31 December 2015

Hua Hin Countdown

Hua Hun Countdown
Hua Hin, a seaside town south of Bangkok, is holding a new year's eve countdown tonight. However, one of the posters advertising the event used a mirrorball to replace the 'O', thus inviting people to a "C UNTDOWN".

A missing 'o' has caused unintended amusement on various occasions. Some previous examples from Bangkok: "60 C UNTRIES" (Royal Porcelain billboard, with a globe replacing the 'O'), "A C UNTRY WIFE" (Bangkok Community Theatre poster, with a lemon replacing the 'O'), "C unter Service" (retail sticker, with a sun replacing the 'o'), and Bangkok University's "School of Acc unting" (with a ship replacing the 'o').

30 December 2015

รุ่นพี่

รุ่นพี่
After taking a five-year break from commercial filmmaking following studio interference during the making of The Red Eagle, Wisit Sasanatieng has now written and directed รุ่นพี่, a horror/romance film aimed at a mainstream teenage audience. รุ่นพี่ is Wisit's third ghost film, as he previously directed The Unseeable and wrote Nang Nak.

The central character, Mon, studies at a Catholic school in present-day Bangkok, though she can sense the ghost of a senior student who studied there before it became a convent school. He tells her that the building's original owner was killed fifty years ago in mysterious circumstances, and they investigate the murder case together.

With its flashbacks to half a century ago, รุ่นพี่ continues Wisit's fascination with period detail, as seen previously in Tears Of The Black Tiger and The Unseeable. It features malevolent ghosts and some horrific moments, including an unsettling sub-plot involving Mon's schoolfriend, though it combines this (quite incongruously) with a budding romance between Mon and the senior ghost.

Wisit has also directed Citizen Dog, the music video เราเป็นคนไทย, the art film Norasinghavatar, and a segment of the anthology film Sawasdee Bangkok. He also wrote the outline for Slice (directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri), and he designed the posters for the Bangkok International Film Festival in 2008 and 2009.

29 December 2015

The Thames & Hudson
Dictionary Of Photography

The Thames & Hudson Dictionary Of Photography
The Thames & Hudson Dictionary Of Photography contains more than 1,000 entries, two-thirds of which are capsule biographies of significant photographers. As editor Nathalie Herschdorfer notes in her preface, the ubiquity of digital information means that "it may seem almost perverse to publish a dictionary on paper." Her purpose, she explains, was "to publish a book that reduces a seething mass of information to a structured and orderly work of reference." The resulting Dictionary is not only authoritative but also elegantly designed and printed.

Some of the world's most famous photographs are included: Richard Avedon's portrait of Dovima with two elephants, Eddie Adams's snapshot of a Viet Cong prisoner's execution, Robert Capa's picture showing the death of a Spanish Civil War fighter, Nicephore Niepce's view from a Le Gras window, Robert Doisneau's The Kiss, and Henry Peach Robinson's Fading Away. There are also images from some of the most influential photography monographs, including The Pencil Of Nature (William Henry Fox Talbot), The Decisive Moment (Henri Cartier-Bresson), and Die Welt Ist Schon (Albert Renger-Patzsch).

The Dictionary's only serious rival is The Focal Encyclopedia Of Photography. Both works cover the art and technology of photography, though the Dictionary's emphasis is primarily on art while the Encyclopedia focuses more on technology. One of the advantages of the Encyclopedia is its extended bibliographic essay, though it contains very few photographic illustrations. The Dictionary includes 300 photographs, though it has no bibliography.

Other (lesser) photography reference books include The Photography Book, Photography Visionaries, 100 Ideas That Changed Photography, Photographers A-Z, and The Visual Dictionary Of Photography. The Thames & Hudson Dictionary Of Photography is one of a series of arts dictionaries published by Thames & Hudson, including dictionaries of Art Terms, Graphic Design & Designers, and Fashion & Fashion Designers.

Beaumont Newhall wrote the first history of photography as an art form, The History Of Photography, which was originally published as a MoMA exhibition catalogue. Helmut Gernsheim's The History Of Photography, dedicated to Newhall, discusses the early development of photography. Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography became the standard modern history of the subject. Mary Warner Marien's Photography: A Cultural History is the most recent, and most comprehensive, survey of photographic history.

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Hitchcock/Truffaut
François Truffaut's book Hitchcock is one of the best books ever written about film. It was the first time that such an extensive interview with a director had been published, and it helped to popularise the 'auteur theory'. (Hitchcock was released a year before Andrew Sarris wrote The American Cinema.) It inspired many other in-depth interview books, notably those by Peter Bogdanovich (This Is Orson Welles and Who The Devil Made It) and Richard Schickel (The Men Who Made The Movies, Woody Allen: A Life In Film, and Conversations With Scorsese).

In articles for Cahiers Du Cinema, Truffaut and other critics maintained that directors, rather than producers or script-writers, were the true authors of the films they made. His most famous essay, Une Certaine Tendance Du Cinema Francais (1954), was a "deliberately pessimistic examination I have undertaken of a certain tendency of the French cinema". Truffaut also directed one of the key films of the French New Wave, The 400 Blows.

Truffaut interviewed Hitchcock in 1962, though their book was not released until 1966. It was first published in French, as Le Cinema Selon Hitchcock, and the first English edition appeared the following year. The interview tapes were broadcast by France Culture in 1999, in twenty-five episodes, and they reveal significant discrepancies between Hitchcock's recorded answers and the printed transcript. (Janet Bergstrom discussed "the lack of correspondence between the interview as spoken and the interview as published" in her essay Lost In Translation?, published in 2011.)

Robert Fischer made a short documentary for German television, Monsieur Truffaut Trifft Mr Hitchcock (1999), about the background to Truffaut's book. A feature-length documentary by Kent Jones, Hitchcock/Truffaut, was released this year and features directors such as Martin Scorsese and David Fincher discussing their love of Truffaut's book and Hitchcock's films. Peter Bogdanovich also appears, and his This Is Orson Welles is the nearest equivalent to Truffaut's book.

Hitchcock/Truffaut features detailed discussions of Vertigo and Psycho, though it presumes some prior knowledge of Hitchcock's work: major aspects of his modus operandi, such as his definition of the MacGuffin, and his distinction between suspense and surprise, are excluded. His famous remark that "actors are cattle" is included, though not explained.

The documentary exists in two versions: English and French. The talking-head interviews are the same in both, though shots of pages from Truffaut's book feature the English and French editions respectively. (I've seen the French version, as this is currently the only one available on DVD.)

