27 December 2016

Saul Bass: A Life In Film & Design

Saul Bass: A Life In Film & Design
Saul Bass: A Life In Film & Design, the first book devoted to the work of Saul Bass, is a comprehensive monograph on one of the greatest graphic designers of the past century. Alongside Paul Rand, Bass reinvented American corporate branding, though he is best remembered for his groundbreaking film title sequences: "With his work in titles, Saul would elevate the opening of Hollywood films to the status of an art form."

The title sequences and posters for Otto Preminger's The Man With The Golden Arm and Anatomy Of A Murder were revolutionary. For each film, Bass created a deceptively simple graphic silhouette: a hand and forearm for The Man With The Golden Arm, and the outline of a body for Anatomy Of A Murder. His poster and title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo maintained the concept of a single motif (in this case, a spiral), though Bass achieved a kaleidoscopic effect in the animated opening titles.

Bass also designed the title sequence for Hitchcock's Psycho, and he received an additional credit as 'pictorial consultant'. The extent of his contribution to the film has been in dispute ever since: Bass drew storyboards for the shower scene, and later claimed that he was largely responsible for filming the sequence, though Hitchcock's other collaborators have refuted this. (Bass's sketches are reproduced in The Art Of Movie Storyboards; for more discussion of his contribution, see Stephen Rebello's Alfred Hitchcock & The Making Of Psycho, Bill Krohn's Hitchcock At Work, and Psycho In The Shower.)

In the Bass/Hitchcock debate, the book sides squarely with Bass - "It is time for Saul's contribution to the shower scene to be acknowledged" - even suggesting that he had artistic control over the scene: "After the sequence was shot, Hitchcock insisted on two inserts... Trusting Hitchcock's vision Saul agreed." In a long footnote, the authors rightly criticise Hitchcock for downplaying Bass' contribution to the film, though they're less critical of Bass' ambiguous claims of creative input.

The book, written by Pat Kirkham and designed by Bass' daughter Jennifer, includes a preface by Martin Scorsese, who explains how Bass could "penetrate the heart of a movie and find its secret. That's what he did with Vertigo and those spirals that just keep endlessly forming - that's the madness at the heart of the picture, the beautiful nightmare vortex". Kirkham interviewed Bass for Sight & Sound magazine (February 1994) and wrote a thirty-page article on Bass and Hitchcock for the journal West 86th (Spring 2011); she also co-edited the magnificent History Of Design.

22 December 2016

Television: A Biography

Television: A Biography
After The Big Screen, his history of cinema, David Thomson has turned to the small screen. Television: A Biography is divided into two parts, inspired by Marshall McLuhan: the medium and the messages. Instead of a chronological structure, each chapter is an essay on a particular theme or genre, such as cop shows, talk shows, newscasts, sitcoms, long-form dramas, and even presidential TV coverage.

Thomson primarily covers TV in America, though he also discusses BBC comedies and documentaries. Of the programmes themselves, his highlights include The Wire ("a critical reputation that is still unsurpassed") and Breaking Bad ("may be close to "masterpiece" status"). The book is certainly up-to-date (including the downfall of Bill Cosby: "his career is finished, for his reputation and role model have been destroyed"), though Netflix's groundbreaking distribution model for House Of Cards is barely mentioned.

"I came to television from movies," Thomson explains, and there are film references throughout the book; even the cover photograph is from a movie (Poltergeist). His previous books include A Biographical Dictionary Of Film, Have You Seen...?, Moments That Made The Movies, and The Moment Of Psycho. (Television: An International History, edited by Anthony Smith, is a global survey of TV history.)

19 December 2016

The Godfather Notebook

The Godfather Notebook
The Godfather Notebook
The Godfather Notebook
Before writing and directing The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola compiled what he called The Godfather Notebook, a binder containing pages from Mario Puzo's novel and Coppola's treatment, with wide margins for further annotations. It was a scrapbook of Coppola's typed and hand-written thoughts on the film's key themes and characters, divided into fifty scenes.

Peter Cowie reproduces a page from this "massive tome, biblical in proportions" in The Godfather Book (1997). Another page is reproduced in Cowie's The Godfather: The Official Motion Picture Archives (2012). The booklet for The Godfather: The Complete Trilogy 1901-1980 VHS edition (1992) also reproduces one of the pages. The Annotated Godfather (2007) reproduces two pages from it, and Jenny M Jones notes that Coppola "relied on the notebook rather than the shooting script for inspiration."

