelona.
Tuesday, 13 September 2011
The plot, in which a monk, a woodcutter, and a commoner discuss a perplexing murder trial, is told in a series of flashbacks, each of which presents a different interpretation of the action. All the witnesses agree that a bandit ties a man to a tree and rapes his wife, though their stories diverge when the husband is murdered. The structure, plot, and characters are all familiar from Kurosawa's original masterpiece.
Perhaps to avoid unfavourable comparisons with Kurosawa, Pundhevanop insists that Umong Pa Meung is not a Rashomon remake. He told The Nation newspaper: "do not expect to see what you see in 'Rashomon'. They are totally different". To further minimise the Kurosawa connection, and to add literary and Thai-historical credibility, the film is being marketed as an adaptation of a play by Kukrit Pramoj. Kukrit reworked Rashomon as a theatrical drama, which Pundhevanop subsequently directed on stage.
Despite Pundhevanop's disclaimer, Umong Pa Meung is clearly a Kurosawa remake. Many shots - such as the woodcutter's entry into the forest, the witnesses giving evidence direct-to-camera, and the triangular compositions of the three principal flashback characters - are direct imitations of sequences from Kurosawa's film.
In a rare deviation from Rashomon, Pundhevanop has chosen to depict the judge observing the witnesses in court, thus distancing the audience. Pundhevanop's most substantial additions are the backstories he develops for each of the protagonists: the upbringings of the monk, the wife, and the bandit are presented as flashbacks. He has also modified the commoner character, who is now reduced to a comically grotesque figure.
While remaking one of the world's greatest films may seem sacrilegious, there have already been several Hollywood Kurosawa remakes: The Outrage remade Rashomon and The Magnificent Seven remade Seven Samurai. Rashomon has also been adapted into a Broadway play and an opera.
Kurosawa's Rashomon was a modest film, achieving success to the surprise of its producers, though Umong Pa Meung is a self-consciously prestigious production, a lavish widescreen epic. In contrast to Kurosawa's emphasis on the subjective nature of truth, Pundhevanop heightens the melodrama and uses frequent slow-motion to romanticise the action. Mario and Chermarn have appeared together in two previous films - Love Of Siam and Rhatree Reborn - though Chermarn is more famous for (and more suited to) her lakorn (soap-opera) roles, and Umong Pa Meung does sometimes feel like an expensive soap-opera.
Following the relaxation of censorship since Rashomon was first released in 1950, a modern remake could conceivably present the central rape and murder more graphically than Kurosawa was able to. (Kurosawa circumvented such restrictions by representing the rape symbolically, with a dagger dropping into the ground.) However, aside from a briefly gory prologue, Pundhevanop's film remains as chaste as the original. Which begs the question: why remake Rashomon, if not to present its plot more realistically?
The answer, and the reason for the lack of explicit sex or violence, is that Umong Pa Meung is intended as a reflection of the Buddhist 'dharma' philosophy. Carried away by this overt religiosity, the film arguably takes itself too seriously, especially during the monk's extended backstory flashback, with earnest dialogue and an unintentionally camp sensibility.
Sunday, 11 September 2011
Monday, 5 September 2011
2. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
3. Some Like It Hot
4. Young Frankenstein
1. Star Wars IV: A New Hope
2. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
4. The Matrix
5. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
1. The Sound Of Music
3. The Wizard Of Oz
4. Singin' In The Rain
5. West Side Story
1. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
2. The Dark Knight
3. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
4. Die Hard
1. The Silence Of The Lambs
4. The Shining
5. Pulp Fiction
1. The Lion King
2. Toy Story
3. Beauty & The Beast
4. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
1. The Wizard Of Oz
2. The Godfather
4. Gone With The Wind
5. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Though broadly chronological, the book organises its discussion of each decade thematically, with chapters on cinematic genres, movements, and regions. Each chapter is followed by double-page spreads profiling key films, together with brief biographies of significant directors. There are multiple colour stills on almost every page, though the book's thick-but-narrow format precludes full-page images.
The content is pleasingly comprehensive, though there are a couple of surprising omissions: there is no discussion of documentary films, and little coverage of technological development. The coverage is admirably international in scope, though some countries inevitably receive more space than others: Japanese silent cinema and Italian exploitation films are both neglected. Unfortunately, there is no bibliography, so anyone seeking recommendations for further reading will be disappointed.
Navigating through the book's impressive content can be confusing. The contents page is extremely minimalist: individual chapter titles are listed only at the start of each section, rather than all together at the front of the book. Expanding the contents page to list every chapter would substantially improve the book's organisation; alternatively, the text could be restructured into three distinct sections - chronology, film profiles, and director biographies - instead of mixing them all together.
The Oxford History Of World Cinema remains the gold standard for single-volume cinema histories, though it's less profusely illustrated than Kemp's book. Cinema: The Whole Story can't quite replace The Oxford History, though it will hopefully revive interest in classic and international films for a mainstream audience. Its awful American title is Movies: From The Silent Classics Of The Silver Screen To The Digital & 3D Era.