28 December 2015

The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight
The Hateful Eight is Quentin Tarantino's eighth film. I know that not only because I've seen the previous seven (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained) but because the opening titles announce it as "the 8th film by Quentin Tarantino".

The 'hateful eight' (clearly the antithesis of The Magnificent Seven) are all heading, for various reasons, to Red Rock, Wyoming, though a blizzard forces them to take shelter at Minnie's Haberdashery. The only woman among them, Daisy Domergue, has a bounty on her head, and almost everyone has secrets and deceptions that are eventually revealed. Some of the backstories remain ambiguous and unresolved, with the audience left to judge what is true or false.

The film is almost three hours long, and divided into six chapters, though the plot doesn't really begin until chapter four. Even after this, the tension doesn't reach the level of the farmhouse and basement tavern sequences in Inglourious Basterds. The first draft of the script (which has a different ending) was leaked online last year, and Tarantino organised a live table-read of that draft in Los Angeles shortly afterwards.

The cast includes Samuel L Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs), Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction), Kurt Russell (Death Proof), and Zoe Bell (also Death Proof). Jackson plays an African American bounty-hunter, like the title character in Django Unchained. Tarantino delivers a brief voice-over at the start of chapter four. Jackson and Walton Goggins give outstanding performances; in fact, the hateful eight are all so fascinating that the innocent characters in the flashback sequence seem one-dimensional in comparison.

This is essentially a chamber piece, with the action almost completely confined to a single location - the interior of Minnie's Haberdashery - just as Reservoir Dogs took place largely in a warehouse. (It's also reminiscent of two Humphrey Bogart films: The Petrified Forest and Key Largo.) The flashback reveals a shift in point-of-view, as in Pulp Fiction's diner-robbery scenes and Jackie Brown's shopping-mall sequence.

Like all Tarantino films, The Hateful Eight has its share of violence, with an exploding head being the most graphic example; the violent climax is especially similar to Django Unchained. Also, as in Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained, 'the n-word' is used throughout, despite an early line acknowledging the word's pejorative impact: "don't you know that darkies don't like being called niggers no more? They find it offensive."

The Hateful Eight was filmed with 65mm cameras, and is projected in Ultra Panavision, with an extremely wide 2.76:1 aspect ratio, only a fraction less than Cinerama's 2.77:1. (Ultra Panavision was the widest of the widescreen processes developed in the 1950s as anamorphic alternatives to Cinerama; it was used most notably for Ben-Hur in 1959.) As in early CinemaScope films such as The Robe, the wide frame emphasises the blocking of the actors, which looks simultaneously theatrical and cinematic.

The film has been released in a standard version (which is the one I've seen) and a 70mm roadshow version, which includes an overture, intermission, and several minutes of additional footage: the exact opposite of the grindhouse experience Tarantino recreated with Death Proof. Like Christopher Nolan with Interstellar, he is using The Hateful Eight to highlight the superiority of 70mm distribution.

16 December 2015

The 2001 File

The 2001 File
The 2001 File: Harry Lange & The Design Of The Landmark Science Fiction Film features material from the archives of Harry Lange, who was one of the production designers of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The book is by Christopher Frayling, who has also written two previous books about another Kubrick production designer, Ken Adam: Ken Adam Designs The Movies and Ken Adam & The Art Of Production Design.

The book begins with a lengthy account of 2001's pre-production, quoting from Kubrick's correspondence and script drafts. Kubrick initially approached Adam to work as production designer on 2001, though Adam wavered and Kubrick replied: "I can appreciate how ambivalent your feelings may be towards my mystery film... I would suggest, therefore, that we drop all further discussions about it and I will seek divine guidance elsewhere." Kubrick then contacted matte artist Chesley Bonestell, explaining that he was working on "a science-fiction film, which might prove to be the definitive attempt."

Lange was ultimately hired as production designer, and the book includes photographs of memos from Kubrick to him. The Lange archive is The 2001 File's main focus, and 250 pages are devoted to reproductions of his designs: blueprints for various spaceships, sketches of spacesuits, and drawings of equipment. It's therefore a companion to Adam K Johnson's 2001: The Lost Science, which includes similar designs by 2001's scientific advisor, Fred Ordway.

This is the latest of many books devoted to 2001. Others include The Making Of Kubrick's 2001 (by Jerome Agel), The Making Of 2001: A Space Odyssey (by Stephanie Schwam), 2001 Memories (by Gary Lockwood), Moonwatcher's Memoir (by Dan Richter), Are We Alone? (by Anthony Frewin), 2001: A Space Odyssey (by Peter Kramer), 2001: Filming The Future (by Piers Bizony), and The Making Of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (also by Bizony).

Frayling is also the author of Once Upon A Time In Italy, Something To Do With Death, and Spaghetti Westerns. He contributed to 1,000 Films To Change Your Life and Gothic; he has recorded commentaries for the DVDs of James Whale's Frankenstein, Sergio Leone's The Colossus Of Rhodes, and Leone's 'man with no name' trilogy.

15 December 2015

International New York Times

International New York Times
The International New York Times has been censored by its Thai printer for the fourth time this year. An article on page four of today's newspaper was replaced by a blank space and a brief explanation: "The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal."

The article, headlined "Thai man may go to prison for insulting king's dog", is a report by Thomas Fuller about Thanakorn Siripaiboon, who was arrested last week and charged with lèse-majesté. As the headline suggests, the charges against Thanakorn reflect a wider interpretation of the lèse-majesté law, though this aspect of the case has not been mentioned by mainstream Thai media.

Two previous International New York Times articles were also censored by the newspaper's Thai printer this month, and on 22nd September the company refused to print the newspaper altogether. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the newspaper will cease its print distribution in Thailand on 31st December.

06 December 2015

Listen To Me Marlon

Listen To Me Marlon
In 2007, TCM broadcast an exhaustive two-part documentary on Marlon Brando. The film (Brando, written by Mimi Freedman and produced by Leslie Grief) was a chronological account of Brando's life, featuring talking-head interviews with seemingly everyone who had worked with him (except Francis Coppola and Jack Nicholson).

Listen To Me Marlon, directed by Stevan Riley, takes a completely different approach: this documentary's soundtrack consists entirely of monologues spoken by Brando himself, excerpted from hundreds of cassette tapes that he recorded throughout his life. These even include self-hypnosis tapes, one of which gives the film its title: "Marlon, listen to my voice..." The result is, at times, like the Kurtz monologues recorded on reel-to-reel tapes in Apocalypse Now.

