Sunday, 31 December 2017

"Not suitable for general reading..."

The Malaysian government has recently banned twenty-one publications. The Kementerian Dalam Negeri issued a list of the prohibited titles on 19th December, describing them as "detrimental and misleading to readers, especially the young, and these are not suitable for general reading".

The banned works are: Assalamualaikum: Observations on the Islamisation Of Malaysia, Qun Jiao Wang Shi, 36F Da Bo Mei De You Huo, Gou Nan Nv 2, Antithesis, 100 Keajaiban di Dunia, Amalan Mustajab dan Murah Rezeki, Senjata dan Pendinding Mukmin, Asma Ul-Husna: Rahsia Dan Amalan 99, Nama Allah, Rahsia dan Kelebihan Kayu Kokka: Jenis Kayu Bahtera Nabi Nuh AS - Tongkat Nabi Musa AS, Perjalanan Yang Cemerlang 1930-1980: Mempromosi Fahaman Komunisme, Intense Pleasure, Warisan Ilmu Tok Kenali Kelantan: Hampir Tidak Kesampaian Berakhir Tiada Kesudahan, Warisan Ilmu Tok Kenali Kelantan: Dimanakan Ku Cari Ganti, Warisan Ilmu Tok Kenali Kelantan: Jangan Sampai Terlihat Adanya Diri, Warisan Ilmu Tok Kenali Kelantan: Pencarian Ilmu Dipenghujung Rasa, Agama Masa Depan: Perspektif Filsafat Perennial, 25 Kisah Mukjizat Rasulullah, and Meneladani Rasulullah dan Cerita Lain. The list also includes the June 2014 issue of the UK magazine Loaded.

A similar list was issued on 27th July, announcing that the following publications were banned: Breaking the Silence: Voices of Moderation – Islam in a Constitutional Democracy, Humanisme Islam: Kajian terhadap Pemikiran Filosofis Muhammad Arkoun, Kisah Para Nabi, Kasyaf Al-Haq, Kisah-kisah Ghaib Dalam Hadis Sahih, Agama Allah Rahmat dan Penyelamat Bagi Seluruh Alam, At-Thariq Ilallah Thariqat Al-Hassaniyyah, Berdialog Dengan Jin Islam, Piramid: Rahsia Purba Yang Dapat Anda Manfaatkan Menyingkap Misteri Pulau Besar, Fatimah Az-Zahara Wanita Solehah Sinaran Zaman, Misteri Merong Maha Kuasa dan Penyebaran Islam di Timur 1, Kisah Khalifah Sharif Yang Di-Pertuan Kedah dan Legasinya, 28 Hari: Jurnal Rock n Roll dan Anarki di Kuala Lumpur, Habibi, and Drive Me Wild.

Another list was issued on 30th March, banning Revenge of the Sarong Party Girl, Fifty Shades of Bliss, The Ultimate Guide to Spicing Up Your Sex Life, Pop Psychedelic, Only Two Can Play, Black Men Special Edition, The Loving Touch, The Book of Loving Sex, Nikmatnya Melayari Bahtera Malam Pertama, Pelacur Kelas Pertama dan Nazi Goreng, Kamasutra dan Kecerdasan Seks Modern, When Children Ask About Islam and The Unknown's Answer, Tafsir Al-Usyr: End of Al-Quran Al-Karim Juz, The Gospel of Ali, Live Like a River Flows, and Al-Fatihin. Also included on that list were the June 2014 and November 2014 issues of the US magazine Maxim; and Manifesto Komunis, a translation of The Communist Manifesto.

Previous Malaysian bans have included a 2012 issue of Newsweek magazine, the novel Perempuan Nan Bercinta, and various cartoon books by Zunar. Zunar's Sapuman was banned in October.

Bangkok Screening Room

The Wizard of Oz
Next month, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing the classic Technicolor musical The Wizard of Oz. It will be screened on 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 30th January 2018; and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th February 2018.

My Life, Our Times

My Life, Our Times
Soon after Gordon Brown lost the 2010 UK general election, he wrote Beyond the Crash, his analysis of the causes of the global financial crisis. (A side note: in Thailand, the financial crash is called the 'hamburger crisis', as payback for the 1997 'tom yum goong crisis'.) My Life, Our Times, published last month, is Brown's personal memoir of his time as Chancellor and Prime Minister, though he also devotes plenty of space to the crisis and recovery: "In this book, I write of the greatest test that I faced as prime minister: the gravest financial crisis of our lifetime, and one which could have rapidly gone critical in the form of a sweeping global depression."

Tellingly, there was only a single reference to Tony Blair in Beyond the Crash. In My Life, Our Times, Brown is more forthcoming about their longstanding rivalry, accusing Blair of breaking a promise to resign during his second term as Prime Minister. In his own memoir, A Journey, Blair argued that Brown's Scottishness would be an obstacle to public acceptance, which was odd given that Blair was also a Scot. Brown highlights the double standard: "We could not, he said, have two leaders in a row from Scotland. I reminded him that he too was Scottish... The only difference seemed to me that people knew I was Scottish and assumed he was not."