A complete facsimile of The Godfather Notebook has now been published, with a new introduction by Coppola ("The notebook was a kind of multilayered road map for me to direct the film") and photographs by Steve Schapiro (from The Godfather Family Album). There are almost 800 pages of Coppola's notes and marginalia, such as his comment in underlined capitals that Michael Corleone's opinion of his father ("He doesn't accept the rules of the society we live in") is "THE ENTIRE CREDO OF THE BOOK".

13 December 2016

Ways Of Pointillism

Ways Of Pointillism
A Sunday On La Grande Jatte
Ways Of Pointillism is the catalogue to a current exhibition in Vienna, and also the first book specifically devoted to the history of Pointillist art. (The Guggenheim staged a similar Neo-Impressionism exhibition in 1968, with a catalogue edited by Robert L Herbert.)

Editor Heinz Widauer notes that there are numerous labels to describe the Pointillist style and its variations, citing terms such as "Neo-Impressionism, Divisionism, Chromoluminarism" and "dot-ism". Pointillism was first developed by Georges Seurat, and is best represented by his large (2x3m) painting A Sunday On La Grande Jatte. Seurat and Paul Signac are the artists most closely associated with Pointillism, though Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso, and Mondrain also experimented with the technique.

The catalogue features full-page reproductions of the 100 paintings in the exhibition, and smaller illustrations of other Pointillist works (such as La Grande Jatte). There are essays on Pointillism's origins, its spread throughout Europe, and its influence on later art movements such as Fauvism, Cubism, and Luminism.

The Silhouette

The Silhouette
Etienne de Silhouette
The Silhouette: From The 18th Century To The Present Day is Augusta Dorr's translation of Georges Vigarello's La Silhouette, which was first published in French in 2012. The book examines the origins of silhouette portraiture: "Etienne de Silhouette created highly distinctive profile portraits by tracing the outline of a shadow." (Vigarello also includes what he claims is a silhouette by de Silhouette himself, though his work has not been reproduced in other books on the subject.)

Vigarello writes in his introduction that "there has been no work to date dealing with the history of this subject... the images it evokes and the practices related to it have not been analyzed, either in the context of their long iconographic or lexical course, or of their cultural journey." In fact, there are two previous histories of the silhouette: E Neville Jackson's Silhouette: Notes & Dictionary (1938) and Emma Rutherford's Silhouette: The Art Of The Shadow (2009). Jackson, in particular, conducted pioneering research into the subject, and the first edition of her book is essential.

As a study of monochrome silhouettes, Vigarello's book is less comprehensive than Jackson's or Rutherford's. However, it's significant as it extends the discussion of silhouettes beyond shadow portraits, examining the artistic representation of the human profile in fashion and popular culture. Its illustrations are also more diverse, ranging from satirical caricatures to advertising posters.

Madonna: Rebel Heart

Madonna: Rebel Heart
Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour was broadcast on Showtime on 9th December. The concert film, Madonna: Rebel Heart, was directed by Danny Tull and Nathan Rissman. (Tull has edited three previous Madonna tour videos: The Confessions Tour, Sticky & Sweet Tour, and MDNA World Tour.)

Unapologetic Bitch included a montage of the special guests who appeared at each venue, though the entire film felt like a mosaic of shots from different concerts: footage of Madonna wearing different costumes was intercut without continuity. The end credits featured brief backstage footage (and Madonna performing If I Had A Hammer).

12 December 2016

The Everything Store

The Everything Store
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos & The Age Of Amazon, by Brad Stone, is the first in-depth account of the rise of Amazon, the e-commerce pioneer that survived the dot-com bubble. In his prologue, Stone summarises Amazon's trajectory: "The company started modestly as an online bookseller and then rode the original wave of dot-com exuberance in the late 1990s to extend into selling music, movies, electronics, and toys... Amazon redefined itself yet again as a versatile technology firm that sold the cloud computing infrastructure known as Amazon Web Services as well as inexpensive, practical digital devices like the Kindle".

Amazon has transformed itself from a retailer into a technology business, though since the book was first published (in 2013), it has also become a media company: it produces original television content, such as The Grand Tour, for its Amazon Prime subscribers. It is now competing with digital giants Google, Facebook, and Apple in artificial intelligence and other areas of consumer technology. (Books about those companies include Googled by Ken Auletta, The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and Becoming Steve Jobs by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli.)

