Sunday, 30 July 2017

Dunkirk (IMAX 70mm)

When he interviewed Quentin Tarantino for the Directors Guild of America in 2015, Christopher Nolan's first question was related to the 65mm film format: "My feeling, watching this film, is that it had an increased level of formalism, I suppose you'd say. There's a real calm and thought to where the camera is, always. Do you think that was related in any way to the choice of format?"

Nolan was referring to Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, though the question also applies to his own latest film, Dunkirk, which was filmed in 70mm IMAX and 65mm. The precise compositions of Dunkirk are a reminder of the formalism that Nolan saw in Tarantino's earlier film.

The Spitfires flying in formation, and the soldiers queuing on the pristine Dunkerque beach, add to the sense of precision in Dunkirk. This seems incongruous given the film's subject matter, though it's perhaps better to think of it as a film about a military operation rather than a war film per se. Regardless, the resulting cinematography is spectacular, especially the breathtaking shots of a gliding Spitfire.

The film is a departure for Nolan, as it's based on real historical events, though it shares some of the narrative experimentation familiar from Memento and Inception. Dunkirk's three story arcs (land, sea, and air) take place over different time periods (a week, a day, and an hour, respectively), a condensed form of the time dilation in Nolan's Interstellar.

Dunkirk also benefits from Nolan's long-standing preference for in-camera effects over CGI, with filming taking place on real ships, boats, and aeroplanes. Nolan has cited masters of suspense Alfred Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot as primary inspirations for Dunkirk, and there are obvious parallels, for example, with Hitchcock's Lifeboat.

Dunkirk is showing in IMAX 70mm in the 1.43:1 aspect ratio, and this format provides the highest possible image quality. At digital IMAX cinemas, with smaller screens, the film is cropped to 1.9:1. 70mm prints at non-IMAX cinemas are cropped to 2.2:1. 35mm, DMX, and standard DCP versions are cropped to 2.4:1. The Krungsri IMAX screen at Bangkok's Siam Paragon is the only IMAX 70mm venue in Thailand.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible
Master Lecture: Apichatpong Weerasethskul
What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible
My Mother's Garden
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's short film My Mother's Garden is included in the group exhibition What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible currently showing at BACC in Bangkok. The exhibition takes its name from the title of an ultraviolet light installation by Julien Discrit. It opened on 17th June, and runs until 26th July.

In a related event, Apichatpong will present a Master Lecture at BACC on 2nd August, discussing his artistic influences. (He has given similar presentations in 2008 and 2010.) Apichatpong's feature films include Tropical Malady, Blissfully Yours, Syndromes & A Century, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Mekong Hotel, and Cemetery Of Splendour.

Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998
Henri Cartier-Bresson: Interviews & Conversations 1951-1998 is a collection of interviews with photographer Henri-Cartier Bresson, whose book The Decisive Moment is one of the most celebrated of all photography monographs. Interviews published in each decade from the 1950s to the 1990s are included - a dozen in total - and (perhaps even more significantly) a bibliography lists Cartier-Bresson's other print and broadcast interviews.

The book, edited by Clement Cheroux and Julie Jones, was originally published in French as "Voir & Un Tout": Entretiens & Conversations. Cheroux (editor of Paparazzi!) has also written Henri Cartier-Bresson and Here & Now. The Man, The Image, & The World is the most extensive collection of Cartier-Bresson's images, and his writings are collected in The Mind's Eye.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

"Good Coup" Gone Bad

"Good Coup" Gone Bad
"Good Coup" Gone Bad: Thailand's Political Developments Since Thaksin's Downfall is an anthology of essays analysing the aftermath of the 2006 coup. Editor Pavin Chachavalpongpun also co-edited a similar anthology, Bangkok, May 2010, which was notable for its (partially successful) attempt to present arguments from both sides of Thailand's political divide.

"Good Coup" Gone Bad makes no such attempt at balance, as the cover illustration makes clear. There are essays on post-coup lèse-majesté, the decline of the PAD, and the rise of the UDD. In his opening chapter (from which the book takes its title), Pavin argues: "The 2006 coup that was staged amid joy among many Bangkok residents - some even calling it a "good coup" - has turned out to be disastrous".