This audio diary is illustrated by Brando film clips (including A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, On The Waterfront, The Godfather, and Apocalypse Now) and home-movie footage. Key events in Brando's life are summarised by clips from TV news reports, as an alternative to a conventional narrator. Brando's head was digitally scanned in the 1990s, and this ethereal facsimile of his face is animated in synch with his voice-over, creating the ghost of Brando.

Listen To Me Marlon is similar in format to Marlene, Maximilian Schell's documentary about Marlene Dietrich. Like Brando, Dietrich was a legendary star who became a recluse. She refused to appear on camera in Schell's documentary, so he relied entirely on audio of her voice from taped interviews. Also, both documentaries feature sets that meticulously recreate the living spaces of their respective stars.

The Brando tapes are fascinating precisely because Brando himself was so private. He was probably the greatest actor in cinema history, though he rarely gave interviews or made public appearances. Exceptionally, he appeared on CNN's Larry King Live in 1994, though only because he was contractually obliged to do so: "Unbeknownst to me, it was part of the contract, and if I didn't, I would be in breach of contract."

The CNN interview was arranged to promote Brando's autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me, a work that's even more revealing than Listen To Me Marlon. The book was largely written by Robert Lindsey - "I have filtered the story of Marlon's life," he explains in the introduction - whereas the film is told in Brando's own words.

05 December 2015

International New York Times

International New York Times
International New York Times
Thai Rath
Twice this week, articles in the International New York Times have been censored in Thailand. On Tuesday, and again yesterday, the newspaper was printed with blank spaces and a brief explanation: "The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal."

The International New York Times is based in Paris, and its Asian edition is edited in Hong Kong, though it relies on the Eastern Printing Company to print copies for distribution in Thailand. On 22nd September, the company refused to print the newspaper altogether; the newspaper sent a letter to its subscribers explaining that "our locally contracted printer deemed [it] too sensitive to print. This decision was made solely by the printer and is not endorsed by the International New York Times."

On Tuesday, the printer objected to an article headlined "Thai spirits sagging with the economy". The story, by Thomas Fuller, highlighted Thailand's economic downturn following last year's coup. Yesterday's problematic article was an op-ed by Tom Felix Joehnk headlined "The Thai Monarchy and its Money", which called for more transparency regarding the Crown Property Bureau.

The International New York Times announced that it will cease print distribution in Thailand on 31st December. (The Wall Street Journal made a similar decision in September, and has already ceased its Thai distribution.) The market for international newspapers here is small: the International New York Times sells, at most, a few thousand copies per day. (The Bangkok Post, by comparison, sells 30,000 copies daily; the Thai-language tabloid Thai Rath claims a daily circulation of over a million, though this is not certified by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.)

The Financial Times is distributed in Thailand though printed elsewhere, and is therefore not reliant on censorious Thai printers. On 22nd November last year, it published a review of A Kingdom In Crisis that would certainly have been censored had it been printed in Thailand. Like the FT, The Economist is also distributed in Thailand though printed externally; its publisher chooses not to distribute any issue that contains 'sensitive' content, such as the issue published on 6th December 2008.

State censorship of the media is rare, as most Thai journalists practice self-censorship to avoid potential 'attitude adjustment' sessions or lèse-majesté charges. However, there have been a few examples of the military government intimidating the media. Pravit Rojanaphruk (a columnist for The Nation) and Thanapol Eawsakul (editor of Same Sky) were both detained for several days last year. Thai Rath cartoonist Sakda Sa-Aeow (known as Sia) was visited by the police who took exception to his 3rd October cartoon portraying Prayut at the UN. MICT asked the Bangkok Post to delete an article from its website on 15th October.

Local censorship of the International New York Times is not unique to Thailand. On 22nd March last year, an article alleging that Pakistan's security services sheltered Osama bin Laden was removed by its Pakistani printer. Also in Pakistan, an article about Charlie Hebdo was censored on 14th January. Most bizarrely, the faces of pigs in two photographs were censored by Malaysian printers on 21st January, as the printer felt that such images would be offensive to Muslims.

19 November 2015

The Artist As Jeweler

The Artist As Jeweler
The Artist As Jeweler: From Picasso To Jeff Koons is the catalogue of an exhibition (From Picasso To Koons) held in New York in 2011. The book features reproductions of around 200 items of jewellery, though not all pieces from the exhibition are included.

More than half of the exhibits are from the collection of Diane Venet, who edited the book and writes a long and self-serving introduction: "I also enjoy bringing out my different pieces from their jewelry boxes in order to expose them to the eyes of the collector." (Translation: she likes looking at them.) This is followed by an obsequious essay on Venet's collection by her friend Adrien Goetz: "Diane possesses all the rigor and discernment typical of the true collector."

The rest of the book comprises individual profiles of modern artist-jewellers and large, detailed photographs of jewellery from various private collections, including Venet's. Many of the pieces resemble miniature versions of the artists' most famous paintings or sculptures rendered in precious metal, and they were clearly made for commercial rather than purely artistic reasons. (One exception is a pendant by Nam June Paik, created by attaching a circuit board to a chain. Curiously, the book states that this is an untitled work from 1980, while the exhibition labels it as Sense Amplifier Inhibit Driver from 2012.)

H Clifford Smith wrote Jewellery, the first comprehensive history of the subject, in 1908. A History Of Jewellery 1100-1870 (Joan Evans, 1953) is another standard work. Modern Jewellery: An International Survey 1890-1963 (Graham Hughes, 1963) was the first guide to modern jewellery. 7,000 Years Of Jewellery (Hugh Tait, 1986) is the most comprehensive international history of jewellery.

The Fashion Book

The Fashion Book
Vogue
The Fashion Book was first published by Phaidon in 1998, and the second edition appeared in 2013. It profiles more than 500 fashion designers, models, photographers (including Irving Penn, represented by his "exercise in graphic perfection" portrait of Jean Patchett), writers (notably Anna Wintour, "The most powerful person in fashion"), and style icons (such as Madonna, pictured in her Blond Ambition basque by Jean-Paul Gaultier).

The book has a similar format to others in the series, including The Art Book, The Photography Book, The Design Book, The Pot Book, and The 20th Century Art Book. The range of its fashion coverage is impressive, from the Victorian era ("The story of modern fashion began when Charles Frederick Worth... raised dressmaking to a new level called haute couture") to contemporary popular culture ("Lady Gaga was stitched into a dress made of raw beef for the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards").