Stone describes visiting Amazon founder and CEO Bezos "to solicit his cooperation with this book," and while Bezos didn't agree to participate personally, he did authorise his colleagues to speak to the author. Bezos is undoubtedly an innovator, though perhaps not an especially pleasant person. His characteristic "hearty laugh" doesn't necessarily indicate a sense of humour: "the laugh... rocks its targets back on their heels. More than a few of his colleagues suggest that on some level, this is intentional - that Bezos wields his laugh like a weapon."

Sumida Hokusai Museum

Hokusai Returns
The Sumida Hokusai Museum opened in Tokyo on 22nd November. It's inaugural exhibition, Hokusai Returns: A Long-Lost Scroll & Masterpieces From The Collection, runs until 15th January 2017. The Museum's mirrored exterior is impressive, though its gallery space is quite limited. The gift shop sells mainly novelty items, but there is a library in an adjacent building.

The exhibition is a rare opportunity to see Katsushika Hokusai's most famous woodblock prints, 神奈川沖浪裏 (known as The Great Wave) and 凱風快晴 (known as Red Fuji), from his Thirty-Six Views Of Mount Fuji series. (Generally, ukiyo-e prints are not exhibited for an extended period, as their dyes are sensitive to light.)

The exhibition catalogue includes a gatefold reproduction of Hokusai's Sumida River scroll. Gian Carlo Calza's book Hokusai (published in Italian in 1999, and in English in 2003) is the most comprehensive monograph on the artist, and Richard Lane's Images From The Floating World (1978) is the classic survey of ukiyo-e prints.

06 December 2016

โปรแกรมมรดกภาพยนตร์ของชาติ

Citizen Dog
Blissfully Yours
The Thai Film Archive's classic Thai film season (โปรแกรมมรดกภาพยนตร์ของชาติ ประจำปี พ.ศ. ๒๕๕๙) continues this week with screenings of Wisit Sasanatieng's Citizen Dog and Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Blissfully Yours. Citizen Dog (previously shown at the Archive in 2012) is on 9th December, with Blissfully Yours (unfortunately in its censored version) on the following day.

03 December 2016

Tears Of A Clown

Tears Of A Clown
Madonna's Tears Of A Clown cabaret show debuted in Melbourne earlier this year, and she performed her second Tears Of A Clown concert (wearing a less gothic clown costume) yesterday in Miami. (It was also streamed online via Facebook Live.) Both shows began with a cover version of Send In The Clowns and ended with a ukulele version of Holiday, her traditional encore, though in other respects the two performances were entirely different.

The first show was rather maudlin, while the second was much more upbeat. A revised set list, with ballads replaced by Beautiful Stranger, American Life, and Express Yourself, gave the second show much more energy than the first. Despite the Tears Of A Clown title, the second version was more angry than sad, and the melancholic introspection of the first show was gone. Instead, Madonna admonished the audience (for crowding the stage) and criticised Donald Trump (during a cover version of Britney Spears' Toxic).

Yesterday's show also seemed more rehearsed and choreographed than the first. The clown jokes were as corny as before, though there was some comic timing instead of the first show's awkward silences. The only misfire came when Madonna gave $100 bills to members of the crowd, seemingly for no reason. The audience (who had paid $5,000 each for this charity event) was fairly quiet, and Madonna complained: "There's no excitement in this room!" The set list was: Send In The Clowns, Like It Or Not, Toxic, I'm So Stupid, Beautiful Stranger, Easy Ride, American Life, Don't Tell Me, Express Yourself, and Holiday.

02 December 2016

Zunar

Zunar
Zunar
Zunar
Zunar
Zunar
Zunar
Zunar
Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque (known as Zunar) has been arrested and charged with sedition, after an exhibition of his cartoons was disrupted by protesters. Zunar has faced similar charges in the past, and several of his books have been banned, as his cartoons highlight Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's corruption. (Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported that $681 million was transferred from the state-owned company 1MDB to Najib's personal bank account.)

Zunar's exhibition opened on 26th November at Komtar (the modern shopping complex in Johor Bahru, not the dilapidated Komtar skyscraper that dominates the Penang skyline). A group of fifty protesters stormed the exhibition on its first day, and it was closed for security reasons. Zunar was arrested after the protesters, a group of activists called Unmo Youth, reported the exhibition to the police.