Brown concedes that he and Blair had disagreements: "Inevitably there were heated words exchanged between us privately." But My Life, Our Times focuses more on policies (tax, the NHS, the euro, Iraq, Afghanistan) than personalities. The 'TB/GB' rows described by Andrew Rawnsley in Servants of the People and The End of the Party are omitted.

78/52 (DVD)

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's documentary 78/52 refers to the (supposed) seventy-eight camera setups and fifty-two shots in the shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. (It could have been called A Long Hard Look at Psycho, but that title was already taken by Raymond Durgnat's book.) After an introduction to Psycho's cultural significance, the documentary analyses the shower scene shot-by-shot: the painting covering the peephole, the "calm before the storm", the three jump-cuts as Marion screams (echoing the monster's first appearance in Frankenstein), and the montage as she is attacked.

Talking heads, all filmed in black-and-white, include Hitchcock scholars Stephen Rebello (author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho), Bill Krohn (author of Hitchcock at Work and Masters of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock), and David Thomson (author of The Moment of Psycho). Philippe's greatest coup is his interview with Marli Renfro, Janet Leigh's body double, who has rarely spoken about her role before. The most revealing contribution comes from Walter Murch (editor of Apocalypse Now), who meticulously deconstructs Hitchcock's editing and camera placement.

This is not the first study of Psycho's shower scene: Philip J. Skerry's book Psycho in the Shower also includes a detailed analysis of the sequence. Surprisingly, Skerry isn't interviewed in 78/52, though his book (like Rebello's) is essential, especially if read alongside Richard J. Anobile's book of Psycho stills. (Leigh has written her own memoir on the film, Psycho: Behind the Scenes of the Classic Thriller; and Hitchcock is a lightly fictionalised account of Psycho's production.)

78/52 includes plenty of clips from Psycho, though it clearly couldn't secure the rights to the original Bernard Herrmann score. It also features short extracts from Laurent Bouzereau's documentary The Making of Psycho. The DVD includes a fascinating extended interview with Philippe, and a booklet with a short written statement by him.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

เทศกาลของขวัญประเทศไทย 2017

เทศกาลของขวัญประเทศไทย 2017
เทศกาลของขวัญประเทศไทย 2017
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre will be hosting an end-of-year event from today until 30th December. เทศกาลของขวัญประเทศไทย 2017 will feature screenings of classic Thai films, including Tongpan (ทองปาน) which is being shown this afternoon.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The Art of Horror Movies

The Art of Horror Movies
The Art of Horror Movies: An Illustrated History, edited by Stephen Jones, is a decade-by-decade survey of horror films, illustrated with vintage film posters and original artwork. There are hundreds of posters, including rare foreign-language versions, though the larger original illustrations are less interesting. The back cover claims that "The Art of Horror is the definitive guide for any fan of horror films" though Phil Hardy's Horror: The Aurum Film Encyclopedia is more comprehensive. There is no bibliography.

The book includes essays by an impressive group of leading horror critics, most notably Christopher Frayling and Kim Newman. Frayling (author of Frankenstein: The First Two Hundred Years) writes about silent horror, such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, "one of the most influential horror films of all time, if not the most influential." Newman (author of Nightmare Movies) covers the 1960s: "Like Psycho, Night of the Living Dead changed not only the way horror films looked and their subject matter, but how they were financed, marketed, and franchised". (Newman wrote similar essays about each decade in Horror: The Definitive Guide to the Cinema of Fear.)

Friday, 22 December 2017

Google Me

Google Me
Lottery winner Gareth Bull has obtained an injunction blocking the sale of a book written by his mistress. Donna Desporté's Google Me: No Lies was published last month, though it can no longer be sold in the UK. A legal precedent was set last year when the UK's Supreme Court ruled that there is "no public interest, however much it may be of interest to some members of the public, in publishing kiss-and-tell stories".

Desporté describes "that faithful day [sic], the day I met Gareth Bull" and their "many nights of champagne and passion". Her self-published book has clearly not been edited or even proof-read: the cover is a typographer's worst nightmare, and there are multiple errors in every single paragraph.


Bangkok Screening Room

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Some Like It Hot
Tomorrow and on Christmas Eve, Bangkok Screening Room will be showing a double bill of Marilyn Monroe classics: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, directed by Howard Hawks, includes Monroe's iconic performance of Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend; it was also shown earlier this year during Scala's World Class Cinema season. Some Like It Hot, directed by Billy Wilder, is one of the greatest comedies ever made.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

The President's Keepers

The President's Keepers
The South African Revenue Service, South Africa's state tax agency, confirmed on 19th December that it is taking legal action against investigative journalist Jacques Pauw. SARS has accused Pauw of publishing confidential tax information in his book The President's Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in Power and Out of Prison. The State Security Agency has sent 'cease and desist' orders to Pauw and his publisher, though the book has not been withdrawn from sale. In fact, it's sales have increased dramatically since the controversy, selling more than 200,000 copies.