The History Of Modern Fashion is a narrative history covering the same period as The Fashion Book. Auguste Racinet's Complete Costume History was an early historical survey. Millia Davenport's Costume Book covered European and American costume history. Francois Boucher's 20,000 Years Of Fashion traced the entire history of European fashion. Patricia Rieff Anawalt's Worldwide History Of Dress and Leslie Steele's Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion have extensive coverage of non-Western traditional dress.

17 November 2015

The Movie Book

The Movie Book
The Movie Book (not to be confused with The Movie Book from Phaidon) is a guide to more than 200 classic and influential films, the latest in DK's Big Ideas Simply Explained series: "The movies gathered here are those that the authors feel... to have had the most seismic impact on both cinema and the world." The films selected are "an atlas of influence, a collection of landmarks" and represent "an attempt to build a narrative of film history out of the movies themselves".

The book was written by a team of authors (Louis Baxter, John Farndon, Kieran Grant, and Damon Wise), led by Danny Leigh. 116 films are included, cross-referenced and arranged chronologically, and entries range from a single page to six pages per film. There is extensive coverage of international cinema, with Latin American films especially well represented. Most directors are limited to single entries in the main list, though Stanley Kubrick, Billy Wilder, Victor Fleming, Ridley Scott, and Fritz Lang each have two films included.

Most entries include brief director profiles, infographics (some more informative than others), and plot timelines (which contain spoilers). Perhaps the best entry is that for Pulp Fiction, which includes a double-page spread with a quote and film still, a full-page poster, and a useful infographic that presents its non-linear narrative chronologically.

Following the 116 main entries, there is an appendix of eighty-eight extra films: "a selection of the movies that came close to being included in the main section, but did not quite make the final cut." This makes a total of 204 titles, though there are a few odd omissions: Man With A Movie Camera and On The Waterfront are not included, there are no 1930s gangster films, musicals and westerns are under-represented, there is only one 'spaghetti western' (Once Upon A Time In The West, in the appendix), and most film noir titles are relegated to the appendix.

The 116 main entries are as follows:
  • A Trip To The Moon
  • Intolerance
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Sunrise
  • Metropolis
  • Steamboat Bill Jr
  • The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
  • The Blue Angel
  • People On Sunday
  • City Lights
  • M
  • Duck Soup
  • King Kong
  • Zero For Conduct
  • The Bride Of Frankenstein
  • Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • The Rules Of The Game
  • Gone With The Wind
  • His Girl Friday
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • To Be Or Not To Be
  • Ossessione
  • Laura
  • Children Of Paradise
  • La Belle & La Bete
  • A Matter Of Life & Death
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • The Third Man
  • Rashomon
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • The Night Of The Hunter
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • Tokyo Story
  • The Wages Of Fear
  • Godzilla
  • All That Heaven Allows
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • Pather Panchali
  • Kiss Me Deadly
  • The Searchers
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Vertigo
  • Ashes & Diamonds
  • Some Like It Hot
  • The 400 Blows
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Breathless
  • Saturday Night & Sunday Morning
  • Last Year At Marienbad
  • La Jetee
  • The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg
  • Black God, White Devil
  • Dr Strangelove
  • The Sound Of Music
  • The Battle Of Algiers
  • The Chelsea Girls
  • Playtime
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Wild Bunch
  • Easy Rider
  • La Boucher
  • The Godfather
  • Aguirre: The Wrath Of God
  • The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie
  • Don't Look Now
  • The Spirit Of The Beehive
  • Chinatown
  • Ali: Fear Eats The Soul
  • Jaws
  • Picnic At Hanging Rock
  • Taxi Driver
  • Annie Hall
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Alien
  • Stalker
  • Das Boot
  • Blade Runner
  • BLue Velvet
  • Wings Of Desire
  • Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown
  • Sex Lies & Videotape
  • Do The Right Thing
  • Raise The Red Lantern
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Three Colours: Red
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Toy Story
  • La Haine
  • Fargo
  • The Sweet Hereafter
  • Central Station
  • Festen
  • The Ring
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Spirited Away
  • Amelie
  • Lagaan
  • The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  • City Of God
  • Oldboy
  • The Lives Of Others
  • Pan's Labyrinth
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Man On Wire
  • The White Ribbon
  • Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
  • Gravity
  • Boyhood
The appendix of eighty-eight films is as follows:
  • The Great Train Robbery
  • Nosferatu
  • Dr Mabuse The Gambler
  • The Jazz Singer
  • Un Chien Andalou
  • Freaks
  • The Grapes Of Wrath
  • The Maltese Falcon
  • Sullivan's Travels
  • Meshes Of The Afternoon
  • Double Indemnity
  • Brief Encounter
  • Murders Among Us
  • Out Of The Past
  • The Red Shoes
  • All About Eve
  • Los Olvidados
  • The Big Heat
  • La Strada
  • Seven Samurai
  • Rififi
  • Invasion Of The Body Snatchers
  • Touch Of Evil
  • Elevator To The Gallows
  • Peeping Tom
  • Psycho
  • West Side Story
  • The Innocents
  • Jules & Jim
  • The Manchurian Candidate
  • Dry Summer
  • Jason & The Argonauts
  • Onibaba
  • I Am Cuba
  • Closely Observed Trains
  • Persona
  • The Graduate
  • Belle De Jour
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Salesman
  • Once Upon A Time In The West
  • Kes
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Harold & Maude
  • Land Of Silence & Darkness
  • Walkabout
  • The Harder They Come
  • A Woman Under The Influence
  • Sholay
  • Xala
  • Eraserhead
  • Dawn Of The Dead
  • Days Of Heaven
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Raging Bull
  • The Shining
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Scarface
  • Blood Simple
  • Paris, Texas
  • Come & See
  • Brazil
  • Down By Law
  • Jesus Of Montreal
  • Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
  • Hard Boiled
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Naked
  • Short Cuts
  • Heavenly Creatures
  • Drifting Clouds
  • Breaking The Waves
  • Taste Of Cherry
  • Werckmeister Harmonies
  • Amores Perros
  • In The Mood For Love
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Goodbye, Lenin
  • Tsotsi
  • Cache
  • Times & Winds
  • Ten Canoes
  • There Will Be Blood
  • The Secret In Their Eyes
  • The Kid With A Bike
  • Holy Motors
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
[Note that Some Like It Hot is the 1959 Billy Wilder classic, and Scarface is the 1983 remake.]

