Monday, 29 July 2013

Tears Of The Black Tiger

Tears Of The Black Tiger
Wisit Sasanatieng's classic Tears Of The Black Tiger will be screened at the Thai Film Archive on 31st July. Tears Of The Black Tiger was also shown as part of the BACC Cinema Diverse season last year. It was screened previously at the Thai Film Archive in 2010 and 2009.

Tears Of The Black Tiger was Wisit's debut film. It's a camp and melodramatic tribute to vintage Thai cinema - if Douglas Sirk had made a spaghetti western with Andy Warhol, it might have looked something like this. Wisit's other films are the romantic fantasy Citizen Dog, the period ghost story The Unseeable, and the action film The Red Eagle. He has also directed the short film Norasinghavatar, the music video เราเป็นคนไทย, and a segment of the portmanteau film Sawasdee Bangkok.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Art Museum

The Art Museum
The Art Museum
The Art Museum, edited by Amanda Renshaw and published by Phaidon, is an enormous history of art that weighs more than eight kilos (as heavy as Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon). The book is divided into 'galleries' and 'rooms', instead of chapters, and it contains photographs of more than 2,500 works of art.

The illustrations are most impressive when they are presented as full-page images or double-page spreads (such as the tapestry The Lady & The Unicorn), though some major works are represented by smaller pictures and each 'room' includes only a handful of exhibits. Each section has a brief introduction for context, though the large-scale illustrations are clearly the main focus (as they are in The Art Book and The 20th Century Art Book, also from Phaidon).

Monday, 22 July 2013

Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives
Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, stars Ryan Gosling as an American drug dealer running a boxing club in Bangkok. (Lost In Thailand and other films have also been set here.) Refn and Gosling previously collaborated, more successfully, on Drive.

Gosling's brother murders a Thai prostitute, and her father kills him in revenge. The father then has his hand cut off by a corrupt Thai cop wielding a sword. Gosling's mother arrives in Bangkok, and asks Gosling to avenge his brother's death. Tougher than Gosling's conflicted, Oedipal character, she dominates each of her scenes, largely because everyone else is so blank.

The film's cinematography, by Larry Smith, is outstanding, with its film noir shadows and circle-of-hell red lighting. Smith worked with Stanley Kubrick on several films, and Only God Forgives is very Kubrickian with its slow zooms and symmetrical compositions.

In another similarity with Kubrick, the characters in Only God Forgives are unrealistic and impassive; they sit perfectly still or walk slowly in long, silent sequences punctuated only by loud footsteps. Strange, stilted karaoke scenes add to the sense of unreality.

Gosling's character is potentially interesting (a drug-dealing gangster with a conscience), though his moral ambiguities are never explored. There is a single chase sequence, and occasional bursts of graphic, ritualistic violence, as the cop tortures everyone connected with the prostitute's death, though the film's inertia and lack of suspense make it unsuccessful as a thriller.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013


Nontawat Numbenchapol's Boundary, a documentary about the disputed Preah Vihear Temple in Cambodia, will be screened in Bangkok from tomorrow. The film is politically sensitive: last month, the Ministry of Culture announced that it had been banned, though two days later they performed a suspicious U-turn, explaining that the earlier announcement had been made by an unauthorised sub-committee.

A cut was required before the film was eventually approved by the Ministry of Culture: background audio of a crowd chanting "Long live the king!" at a New Year countdown was muted. Inexplicably, the film received a restrictive '18' rating.

Unable to secure regular theatrical distribution, Nontawat has been forced to negotiate with cinemas independently, selling tickets personally in the lobby of each venue. After screenings upcountry earlier this month, he is bringing the film to Bangkok's Esplanade cinema for four days, from 18th to 21st July. Nontawat will be present for a Q&A after each screening; he took part in Freedom On Film last month.

Boundary is composed largely of silent, still sequences depicting the serenity of rural life, as a counterpoint to the fierce border dispute surrounding the temple. Nontawat begins by interviewing Aod, a young soldier, in his home village. Idyllic sequences of novice monks bathing and Aod's father fishing are contrasted with Aod describing his military conscription and the army's crackdown against the red-shirts.