Contemporary Asian Cinema

Contemporary Asian Cinema
Contemporary Asian Cinema: Popular Culture In A Global Frame, edited by Anne Tereska Ciecko, is a collection of essays on the film industries of fourteen Asian countries, making it "the most authoritative assessment of contemporary Asian cinema available." In their essay Thailand: Revival In An Age Of Globalization, Anchalee Chaiworaporn and Adam Knee discuss the "new momentum" of Thai cinema since 1997, and the "massive scale" of the blockbuster Suriyothai. Other Asian cinema anthologies (both of which also feature essays by Anchalee) include Being & Becoming: The Cinemas Of Asia and Film In Southeast Asia: Views From The Region.

Sunday, 16 July 2017


Kevin Carter
Eddie Adams
Nick Ut
Neal Ulevich
The tenth edition of Moments features every Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph from 1942 to 2015. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief essay and a few related images. The book (subtitled The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs - A Visual Chronicle Of Our Time) was written by Hal Buell. (A similar collection, also called Moments, was written by Sheryle and John Leekley.)

Some of the book's most iconic images include Eddie Adams' snapshot of a Viet Cong prisoner at the moment of death, Nick Út's picture of Kim Phúc screaming in pain after a Vietnam War napalm attack, and Kevin Carter's photograph of a vulture following a starving child in Sudan.

Neal Ulevich's disturbing photograph of a baying crowd gathered around a student's body after the Thammasat University massacre in Bangkok is also included. The photographs by Adams, Út, and Ulevich were all reproduced in blood by Kosit Juntaratip for his Allergic Realities exhibition.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Paris Match

Paris Match
Paris Match magazine has been banned from reprinting CCTV images of last year's Bastille Day attack in Nice, France. The magazine's current issue, published on 13th July, has not been ordered off the shelves, though the photographs must be deleted from the publisher's website and cannot be republished, either in print or online.


Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Divided Over Thaksin

Divided Over Thaksin
Divided Over Thaksin, edited by John Funston and published in 2009, is a collection of essays analysing Thailand's political, religious, and economic instability following the 2006 coup. ('Good Coup' Gone Bad, edited by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, is another anthology analysing the same period.)

In the first chapter, Michael J Montesano (co-editor of Bangkok, May 2010) summarises the various forces opposing former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and provides a useful narrative of the "political events preceding Thailand's dismaying 19 September 2006 military putsch." Chairat Charoensin-o-larn's essay covers post-coup politics, and there are also several chapters on the 2007 constitution and its predecessor.

The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land

The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land
By The Time It Gets Dark
By The River
Respectfully Yours
The 13th International Conference on Thai Studies, at Chiang Mai's International Exhibition & Convention Centre, will include three days of film screenings. The Strange Facts Of An Estranged Land begins on 16th July with A Thai Society Through A Cinematic Perspective, a programme of short films selected and introduced by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Anocha Suwichakornpong's By The Time It Gets Dark and Patporn Phoothong's documentary Respectfully Yours will be shown on 17th July; both films are responses to the 6th October 1976 Thammasat University massacre, and they will be followed by The Forgotten, a discussion about how that event has been marginalised in the past forty years. (Anocha's acclaimed debut film was Mundane History; Patporn is currently working on a documentary about the events leading up to the Thammasat massacre.)

On 18th July, Nontawat Numbenchapol will introduce a screening of his documentary By The River, which was shown on ThaiPBS on 28th November 2014. Nontawat's previous documentary, Boundary, was politically sensitive, and the subject of By The River is no less controversial: it highlights the water pollution caused by a lead mine in Kanchanaburi. (Mining companies sued Thai news organisations last year and this year over similar reports of water contamination.)

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bad Taste Cafe

Bangkok's Bad Taste Cafe, which screened Pink Flamingos last month, will be showing another 1970s exploitation film, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, on 13th July. This hardcore Swedish film, directed by Bo Arne Vibenius, is notorious for an eye-gouging scene that was allegedly filmed with a real corpse. Needless to say, it's not for the faint-hearted.

Thursday, 6 July 2017


Thaksin, by Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker, is not only the most comprehensive biography of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, it's also the best available account of Thailand's recent political history. Pasuk and Baker capture the divisive nature of Thaksin's reputation: "To some, he is a visionary, even a revolutionary. To others, he is greedy, deceitful, deluded, dangerous."