16 November 2015

Light Art From Artificial Light

Light Art From Artificial Light
Light Space Modulator
Light Art From Artificial Light: Light As A Medium In The Art Of The 20th & 21st Centuries, edited by Peter Weibel and Gregor Jansen, is the catalogue of an exhibition held in Germany from 2005 to 2006, "the first comprehensive, indeed encyclopedic, show of artists' engagement with artificial light since the exhibition KunstLichtKunst (1966)". The catalogue, with more than 700 pages and almost 1,000 illustrations, is a truly definitive survey of light art.

The exhibition traces the history of light art back to Laszlo Moholy-Nagy's kinetic Light-Space Modulator and Zdenek Pesanek's neon sculptures of the 1920s, though it also includes contemporary artists such as Dan Flavin and Tracey Emin. The catalogue contains both English and German text; its German title is Lichtkunst Aus Kunstlicht.

One of the catalogue's essays is by Frank Popper, whose Origins & Development Of Kinetic Art (1968) and Art Of The Electronic Age (1993) also discuss light art. Rudi Stern's Let There Be Neon (1979) was the first history of neon art.

Dreams Month

Spirited Away
Spirited Away
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is currently hosting a Dreams Month film season, which concludes on 25th November with Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece Spirited Away. Jam's previous seasons have included Forking Paths Month, Resizing Month, Banned Month, Doppelganger Month, American Independent Month, Anime Month, 'So Bad It's Good' Month, Philip Seymour Hoffman Month, and Noir Month.

15 November 2015

sPACEtIME

sPACEtIME, co-directed by Thunska Pansittivorakul, Harit Srikhao, and Itdhi Phanmanee, is a documentary about the three directors and their friend Nathapong Kaewprom, playing truth or dare and discussing their (sometimes painful) love lives. Their mutual sexual histories are gradually revealed, particularly the relationship between Thunska and photographer Harit. (Harit's photographs, including images of preserved foetuses, punctuate the film.)

In Thunska's earlier semi-documentary Reincarnate, a character asks him about the meaning of his tattoos. In that film, he doesn't answer, though in sPACEtIME he explains their emotional significance. The participants all appear as themselves, and the film is completely naturalistic, though the dramatic ending (involving a power cut) invites questions about the line between documentary and 'structured reality'.

14 November 2015

50 Greatest Films

Psycho
Fifty greatest films, in chronological order, selected from a database of 500 titles. See also: Ten Essential Films.

1900s
A Trip To The Moon (Georges Melies, 1902)

1910s
The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1919)

1920s
Nanook Of The North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927)
Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929)

1930s
Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
The Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931)
42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs (David Hand, 1937)
Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
The Rules Of The Game (Jean Renoir, 1939)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)
Le jour se leve (Marcel Carne, 1939)

1940s
His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
Out Of The Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles, 1947)
Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio de Sica, 1948)

1950s
Singin' In The Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly, 1952)
Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa, 1952)
Tokyo Story (Yasujiri Ozu, 1953)
On The Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
Creature From The Black Lagoon (Jack Arnold, 1954)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

1960s
Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
8½ (Federico Fellini, 1963)
Dr Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly (Sergio Leone, 1966)
Dont Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967)
2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

1970s
The Godfather (Francis Coppola, 1972)
Pink Flamingos (John Waters, 1972)
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
Apocalypse Now (Francis Coppola, 1979)

1980s
Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)

1990s
Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
Toy Story (John Lasseter, 1995)

2000s
Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)

2010s
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)

11 November 2015

The Silent Deep

The Silent Deep
The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Serivce Since 1945, by Peter Hennessey and James Jinks, is the first comprehensive history of the Royal Navy submarine service, known as the 'silent service' as it operates undetected. Submarine operations during the Cold War and the Falklands conflict are examined in detail, and the book runs to almost 900 pages.

The authors interviewed David Cameron in 2013, and he discusses the task of writing sealed instructions to Navy commanders, to be opened in the event of a nuclear attack. Cameron reaffirms his own commitment to the nuclear deterrent, though he admits that the policy may be revised by future generations: "it's not unthinkable at some time in the future someone will come to a different decision. I don't think Britain will give up nuclear deterrence altogether. I think that is out. I'd be very surprised if that happened in my lifetime."

08 November 2015

The Polaroid Years

The Polaroid Years
The Polaroid Years: Instant Photography & Experimentation, an exhibition catalogue edited by Mary-Kay Lombino, is "the first comprehensive look at the groundbreaking art made with Polaroid photography". The exhibition was held in New York in 2013, and featured Polaroid prints by artists and photographers from the past forty years.

Polaroid often commissioned works from photographers, including Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe, both of whom became famous for their Polaroid portraits. Warhol is the artist most often associated with Polaroid, and a Warhol self-portrait is one of the first images in the catalogue. The book also features a timeline of Polaroid's corporate history, and an essay by editor and curator Lombino on the various photographic techniques and genres represented in the exhibition.

Polaroid's founder, Edwin Land, invented the instant camera, and Polaroid was one of the few camera companies to achieve a level of brand recognition equal to Kodak. (Both companies eventually filed for bankruptcy, after being eclipsed by digital photography.) Polaroid's most famous camera was the iconic SX70 (Phaidon Design Classics #749), and The Polaroid Years includes stills from an SX70 promotional film by Charles and Ray Eames.

04 November 2015

The Sunday Mail

The Sunday Mail
Three journalists from The Sunday Mail, a Zimbabwean state newspaper, were arrested on Monday. Editor Mabasa Sasa, investigations editor Brian Chitemba, and reporter Tinashe Farawo are facing charges of slander related to a front-page story published on Sunday headlined "Top cop fingered in poaching saga".

The article, written by Chitemba and Farawo, claimed that an assistant police commissioner was among several officials involved in elephant-poaching at Hwange National Park. The report has not been deleted from the newspaper's website. The three journalists are due to appear in court today.

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03 November 2015

The World History Of Animation

The World History Of Animation
The World History Of Animation, by Stephen Cavalier, is a chronological history of film and television animation, divided into five eras: "The Origins of Animation" (the pre-history of cinema), "The Era of Experimentation" (silent animated films), the "Golden Age of Cartoons" (including the Disney classics), "The Television Age", and "The Digital Dawn" (CGI and Pixar).

The book begins by summarising the histories of the animation industries of four world regions: North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Asia. Each region has a timeline and a few pages of narrative history. Four other world regions - Scandinavia, Australasia, Latin America, and Africa - are given timelines only.

The rest of the book consists of reviews of significant animated films and television series, many of which are accompanied by colour illustrations. (Most of the images are frame-enlargements, though a few - such as Filmstudie and Mothlight - are photographs of actual celluloid film strips.) There are also profiles of notable animators and studios.