There have been numerous graft allegations against Zuma (including 783 cases filed against him before he became President). Pauw's book is the first to meticulously expose the network of corruption surrounding his government, and the legal action by SARS would seem to validate the book's claims. As Pauw writes: "Under his rule, South Africa has become a two-government country. There is an elected government, and there is a shadow government - a state within the state."


Saturday, 16 December 2017

Apichatpong Weekend

Apichatpong Weekend
Apichatpong Weekend
Tropical Malady
Bangkok's Alliance Française is currently hosting a three-day season of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Apichatpong Weekend began yesterday, when Apichatpong introduced eight of his short films: The Anthem (เพลงสรรเสริญ), Trailer for Cindi, Empire, Luminous People (คนเรืองแสง), Monsoon, Cactus River (โขงแล้งน้ำ), Footprints, and Worldly Desires (ความทรงจำในป่า). (There was a brief technical glitch when the projector shut off during Empire.)

Today, at a free event, he will discuss his use of ghosts as characters in his films. After the discussion, he will introduce six more short films: The Anthem, La Punta, Mobile Men, Ablaze, Vampire, and Haunted Houses (บ้านผีสิง). The final event, on 17th December, is arguably the main attraction: a free outdoor screening of Apichatpong's feature film Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด), in 35mm (part of the Echoes of French Cinema season).

Apichatpong has taken part in several similar events in Bangkok over the years, including Metaphors, What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible, Indy Spirit Project, and Apichatpong on Video Works. A decade ago, he introduced a screening of Syndromes and a Century (แสงศตวรรษ) at Alliance Française.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Cinema Winehouse

Die Hard
It's a Wonderful Life
Cinema Winehouse in Bangkok will be screening some festive films this month. The classic action movie Die Hard (which takes place on Christmas Eve) will be shown on 21st December. It's a Wonderful Life, arguably the ultimate Christmas film, will be screened on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Die Hard has influenced most action movies of the past three decades, to the extent that they're pitched as 'Die Hard on a...' (Speed, for example, is Die Hard on a bus.) It's a Wonderful Life has become a Christmas tradition, though this was because its copyright was not renewed, so it could be shown on television every year royalty-free.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok

Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok
A Brighter Summer Day
The Quartier CineArt cinema will host the Taiwan Film Festival in Bangkok next month, from 17th to 28th January 2018. Edward Yang's masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day (牯嶺街少年殺人事件) will be one of ten films in the schedule.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Lines of Thought

Lines of Thought
Last year's Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now exhibition featured seventy-eight drawings from the British Museum, including works by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and Picasso. The exhibition catalogue, by Isabel Seligman, supplements these with a selection of drawings from other collections. The result is a diverse survey of 500 years of drawing, with a historical introduction and subsequent chapters organised thematically.

The Art of Drawing: From the Dawn of History to the Era of the Impressionists, by Richard Kenin, was also illustrated primarily with drawings from the British Museum. Heribert Hutter's earlier Drawing: History and Technique (translated from the German Die Handzeichnung: Entwicklung, Technik, Eigenart) is less comprehensive, though it's notable for its tipped-in and photogravure illustrations.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

"Slurs, innuendo, and hyperbole..."

The Daily Telegraph
Actor Geoffrey Rush is suing The Daily Telegraph for libel. The newspaper, published in Sydney, claimed that Rush "has been accused of "inappropriate behaviour" during Sydney Theatre Company's recent production of King Lear." Its 30th November front page featured the banner headline "KING LEER", and a folo story appeared on the next day's front page. Rush also complained about a poster advertising the paper's coverage of the scandal.

At a press conference in Melbourne yesterday, Rush said: "I have filed defamation proceedings against The Daily Telegraph in the Federal Court of Australia. It is an action I am taking in order to redress the slurs, innuendo, and hyperbole that they have created around my standing in the entertainment industry and in the greater community. The Daily Telegraph has made false, pejorative, and demeaning claims, splattering them with unrelenting bombast on its front pages."

His statement itself seems rather hyperbolic, given that the theatre has acknowledged receiving a complaint against him and the newspaper did not include any details of the allegation. (Ironically, his statement has been widely misquoted in news reports following the press conference.)


Sunday, 3 December 2017


An Egyptian lawyer, Nabih al-Wahsh, has been convicted of inciting sexual assault. He was sentenced to three years in jail and fined the equivalent of $1,000.

The conviction relates to his 19th October appearance on the al-Assema satellite TV show انفراد, on which he said that men had a patriotic duty to rape women who wore revealing clothing. His comments were condemned by the programme's host and other guests.