01 December 2016

Derek Jarman Month

Lolita
Lolita
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is hosting a short Derek Jarman retrospective this month. Derek Jarman Month begins on 7th December with Sebastiane (1976), which was the first (and perhaps only) film with dialogue spoken entirely in Latin. Sebastiane caused a minor scandal in the UK when Channel 4 accidentally broadcast its erection scene uncut, during the documentary Sex & The Censors (1991).

Derek Jarman Month is programmed by Brian Curtin. Jam's previous seasons have included Czech New Wave Month, Seduction Month, Dreams Month, 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.

Bangkok Screening Room

Rear Window
Casablanca
Bangkok Screening Room, which opened in September, is showing two classics this month: Casablanca (arguably the greatest example of classical Hollywood cinema, directed by Michael Curtiz) and Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. Both films were also screened last weekend: Casablanca on 26th November, and Rear Window and Casablanca on 27th November.

Rear Window will be shown on today, and on 3rd, 6th, 9th, 11th, 14th, 17th, 20th, 21st, and 23rd December. Casablanca continues tomorrow, and on 4th, 7th, 10th, 11, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 22nd, and 24th December. Casablanca was previously shown (in 35mm) during the Festival of Classic Movies in 2007 at Lido.

29 November 2016

The Selfie Book!

The Selfie Book!
The Selfie Book! (subtitled Taking & Making The Best Selfies, Belfies, Photobombs, & More...), by Carrie Barclay and Malcolm Croft, is a brief guide to selfie culture. Full of lists, celebrities, and exclamation marks, it feels like a cross between BuzzFeed and Heat magazine. It has novelty value as the first compilation of famous selfies (posted on Instagram by Kim Kardashian et al.), though the photos are mostly undated and overall it's nothing more than a stocking-filler book.

"Types of Selfie", the book's taxonomy chapter, shows how pervasive selfies and smartphones have become: there are 'celfies' (celebrity selfies), 'belfies' (bum selfies), 'welfies' (workout selfies), 'telfies' (toilet selfies), 'felfies' (farm animal selfies), 'sheepies' (sheep selfies), 'pelfies' (pet selfies), 'drelfies' (drunk selfies), and 'fullies' (full-body selfies). Examples of all of these are included, along with headline-grabbing selfies such as Bradley Cooper's group portrait ("The world's most popular selfie... retweeted more than two million times") from 2014.

24 November 2016

Out Of Print

Out Of Print
Out Of Print, by George Brock, examines the past, present, and future(s) of journalism. Despite its subtitle (Journalism, & The Business Of News In The Digital Age), the book begins with a history of print journalism since the 1600s. This historical primer provides useful context, though at eighty pages it feels too long in a book ostensibly about digital news, and too short to outline 400 years of news media. (For more background, see Anthony Smith's Newspapers: An International History.)

In his introduction ("from ink to link"), Brock emphasises that "I have tried to ensure that my analysis and argument here is not too Anglocentric", though he does focus extensively on UK media. This contradicts his stated intention, though it makes the book all the more interesting, as Britain has particularly vibrant national newspapers and online news outlets (for example, BBC News, the Financial Times, The Guardian, and MailOnline). This also makes Out Of Print a useful companion to David Folkenflik's Page One, which examines digital journalism from a largely American perspective.

Brock summarises the sometimes unethical practices of tabloid journalism, and the conclusions of the Leveson Inquiry (both of which are also covered by Nick Davies in Hack Attack). Most importantly, he provides an excellent overview of developments in contemporary journalism, including the decline of display advertising, news aggregators (such as Google News), monetisation via paywalls, and the rise of digital-native media companies (including BuzzFeed and Gawker).

As he recognises, these trends are "at risk of being overtaken by events, for we are looking at a fast-moving picture." The book was written in 2013, and since then Gawker has filed for bankruptcy (following Hulk Hogan's privacy lawsuit), The Sun has cancelled its paywall, and Facebook has launched Instant Articles (further blurring the distinction between the technology and media industries).