The author notes that "Although it is impossible for any book to be an exhaustive survey of the entire industry, I have tried to include examples from as many different genres and styles as possible." The book's entries are certainly wide-ranging: its definition of 'animation' encompasses not only cartoons but also photographic experiments, art films, and movie special effects.

The greatest book on animation is Giannalberto Bendazzi's Cartoons: 100 Years Of Cinema Animation (1994). Cavalier's book, with its brief coverage of African and Latin American cartoons, is more international than most animation histories, though Bendazzi's Cartoons is the only truly global study. However, Cavalier's book is useful as it's more up-to-date than Bendazzi's, and it includes more illustrations. (Bendazzi's three-volume Animation: A World History, the definitive history of the subject, will be published later this year.)

The World Encyclopedia Of Cartoons (1980), edited by Maurice Horn, contains biographies of hundreds of animators from around the world. The Anime Encyclopedia and Anime: A History provide the best coverage of Japanese animation. Moving Animation is a history of computer animation.

The Art Of Pop Video

The Art Of Pop Video
The Art Of Pop Video, by Michael P Aust and Daniel Kothenschulte, is the catalogue of an exhibition that opened in Germany in 2011 and transferred to the UK in 2013. The book (accompanied by a DVD) includes several short essays, and features images from more than 100 music videos. (Each video is represented by a grid of twelve small screenshots, arranged like a storyboard.)

Experimental films by Man Ray and Len Lye are included, as is the Bob Dylan documentary Dont Look Back (described as the "most quoted music video of all times"). Most of the videos are from the MTV era, such as Michael Jackson's Thriller ("the first music video blockbuster") and Madonna's Express Yourself (inspired by Metropolis; directed by David Fincher).

Michael Shore's Rolling Stone Book Of Rock Video has more background on the history of music videos (including earlier formats such as Soundies and Scopitones), though it was published in 1984. The Art Of Pop Video is therefore more up-to-date, and it has many more illustrations.

30 October 2015

The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour

The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour
The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour
The Coca-Cola Bottle Art Tour, a travelling exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Coke bottle, arrived at Bangkok's EmQuartier mall yesterday, and runs until 5th November. The exhibition's subtitle, Inspiring Pop Culture For 100 Years, has three different meanings: the brand is part of pop (i.e. popular) culture, Coke is fizzy pop (in the UK), and the bottle was depicted by several Pop artists.

Visitors enter the exhibition in groups of twenty, with a tour guide who gives an introduction in the first room. (He emphasises that a work by the "famous artist Andy Warhol" is included; later, as I'm looking at the Warhol piece, another guide reminds me that it's by "famous artist Andy Warhol".) In the next room, twenty complimentary Coke bottles are arranged on illuminated plinths, one per visitor. Another tour guide then introduces a short video. Then, in the main gallery, visitors can finally explore the rest of the exhibition independently.

Many of the exhibits are interactive, though there are also posters, prints, and sculptures inspired by the Coke bottle. At least two of these are mislabelled, however. Peter Blake's Summer Days is labelled as a collage, though it's actually a silkscreen print. Eduardo Paolozzi's Refreshing & Delicious is labelled as a 1949 collage, though it's actually a 1972 lithograph. It seems likely that they were labelled incorrectly to make them appear more 'original' than they really are.

The glass bottle, contoured to distinguish it from Coke's competitors, was patented in 1915. It was designed by a team from the Root Glass Company, including Alexander Samuelson and Earl Dean. (The design was inspired by the shape of the coca bean, a 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica illustration of which is included in the exhibition.) The bottle has since become an icon of packaging design, and is included in Phaidon Design Classics (#109).

28 October 2015

Unlawful Killing

Unlawful Killing
Unlawful Killing, directed by Keith Allen, is a documentary that seeks to expose a cover-up surrounding the inquest into Princess Diana's death: as Allen says in his voice-over narration, it is "the inquest of the inquest". The film was funded by Mohamed al-Fayed, whose son Dodi was killed in the same car crash as Diana. He believes that Diana and Dodi were murdered by the British Royal Family, and the film perpetuates this conspiracy theory.

The film's narration includes a series of generalisations about "the establishment", alleging that "there were an awful lot of people who wanted Diana, and her Muslim lover, dead." The only real evidence for this is a note supposedly written by Diana in 1993 to her butler, Paul Burrell: "my husband is planning "an accident" in my car... in order to make the path clear for him to marry Tiggy. Camilla is nothing but a decoy". While this seems prescient, it's also paranoid and illogical: Charles was free to remarry after their divorce, and in fact he married Camilla Parker-Bowles rather than Tiggy Legge-Bourke.

Diana made similar comments to her lawyer, Victor Mischon, who made a note of their conversation. The documentary highlights the phrase "her being or life was threatened" from Mischon's note, though it doesn't highlight the next sentence: "I frankly could not believe that what I was hearing was credible."

Diana's campaign against land mines is presented as a possible motive for her murder: "Many investigators believe that this is the real reason Diana was killed." The film's argument is that Diana was murdered shortly before the 1997 treaty banning land mines was signed, because Bill Clinton would have supported the ban had Diana lived, and the 'establishment' wanted to sabotage the treaty. Again, this is illogical, because Diana's death actually increased calls for a ban, as the BBC reported at the time: "The Princess's death re-focused attention on the issue, and pushed governments to take action to show that they were serious about banning landmines."

The documentary accuses the media of "seriously misreporting the verdict" of the inquest, as the media reported that the inquest blamed the paparazzi for Diana's death. However, the documentary itself also significantly misrepresents the verdict. At the inquest, the jury foreman stated: "The crash was caused or contributed to by the speed and manner of driving of the Mercedes, the speed and manner of driving of the following vehicles, the impairment of the judgment of the driver of the Mercedes through alcohol." The film quotes only three words - "the following vehicles" - from this verdict, and thus omits any reference to the culpability of Diana's driver.

The most controversial and implausible claims in the documentary involve Prince Philip: al-Fayed discusses "Prince Philip's Nazi background" and argues that the Royal Family are "racist". Allen repeats these statements in his narration, demonstrating that his film is merely a reflection of al-Fayed's agenda. Allen interviews psychologist Oliver James, who describes Philip as a "psychopath" despite never having met him. The voice-over states that Philip "grew up in Germany" and "studied for a while under the Nazi curriculum". In fact, he spent less than a year in Germany, and an individual pupil can hardly be held responsible for the national curriculum.

The film was shown at several trade screenings in 2011, though it has never received commercial distribution as it would require numerous cuts for legal reasons. (These are largely due to potential libels against Prince Philip.) Its only real significance is that it includes the infamous photograph of Diana at the scene of the car crash.