After footage of the Thai military firing at their Cambodian counterparts near Preah Vihear, we see damage to houses and a school close to the temple, caused by bombs and gunfire from Cambodian troops. Finally, at the end of the film, Nontawat's camera explores the temple itself, the ruined Khmer compound that has caused such bloodshed and ultra-nationalism in the past few years.

The sensitivity surrounding Boundary follows the equally controversial political documentary Paradoxocracy, whose release was similarly delayed. Paradoxocracy was screened at Esplanade and Paragon, though incredibly the cinemas actually discouraged customers from seeing it: screenings were not advertised or listed online, and callers were told that the film was unavailable.

Encounter Thailand

Encounter Thailand
I have interviewed actor Ananda Everingham as the cover feature for the July issue of Encounter Thailand magazine (In Bed With Ananda, on pages 26-33). The article has also been translated into Thai.

For the June cover story, I interviewed Pla Komaratat and Kay Sitongdee, and I interviewed Apichatpong Weerasethakul for the May issue. I edited the February, March, and April issues. My previous articles were published in October, November, and December last year.


The 100 All-Time Greatest Movies

The 100 All-Time Greatest
Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly magazine published a special edition ranking the all-time greatest films, TV programmes, albums, and novels. The magazine's managing editor Jess Cagle explains that the lists were compiled by "writers and editors from each section [of the magazine] overseen by EW editors Jeff Giles and Jason Adams".

The 100 All-Time Greatest Movies list is surprisingly traditional, dominated by the 'golden age' of Hollywood. In fact, only four films on the list (The Dark Knight, The Lord Of The Rings III, The Hurt Locker, and There Will Be Blood) were released after 2000. Silent films are equally marginalised: there are only three examples included, all of which are American (The Gold Rush, Sunrise, and Intolerance).

Citizen Kane is restored to its regular #1 position, after being usurped by Vertigo in last year's Sight & Sound list; in contrast, Entertainment Weekly ranks Vertigo at only #38. When Entertainment Weekly published its original 100 Greatest Movies list in 1999, The Godfather was #1 and Citizen Kane was #2, though now their positions have been reversed. The 1999 list contained slightly more foreign-language and silent films than the 2013 version.

The 100 All-Time Greatest Movies, according to Entertainment Weekly, are as follows:

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Godfather
3. Casablanca
4. Bonnie & Clyde
5. Psycho
6. It's A Wonderful Life
7. Mean Streets
8. The Gold Rush
9. Nashville
10. Gone With The Wind
11. King Kong
12. The Searchers
13. Annie Hall
14. Bambi
15. Blue Velvet
16. Singin' In The Rain
17. Seven Samurai
18. Jaws
19. Pulp Fiction
20. The Sorrow & The Pity
21. Some Like It Hot
22. Toy Story
23. Notorious
24. The Sound Of Music
25. 2001: A Space Odyssey
26. Bicycle Thieves
27. The Maltese Falcon
28. The Wizard Of Oz
29. North By Northwest
30. Sunrise
31. Chinatown
32. Duck Soup
33. The Graduate
34. Adam's Rib
35. Apocalypse Now
36. Rosemary's Baby
37. Manhattan
38. Vertigo
39. The Rules Of The Game
40. Double Indemnity
41. The Road Warrior
42. Taxi Driver
43. The Lord Of The Rings III: The Return Of The King
44. On The Waterfront
45. Mr Smith Goes To Washington
46. The Adventures Of Robin Hood
47. A Clockwork Orange
48. It Happened One Night
49. Goldfinger
50. Intolerance
51. A Hard Day's Night
52. Titanic
53. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
54. Breathless
55. Frankenstein
56. Schindler's List
57. Midnight Cowboy
58. The Seventh Seal
59. All The President's Man
60. Top Hat
61. The Silence Of The Lambs
62. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
63. Network
64. The Best Years Of Our Lives
65. Last Tango In Paris
66. The Shining
67. Rebel Without A Cause
68. GoodFellas
69. Dr Strangelove
70. L'Avventura
71. American Graffiti
72. The 400 Blows
73. Cabaret
74. The Hurt Locker
75. Touch Of Evil
76. Lawrence Of Arabia
77. Dog Day Afternoon
78. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
79. Night Of The Living Dead
80. Dazed & Confused
81. Blade Runner
82. Scenes From A Marriage
83. The Wild Bunch
84. Olympia
85. Dirty Harry
86. All About Eve
87. La Dolce Vita
88. The Dark Knight
89. Woodstock
90. The French Connection
91. Do The Right Thing
92. The Piano
93. A Face In The Crowd
94. Brokeback Mountain
95. Rushmore
96. Sullivan's Travels
97. Diner
98. All About My Mother
99. There Will Be Blood
100. Sweet Smell Of Success