22 November 2016

A Designer's Art

A Designer's Art
Eye-Bee-M
A Designer's Art, by Paul Rand, was first published in 1985, and has been reprinted this month. It features essays written by Rand throughout his life (including material from Thoughts On Design, which was also reprinted recently), and reproductions of his most acclaimed graphic designs (such as his Eye-Bee-M poster from 1981).

The new edition includes an afterword in which Steven Heller argues that it "reopened a genre of graphic design manifesto-monographs that had not existed since the 1930s". Heller (who has also written a comprehensive book on Rand) notes that A Designer's Art not only served as the portfolio of a legendary career, but also paved the way for later designers such as Stefan Sagmeister (Made You Look) to produce their own monographs.

21 November 2016

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson
Derriere La Gare St Lazare
Aperture's slim monograph on Henri Cartier-Bresson, first published in 1976, has been reprinted in a second edition. As before, the book features forty-two black-and-white photographs (selected by Cartier-Bresson himself), including Derriere La Gare St Lazare, which "perfectly illustrates the notion of the "decisive moment" in Henri Cartier-Bresson's oeuvre". Each full-page image is accompanied by a single paragraph of analysis.

There are far more extensive Cartier-Bresson books available (of which The Man, The Image, & The World is the most comprehensive), though this is an effective introduction to the master photographer. The text was written by Clement Cheroux, author of Here & Now and a booklet accompanying the reprint of The Decisive Moment. (Cheroux also edited Paparazzi!)

Thoughts On Design

Thoughts On Design
Paul Rand, one of the greatest designers of the last century, was almost single-handedly responsible for the development of corporate branding as a branch of graphic design. His book Thoughts On Design was as influential as Le Corbusier's Towards A New Architecture and Jan Tschichold's The New Typography.

The first and second editions of Thoughts On Design (hardbacks published in 1947 and 1951 respectively) were printed in three languages (English, French, and Spanish), and their black-and-white illustrations were supplemented by eight colour plates. The third edition (a paperback published in 1970) was printed only in English, and its illustrations were all in black-and-white.

The paperback version has been reprinted as a fourth edition, with a new foreword describing Thoughts on Design as "a manifesto, a call to arms and a ringing definition of what makes good design good." Unfortunately, the colour plates from the first two editions have not been reinstated, though Rand's later book A Designer's Art (also recently reprinted) includes plenty of colour images.

20 November 2016

All Out War

All Out War
There are other books on the Brexit campaign, from the perspectives of either the leavers or remainers, though Tim Shipman's All Out War is the only account of both the campaign and its aftermath, and the only attempt to tell the story from both sides. As the Financial Times wrote in its review last weekend, Shipman "has spoken to every key individual to produce the definitive first draft of history, a comprehensive yet impartial study of how Brexit won."

The book (subtitled The Full Story Of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class) begins with David Cameron's prophecy that a referendum on the UK's EU membership "could unleash demons of which ye know not." As Shipman explains, plenty of demons were unleashed: "The demons were the forces of Euroscepticism that had been growing in the Conservative Party for three decades... Cameron also believed in the demons of economic disaster in the event of a Leave vote, the upsurge in nativist sentiment during the campaign, even the willingness of campaigners on both sides to stretch the truth to make their point during the campaign."

Cameron's decision to hold a once-and-for-all referendum to appease his own backbenchers (labelled "Palaeosceptics" by Shipman, "a term I hope describes their longevity without implying that they were old-fashioned") ultimately resulted in Brexit, the resignation of a socially liberal leader (Cameron), and the appointment of his more conservative successor (Theresa May). Shipman's account of these events is supported by his exclusive access to emails, text messages, and other private documents (notably, Boris Johnson's unpublished pro-EU editorial and Cameron's undelivered victory speech.)

The pre-referendum negotiations with other EU members were destined to produce insubstantial results: "media coverage had focused on what rabbit Cameron might pull from his hat to boost the deal. In the event, it emerged sick with myxomatosis." This led to Boris Johnson joining the leave campaign, an announcement that Johnson calls "an imperial goatfuck". Shipman notes Johnson's history of Euroscepticism ("Johnson invented the 'straight bananas' school of reporting from Brussels"), and describes Michael Gove's extraordinary betrayal of Johnson, who had been almost certain to assume the Tory leadership, as "the most remarkable moment in British politics since May 1940".