27 October 2015

Paparazzi!

Paparazzi!
Paparazzi!
Paparazzi!
Paparazzi!
Paparazzi! is the catalogue of an exhibition held last year in Paris. (Famously, the term 'paparazzo' was coined by Federico Fellini for his film La Dolce Vita.) Edited by Clement Cheroux (author of Henri Cartier-Bresson: Here & Now and a supplement to The Decisive Moment), the book features interviews with paparazzi photographers, images of the most-photographed celebrities, and examples of paparazzi photographs appropriated by contemporary art (hence the subtitle: Photographers, Stars, Artists).

In the interview chapter, veteran paparazzo Ron Galella discusses Windblown Jackie, his famous portrait of Jackie Onassis, calling it "my most sensational photo... my best photo - the most incredible, my favorite, the most sold, and the most published. It is my Mona Lisa." The book also includes nude photographs of Onassis taken by Settimio Garritano, though its most notorious photo is perhaps a 1962 image of Elizabeth Taylor kissing Richard Burton, by Marcello Geppetti.

In his introductory essay, Cheroux identifies the paparazzi style: "there exists perhaps not a paparazzi art but a paparazzi aesthetic. This is the product of a group of technical determinants (the telephoto lens, the flash, the grain due to excessive enlargement)... and gestural habits (the hand in front of the face, the surprised look or averted gaze)." He concludes by recognising the significance of this paparazzi aesthetic: "Today, paparazzism has become a genre, a full-fledged stylistic category, and perhaps even one of the "-isms" of contemporary art."

Paparazzi photographs are often the subject of legal dispute (such as the recent lawsuits against Closer by Kate Middleton and Julie Gayet), and the book discusses the privacy implications of long-lens photography. This is starkly illustrated by a series of images of celebrities photographed on their deathbeds, in open caskets, or at the scenes of fatal accidents. These include the notorious photo of Princess Diana after her car crash, and its inclusion in this book marks its first appearance in print in the UK.

24 October 2015

Cinema Scarehouse

A Week Of Scares
The Shining
Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse is showing a season of horror double bills in the week before Halloween. Cinema Scarehouse: A Week Of Scares begins tomorrow, and includes a screening of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining on Halloween night (31st October).

23 October 2015

An Anthology Of Decorated Papers

An Anthology Of Decorated Papers
An Anthology Of Decorated Papers: A Sourcebook For Designers, by PJM Marks, includes more than 200 examples of marbled, pasted, brocaded, block-printed, and lithographed sheets of ornamental paper. Most examples are taken from the Olga Hirsch collection at the British Library in London, though the book's historical introduction also includes illustrations from other sources.

Each decorating technique has its own chapter, and the decorations are stunningly reproduced in colour, with many full-page, full-bleed images. Japanese block-printing (chiyogami) and stencilling (katagami and katazome) are included, alongside European, Chinese, and American papers. The book itself is beautifully designed, with marbled boards and a decorated, multi-layered paper jacket. (Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers, also published by Thames & Hudson, has a similar jacket and also includes examples of printed ephemera.)

Marbling (Phoebe Jane Easton) was the first comprehensive study of marbled paper. Washi includes reproductions of decorated Japanese paper. The Papered Wall (Lesley Hoskins) and 20th Century Pattern Design discuss wallpaper patterns. Ornament (Stuart Durant) is a history of modern decoration. The classic studies of decorative motifs are The Grammar Of Ornament (Owen Jones) and L'Ornement Polychrome (Auguste Racinet; reprinted as The World Of Ornament).

21 October 2015

'Finland Plot'

Today, the Supreme Court upheld a previous ruling by the Criminal Court against Manager Daily columnist Pramote Nakornthap. Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra sued Pramote for libel in 2006 after Manager published a series of articles concerning a so-called 'Finland Plot', which the newspaper alleged was a republican conspiracy orchestrated by Thaksin. No evidence of such a conspiracy has ever been uncovered.

Pramote's articles were part of a campaign by Manager owner Sondhi Limthongkul to discredit Thaksin by questioning his loyalty to the monarchy. Sondhi was one of the leaders of the PAD yellow-shirt movement, organising street protests against Thai Rak Thai and provoking the army into staging a coup.

Pramote was found guilty of libel by the Criminal Court in 2009, and given a one-year prison sentence which was suspended for two years. The verdict and sentence were upheld by the Appeals Court in 2013, and confirmed again by the Supreme Court this afternoon. (Earlier this year, Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra also sued Manager Daily, after it printed an article satirising his remarks about potential flooding in Bangkok.)

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17 October 2015

อย่าจองเวรจองกรรม ซึ่งกันและกันเลย

อย่าจองเวรจองกรรม ซึ่งกันและกันเลย
อาปัติ
อย่าจองเวรจองกรรม ซึ่งกันและกันเลย
Film director Kanittha Kwunyoo took part in a discussion about censorship and artistic freedom earlier today at BACC in Bangkok. อย่าจองเวรจองกรรม ซึ่งกันและกันเลย was held in response to the banning of Kanittha's new film Karma. BACC organised two similar events in 2013: Freedom On Film (a seminar on film censorship) and งานมอบรางวัลหนังน่าจะแบน (a festival of films that tested the limits of Thai censorship).

Kanittha revealed that she had received abusive messages from some monks who hoped that she would die. She explained that, following the ban, she had cut three minutes from the film, and that this shortened version had been passed by the censor.

The film was released in cinemas yesterday, though the Thai title was altered from อาบัติ to อาปัติ. According to Kanittha, she was required to change the title, as the film could not be released with the same name under which it was previously banned. (Other Thai films have also had their titles changed for censorship reasons: the horror film ก๋วยเตี๋ยว เนื้อ คน was re-titled เชือด ก่อน ชิม to avoid damaging the Thai meatball industry!)

15 October 2015

Bangkok Post

Bangkok Post
The Bangkok Post has revealed that it was contacted by the Ministry of Information & Communication Technology earlier today, regarding an article by Wassana Nanuam. According to the Post, the Ministry requested the newspaper's co-operation in removing the article, and the Post complied. Consequently, the article has been deleted from the Post's website.

The article highlighted the rivalry between Udomdej Sitabutr (the former army commander) and Theerachai Nakwanich (Udomdej's successor). Wassana has well-placed military sources, so the story is credible. In fact, she has written several similar articles in the Post recently, describing the generals' rivalry in stronger terms, though MICT did not ask for their removal.