Note that Frankenstein is the James Whale version and Titanic is the James Cameron version. Some Like It Hot is the 1959 classic, not the obscure 1939 comedy.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Encounter Thailand

Encounter Thailand
I interviewed film producers Kay Sitongdee and Pla Komaratat as the cover feature for the June issue of Encounter Thailand magazine (Free As A Bird, on pages 28-31). The article has also been translated into Thai.

I've written a feature on the Thai ghost Mae Nak, for the same issue, reviewing the new film Pee Mak Phra Kanong (the most successful Thai film ever made). The article (The Haunted Screen, on pages 32-33) traces Mae Nak's extensive film appearances, including the classic Nang Nak.

I interviewed Apichatpong Weerasethakul for the May issue of the magazine, and I edited the February, March, and April issues. My previous articles were published in October, November, and December last year.


Wednesday, 3 July 2013

La Vie De Mahomet

La Vie De Mahomet
The French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has published the second part of its comic biography of Mohammed, La Vie De Mahomet, by Stephane Charbonnier and Zineb el Rhazoui. The comic depicts Mohammed's adult life, and is subtitled Le Prophete De L'Islam. The first part, which dealt with Mohammed's childhood, was published earlier this year.

Charlie Hebdo first published a Mohammed cartoon appeared in 2002, followed by a front-page Mohammed caricature in 2006. This was followed by a Charia Hebdo edition 'guest-edited' by Mohammed in 2011, and a naked Mohammed caricature last September (criticising the protests against Innocence Of Muslims).

Mohammed cartoons first caused controversy when a dozen of them were published by Jyllands-Posten in 2005. Since then, many other newspapers and magazines have also printed Mohammed caricatures: Weekendavisen, France Soir, The Guardian, Philadelphia Daily News, Le Monde, Liberation, Het Nieuwsblad, The Daily Tar Heel, Akron Beacon Journal, The Strand, Nana, Gorodskiye Vesti, Adresseavisen, Uke-Adressa, Harper's, and the International Herald Tribune (in 2006 and 2012).


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Spielberg: A Retrospective

Spielberg: A Retrospective
Spielberg: A Retrospective, by Richard Schickel, is a chronological survey of Steven Spielberg's career as Hollywood's most commercially successful director. Schickel reviews each film, and quotes from his interviews with Spielberg, though this is not a full-length interview book like Conversations With Scorsese or Woody Allen: A Life In Film.

Schickel previously interviewed Spielberg for the television documentary Spielberg On Spielberg, from which many of this book's quotations are taken. Spielberg also wrote the book's foreword. Schickel and Spielberg both acknowledge their friendship, and while this results in co-operation and candour from Spielberg, it also makes Schickel's commentary less objective. Thus, there is little overt criticism of Spielberg's films here. Also, each film is given approximately equal space, which means that chapters on the classics (such as Jaws and Jurassic Park) are not long enough, while less substantial films (Indiana Jones IV, War Of The Worlds, Hook, 1941, Always, War Horse, etc.) receive disproportionate coverage. The book was published before the release of Lincoln.

Schickel's television series and book The Men Who Made The Movies include interviews with Alfred Hitchcock and other directors of the classical Hollywood period. More recently, he has directed the documentaries Scorsese On Scorsese and Woody Allen: A Life In Film. He contributed reviews to the updated Film Noir: The Encyclopedia, and wrote a monograph on Double Indemnity for the BFI.