For better or worse, Thaksin is the single most influential figure in contemporary Thai politics, following his unprecedented landslide election wins of 2001 and 2005. The protest movements that have characterised Thai politics in the past decade - the PAD, UDD, and PDRC - are all defined by their opposition to, or support for, the Thaksin regime. His influence has been suppressed by coups in 2006 and 2014, a Constitutional Court verdict in 2007, and a military massacre in 2010.

In their second edition, published in 2009, Pasuk and Baker conclude that Thaksin's financial corruption and his political populism were inseparable: "Throughout his career, politics and profit-making were entwined around one another like a pair of copulating snakes." (This is a rigorous and unauthorised biography, whereas Sunisa Lertpakawat's Thaksin, Where Are You? and Tom Plate's Conversations With Thaksin are both based on self-serving interviews with Thaksin.)

Bangkok, May 2010

Bangkok, May 2010
Bangkok, May 2010: Perspectives On A Divided Thailand is a collection of essays analysing the causes and consequences of the 19th May 2010 military massacre, when dozens of red-shirt protesters were shot by the Thai army. The book was edited by Michael J Montesano, Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and Aekpol Chongvilaivan; Pavin later edited a similar collection, 'Good Coup' Gone Bad, on the aftermath of the 2006 coup.

Bangkok, May 2010 is significant for the reputations of its contributors: it includes chapters by Chris Baker, Pasuk Phongpaichit, David Streckfuss, Duncan McCargo, and other leading scholars on contemporary Thai politics. Streckfuss discusses the UDD's accusations of double standards, observing that "By striking against double standards and impunity, Thai society has the rare opportunity to make justice and accountability a rallying cry." McCargo compares the PAD and UDD rallies to the Black May protests of 1992, noting that they fit a pattern of "manufactured crisis" and conform to the "Vicious Cycle" previously identified by Chai-anan Samudavanija.

The book is also notable for its attempt to present a diversity of perspectives, though as Montesano admits in his introduction, complete ideological balance was not possible: "Some, maybe most, of the contributions to this volume have interpretive or political agendas. Rather fewer, perhaps, are clearly "yellow" in their point of view than are unabashedly "red"." Firmly on the yellow end of the spectrum, Kasit Piromya accuses the UDD of armed insurrection and compares them with the Communists of the 1970s: "the battle had moved from the jungles to the streets of Bangkok."

James Stent's long opening chapter has a more nuanced analysis: "At one pole are those who say that the protesters are paid to attend rallies, and are heavily infiltrated by well armed "terrorists" under the direction and control of extremists taking their orders from Thaksin... On the other side of the debate are those who would paint the protesters as entirely peaceful, which is obviously not true. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two poles." Stent's assessment of Thaksin Shinawatra is also more balanced than most: "I see him in shades of grey - neither the messiah that his rural followers take him for even today, nor the devil incarnate that the Bangkok elite see him as being."

There is much discussion of the extent to which the red-shirt uprising was determined by social class (the rural 'prai' versus the establishment 'ammart'). Chairat Charoensin-o-larn presents the conventional interpretation that it represents a class struggle: "The unrest of May 2010 was a manifestation of the simmering new politics of desire of unprivileged Thais, and Thailand's ruling elites ought to pay close attention." However, Shawn W Crispin argues against this view: "These interpretations must transcend the simplistic and misleading discourse of class struggle that has been advanced by Thaksin's operatives for propaganda purposes and uncritically perpetuated by many foreign academics."

Tartan & Tweed

Tartan & Tweed
Bonnie Prince Charlie Jacques Heim
Tartan & Tweed, by Caroline Young and Ann Martin, is a cultural history of tartan ("the fabric of a nation, an icon of Scottish history and identity") and tweed ("one of the few traditional textiles to achieve cult status"). The book's main strength is the range of its (mostly colour) illustrations, from royal portraiture (such as the idealised 'Harlequin' portraits of Bonnie Prince Charlie) to fashion (Chanel's tweed suits, and a very 1960s tweed cape by Jacques Heim) and contemporary subcultures.