The deleted article was presumably singled out because it revealed the extent of the army's wasteful spending. The story noted that camouflage uniforms ordered by Udomdej had been scrapped by Theerachai, even though "half the army's soldiers have been issued the new suits costing 2,000 baht each." (According to those figures, the total cost of the uniforms could be almost half a billion baht.)

13 October 2015

Karma

Karma
Karma, a horror film directed by Kanittha Kwunyoo, is the latest film to be banned in Thailand. Its theatrical release was scheduled for this Thursday, with a press screening planned for tomorrow, though the Ministry of Culture announced today that the film could not be shown. Five other Thai films are also currently banned: Boundary (banned, then released, then prohibited by the military junta this year), Insects In The Back Yard, This Area Is Under Quarantine, and Shakespeare Must Die.

According to the censors, Karma was banned due to the 'inappropriate' behaviour of its main character, a novice monk: he has a potentially romantic relationship with a girl, and he is depicted drinking alcohol, fighting, and smoking. The censors were particularly concerned about a scene in which a monk rolls a cigarette - as the tobacco could be mistaken for cannabis - and a scene in which a Buddha statue is lifted up by its head.

The censor's over-reaction to such innocuous material recalls the case of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes & A Century. Thai censors felt that playing frisbee and guitar were inappropriate activities for a monk, and insisted that these sequences be removed. Apichatpong launched the Free Thai Cinema Movement in response, and eventually released his film with silent leader footage in place of the cut scenes, to highlight the censorship.

Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Headshot was also censored for its depiction of monks, though this time the censorship was more subtle. In one sequence, a hitman dresses in a monk's robe as a disguise, and carries a gun concealed in an alms bowl. For the Thai release, Pen-ek was required to digitally erase the gun from the bowl, as the censors felt that it was inappropriate for a monk to be seen with a gun. Pen-ek told me in an interview that the effect of censoring the gun was counter-productive: showing an empty bowl made the man look more like a real monk, thus his actions seemed even more shocking. (Shadow Of The Naga features similarly contentious scenes, and was shelved for two years before its Thai release; and Parkpoom Wongpoom was required to add a disclaimer to his student film Luang Ta, in which a monk feigns disability to obtain donations.)

Representation of monks has long been a sensitive subject in Thailand. Vasan Sitthiket's painting Buddha Returns To Bangkok (1992) caused protests as it depicts monks raping women, and his ตัวใครตัวมันนะโยม (2011) depicts two monks fighting and having sex. There were also demonstrations in protest at Anupong Chantorn's Perceptless (2007), a painting of monks with beaks. His Hope In The Dark (2009) has a similar theme, and his Moral Boundary (2010) depicts a monk with an erect phallus. Withit Sembutr's Doo Phra, a painting of monks crowding around an amulet-seller, was withdrawn from a Bangkok exhibition in 2007.

11 October 2015

Enter The Void

Jam Cine Club
Enter The Void
Bangkok's Jam Cafe will be screening Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void on 14th October, as part of its weekly Jam Cine Club event. The Memento Mori? exhibition is also currently on show at Jam, until 23rd October.

1001 Movies
You Must See Before You Die

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has been updated for 2015. The cover of the hardback edition features a collage of classic film posters, while the paperback version follows the format of recent editions with a still from a new film (Birdman). The tenth anniversary edition was substantially revised, though this year's edition (as in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2014) substitutes only a handful of recent films.

There are ten new entries this year: Ida, Under The Skin, Citizenfour, Leviathan, Boyhood, Birdman, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Whiplash, The Theory Of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Therefore, ten films have also been deleted: The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, Gomorrah, The White Ribbon, The Kid With A Bike, Blancanieves, Nebraska, Inside Llewyn Davis, American Hustle, A Touch Of Sin, and (inexplicably) The Tree Of Life.

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Radio Times Guide To Films 2016

The Radio Times Film & Video Guide (edited by Derek Winnert in 1993, though subsequently withdrawn for plagiarism) was the first film guide I ever bought. More than twenty years later, the Radio Times Guide To Films is now the only annual film guide available. Its last remaining competitor, Leonard Maltin's film guide, ceased publication last year; VideoHound is still in production, though it's restricted to films released on video. (The Virgin Film Guide was last published in 2005, Halliwell's Film Guide in 2008, and the Time Out Film Guide in 2012.)

Instead of scaling back on print in favour of online content, this year's Radio Times Guide To Films (edited by Sue Robinson) is even bigger than last year's, with almost fifty extra pages. The new sixteenth edition includes reviews of 24,027 films, a substantial increase compared to the 23,099 last year, 23,077 in 2013, and 23,068 in 2012. Unlike previous editions, older entries have not been deleted to make room for new ones, though previews of forthcoming films still appear: of the 502 new entries, more than 100 are previews (including Blade Runner II, which is still in pre-production).

Like other recent editions, this year's cover - a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor - again indicates that the Radio Times Guide To Films is aimed at an older demographic, an audience less likely to use online film resources. (Personally, I prefer the Jaws cover from last year.) New entries this year include Interstellar ("this majestic film retains a human heart") and The Interview ("naughty, dumb and patchily funny"), and the "hugely entertaining, refreshingly subversive" Whiplash receives five stars.

08 October 2015

The Art Of Typewriting

The Art Of Typewriting
Vista de la Catedral i el Pia de la Seu
The Art Of Typewriting, by Marvin and Ruth Sackner, is the first truly comprehensive survey of typewriter art. It has a foreword by Steven Heller (author of Illustration, amongst many other books on graphic design), and begins with an excellent history of typewriter art. It's an especially well-designed book: each copy has a different cover design - mine is Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt's Introverse, also reproduced on page 162 - and it includes a bookmark that resembles a typewriter ribbon.

A taxonomy of typewritten artworks, comprising more than 200 full-page plates (mainly, though not entirely, from the Sackners' archive), is followed by illustrated biographies of key typewriter artists. The book contains numerous examples of typewritten concrete poems and 'poesia visiva' (visual poetry), though it doesn't differentiate between these two overlapping styles; instead, the authors coin the umbrella term "typed artpoe" (a combination of 'art' and 'poetry').

Barrie Tullett's similar Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology was published only last year, though The Art Of Typewriting is far superior: it's twice as long, and it includes a bibliography. Tullett makes only passing references to pioneers of typewriter art such as Julius Nelson, Paul Smith, and Montserrat Alberich (and omits George Flanagan), though The Art Of Typewriting includes multiple illustrations of their works. The most impressive is Alberich's incredible typewritten picture of a cathedral, an image supplied by the Museu d'Historia de Barcelona.