The Stronger In campaign was undone partly by its pessimistic forecasts, such as Barack Obama's counter-productive intervention. Shipman doesn't conclusively determine whose idea Obama's comment was - "There are conflicting accounts of how the words 'back of the queue' found their way into Obama's mouth" - though he attributes it largely to George Osborne. The spurious prediction that Brexit would cost £4,300 per household per year was another example of negativity backfiring: "voters did not believe anything they were told by the Treasury, including the £4,300 per household figure."

In contrast, the anti-EU campaigners had a simple slogan ("Let's take back control"), and a misleading though effective statistic. Their campaign bus was plastered with the message "We send the EU £350 million a week", and even when it was exposed as a grossly exaggerated figure, it still worked in their favour: "Every time there was a row about the size of the cost to taxpayers of EU membership, it simply reinforced in voters' minds that there was a high cost."

Shipman cites immigration as the determining factor in the 'out' vote: "If we have to pinpoint a day when Vote Leave gained the upper hand it is undoubtedly... the day the latest immigration figures were published." In this 'post-truth' era, the overwhelming benefit that EU migrants provide for the UK economy (£2.5 billion per year in net tax contributions) was overlooked in favour of an emotional appeal to nationalism, stoked by xenophobic tabloids. It was clear from the final debate that the leavers had a strong chance of success: "The last word... went to Boris Johnson. The final line of his peroration took the roof off: 'I believe this Thursday can be our country's Independence Day.'"

Cameron At 10 (by Anthony Seldon and Peter Snowdon) and In It Together (by Matthew d'Ancona) cover Cameron's first term as Prime Minister, before the Brexit campaign. (Shipman suggests that d'Ancona's book - particularly comments from one of its sources, George Osborne - was one of the reasons why Iain Duncan Smith resigned from the government.) All Out War is as thorough and well-sourced as those earlier accounts, though it has no index. Its author is the political editor of The Sunday Times.

01 November 2016

Czech New Wave Month

Czech New Wave Month
Loves Of A Blonde
Bangkok's Jam Cafe is hosting a Czech New Wave season this month, starting tomorrow. Czech New Wave Month includes Milos Forman's Loves Of A Blonde, showing on 9th November. Jam's previous seasons have included Seduction Month, Dreams Month, 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.

30 October 2016

Fashion

Fashion
Fashion
Fashion
Fashion
Fashion: A History From The 18th To The 20th Century was first published (by Taschen) in 2002. It has since been reprinted, both as a two-volume set (Volume I: 18th & 19th Century; Volume II: 20th Century) and a single-volume edition. The capsule biographies of designers have been updated, though there have been no other changes since the first edition.

The book features 500 photographs of garments from the Kyoto Costume Institute, and was edited by the Institute's director, Akiko Fukai. The featured clothes are all from a single collection, though they're supplemented by illustrations of paintings and vintage magazines. There is only minimal coverage of menswear. (The three-volume Encyclopedia Of Clothing & Fashion, edited by Valerie Steel, is a more comprehensive guide to all aspects of fashion.)

Nevertheless, the book is significant for its historical scope and its photography. Whereas most fashion histories (such as Fashion 150 and the excellent The History Of Modern Fashion) begin with Charles Worth in the 1850s, Fashion starts in the Rococo period. The book is also exceptional for its emphasis on photographs of actual clothes, displayed on mannequins, as opposed to the catwalk photos or drawings found in many histories of fashion and costume.

28 October 2016

The Exorcist

The Exorcist
Last Halloween, Bangkok's Cinema Winehouse screened Stanley Kubrick's The Shining; this year, their Halloween highlight is The Exorcist, William Friedkin's classic horror film, on 30th October. Also, Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club will be showing John Carpenter's Halloween on 19th November (postponed from 15th October, following the death of King Bhumibol).

23 October 2016

Gemstone/Art

Genstone/Art
Gemstone/Art: Renaissance To The Present Day examines the use of precious stones in decorative art, liturgical objects, and sculpture. It includes a chapter on the history of gemmoglyptics (stone-carving), and a portfolio of work by lapidary artists ("the first comprehensive view of the many contemporary artists who have devoted themselves to gem-stones as material").

The book is written in both German and English (its German title being Edelstein/Kunst), and many of its illustrations (including some magnificent medieval and Renaissance objects) depict works by German artists or artefacts from German museum collections. Editor Wilhelm Lindemann is also the author of the extensive historical section, much of which is not covered in books on jewellery design. There are detailed notes, though no bibliography or index.

22 October 2016

Yingluck: "I will use every
channel available to fight this..."

Former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has been fined $1 billion after an investigation into her government's rice subsidy scheme, and her assets are liable for seizure by the Legal Execution Department. Yingluck announced that she will appeal against the verdict, saying: "it is not right and it is not just. I will use every channel available to fight this."

In 2011, Yingluck's Pheu Thai government agreed to pay farmers up to 50% above the market rate for their rice, intending to withhold it from the world market and thus drive up the price. The result, however, was that other countries in the region increased their rice exports, leaving the government with vast stockpiles that it could not sell.

Yingluck is the sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, whose assets were frozen in 2007 and finally confiscated in 2010. She was elected in 2011, though the PDRC organised protests against her government. She called an election in 2014, though it was boycotted by the opposition and sabotaged by the PDRC. She was removed from office shortly before a military coup, and was retroactively impeached last year.

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 2016. The 2013 edition was substantially revised, though this year's edition (as in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, and 2015) substitutes only a handful of very recent films.

There are ten new entries this year: Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Straight Outta Compton, The Big Short, Bridge Of Spies, Tangerine, The Revenant, Son Of Saul, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, and The Look Of Silence. Therefore, ten films have also been deleted: Cave Of Forgotten Dreams, Amour, Django Unchained, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Drive, The Act Of Killing, Senna, Citizenfour, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and The Theory Of Everything.

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20 October 2016

501 Must-See Movies

501 Must-See Movies
The fifth edition of 501 Must-See Movies contains eleven new entries, and therefore eleven deletions. The new films are Bridesmaids, Frozen, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Help, Zero Dark Thirty, Dallas Buyers Club, Twelve Years A Slave, Boyhood, The Revenant, Gravity, and American Sniper. The deleted titles are The Vikings; The Charge Of The Light Brigade; The Mission; A Cock & Bull Story; Knocked Up; Hello, Dolly!; Once; High School Musical III; Green Card; Naked Lunch; and AI: Artificial Intelligence.

There is no editor credited in this edition, though of the six authors, only one (Rob Hill) contributes to every chapter. The third and fourth editions also contained only minor changes, though the second edition was revised more extensively. The first edition was published in 2004.

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18 October 2016

"Programming will return shortly..."

TrueVisions
King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on Thursday after a seventy-year reign, marking the end of an era in the modern history of Thailand, and extensive tributes to him have appeared in both Thai and international media. There have also been profiles of his heir, the Crown Prince, including a 14th October article in The Guardian.

Thailand's lèse-majesté law has been enforced particularly strictly by the current military government, leading to increasing self-censorship by journalists within the country. TrueVisions, the cable TV monopoly, is interrupting BBC World News whenever the channel broadcasts sensitive content, replacing the signal with a euphemistic caption: "Programming will return shortly."

The Financial Times has a correspondent based in Bangkok, though his recent reports have not been bylined. The Economist doesn't distribute editions with sensitive content in Thailand. The New York Times (which ceased printing in Bangkok last year) has published sensitive pieces only by writers outside Thailand.

The Self-Portrait

The Self-Portrait
R
Michelangelo
The Self-Portrait: A Cultural History, by James Hall, analyses the evolution of the self-portrait over the past millennium. As Hall writes in his introduction, "This is the first history of self-portraiture to celebrate - unapologetically - the Middle Ages." He cites a fascinating example of a miniature self-portrait, signed Rufillus, appearing within the initial letter 'R' of a medieval illuminated manuscript. (Christopher de Hamel describes a similar example, by Hugo Pictor, in Meetings With Remarkable Manuscripts.)

It's an impressively wide-ranging survey, from canonical masterpieces like Las Meninas ("the most ambitious statement about the status of easel painting that had been made") to divisive artists such as the Viennese Actionists ("deliberately shocking and shamanistic, involving a Dionysian disembowelling of animals, immersion in blood and entrails, and self-mutilation"). The book also includes "the first ever caricatural self-portrait," a sketch by Michelangelo in which the artist depicts himself painting the Sistine Chapel fresco.

There have been surprisingly few histories of self-portraiture, and most were written in the past decade. The most comprehensive is the lavishly illustrated Artists' Self-Portraits, by Omar Calabrese, which is thematically organised in contrast to Hall's chronological structure.