Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Elect After Election

Elect After Election
Elect After Election
Elect After Election
Elect After Election
The Elect After Election (เลือกแล้วได้อะไร? ประชาธิปไตยไทยหลังการเลือกตั้ง) installation features 750 seats, one for each of Thailand’s MPs and senators. The 500 appointed senators are represented by monoblok chairs, while the 250 elected politicians are symbolised by lowly stools. On the exhibition poster, the senators are depicted as tongue emojis, recalling Rap Against Dictatorship’s single 250 Bootlickers (250 สอพลอ).

In the centre of the installation is a blow-up figure with Prayut Chan-o-cha’s face, absurdly inflating and deflating in time to audio clips of Prayut’s parliamentary speeches. (Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, was appointed PM by the rubber-stamp National Legislative Assembly, and was reappointed after the 24th March election thanks to the votes of the hand-picked senators.)

Elect After Election was organised by Elect, a new NGO that aims to increase Thai public interest in politics and democracy. The exhibition opened yesterday at BACC in Bangkok, and will close on 1st September.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut
Eyes Wide Shut: Stanley Kubrick and the Making of His Final Film examines the production and legacy of Eyes Wide Shut, twenty years after its theatrical release. Authors Robert P. Kolker and Nathan Abrams make effective use of files from the Stanley Kubrick Archive, comparing script drafts and using production reports to create a detailed account of the extended filming process. (Frederic Raphael’s self-serving memoir Eyes Wide Open is also a major source.) Endnotes are included, though they are not numbered in the body text, thus phrases such as “Cruise says” misleadingly imply that Tom Cruise (for example) spoke to the authors personally.

The book’s second half, dealing with Eyes Wide Shut’s post-production and release, is less impressive than the first. There are only two paragraphs devoted to the editing process, and Kubrick’s editing notes are dismissed as “gobbledygook.” The film was censored to comply with MPAA regulations, though the authors were unable to confirm how this was decided: “whether Kubrick intended to do this remains the subject of some controversy.” (The soundtrack was also changed, for the film’s European theatrical release and all video versions, though the book makes no mention of this.)

Kubrick died during post-production, and the book leaves key questions relating to posthumous editorial decisions unresolved. Most remarkably, the film’s state of incompletion at the time of Kubrick’s death is dealt with under the subheading “The Irrelevant Question”. Such matters are dismissed as mere trivialities: “Whether it might have been different in some small way is ultimately irrelevant and certainly counterproductive to our understanding of the film and the pleasure we take from it.” This is a pretty extraordinary statement, given Kubrick’s meticulous attention to detail.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

The Textening

Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Four American media companies have been fined by the Federal Communications Commission after unauthorised broadcasts of the emergency alert system tone. The tone, which is similar to an SMS notification, can only be broadcast on television or radio in the event of a genuine emergency, and the FCC argued that its use in entertainment shows could lead to “alert fatigue” and public dismissal of genuine emergency alerts, resulting in “a substantial threat to public safety.”

The ABC network received the largest fine, $395,000, as a 3rd October 2018 episode of the late-night comedy show Jimmy Kimmel Live! included a parody of the emergency alert. Its spoof trailer, The Textening, featured nine uses of the alert tone.

AMC was fined $104,000, as it featured the alert in an episode of the horror series The Walking Dead (Omega, broadcast on 17th February). Meruelo Radio received a $67,000 fine, as a spoof alert tone appeared in trailers on its California radio station KDAY on 8th September 2017. Animal Planet was fined $68,000, as an episode of its reality TV series Lone Star Law (Thousand Year Flood, shown on 21st January 2018) also featured the alert tone. In that case, the alert was a genuine emergency message about Hurricane Harvey, though the show was broadcast several months after the storm.


Monday, 12 August 2019

100 Must-See Films

100 Must-See Films
On 7th July, the Sunday People newspaper (a UK tabloid) published 100 Must-See Films, an eight-page supplement listing “the top 100 films of all time.” The list, compiled by Karen Rockett, does not include any silent or foreign-language entries.



By the River
Soil Without Land
When the Lido cinema closed in 2018, after fifty years, you could have been forgiven for thinking that it would become yet another shopping mall. After all, that’s precisely what happened to the iconic Siam cinema on the same street. However, Lido reopened this month, not as a mall but as a revamped arts venue, Lido Connect.

The old Lido cinema was known for showing independent films, and fortunately this tradition will continue, as one of Lido’s screening rooms has been retained. (In fact, aside from a snazzy new facade, the building is structurally unchanged.) Doc Club Theater will now screen films at Lido Connect in addition to their existing venue at Warehouse 30. One of their first screenings will be Underdocs, a day-long retrospective of documentaries by Nontawat Numbenchapol, on 17th August. Nontawat will introduce each film, and will also take part in post-screenings discussions.

Underdocs begins with Nontawat’s Boundary (ฟ้าต่ำแผ่นดินสูง), which documents the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia when the disputed Preah Vihear Temple was exploited for nationalist political gain. The issue was so sensitive that the director couldn’t even reveal his identity while filming at the temple. As he told me in an interview: “I could not tell anyone in Cambodia that I’m Thai, because it would be hard to shoot. I had to tell everybody I’m Chinese-American... My name was Thomas in Cambodia.” Boundary will also be shown at Warehouse 30, on 31st August; 6th, 12th, and 18th September, 7th and 16th October; and 5th and 13th November.

Nontawat’s second documentary, By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ), is the second of three films showing as part of Underdocs. The film highlights the effects of lead pollution in the water of Lower Klity Creek in Kanchanaburi; when fishermen complained about poisoned fish, the local government simply told them to “find something else to eat.” The film’s subject is no less controversial than that of Boundary, as mining companies filed defamation lawsuits in 2016 and 2017 after similar investigations into water pollution. (The first case was dismissed, and the second was settled out of court.) By the River will also be shown at Warehouse 30, on 8th and 11th October.

The final film in the Underdocs trilogy is Nontawat’s latest work, Soil Without Land (ดินไร้แดน). Boundary explored the Thai-Cambodia border dispute through the experience of a newly conscripted soldier (identified only by his nickname, Aod), and Soil Without Land takes a similar approach, documenting Jai Sang Lod’s conscription into the Shan State army. The Shan are persecuted in Myanmar, and are denied refugee status in neighboring Thailand.

Sunday, 11 August 2019

12 Classics

12 Classics
Pulp Fiction
Tokyo Story
House Rama, Bangkok’s first arthouse cinema, is moving at the end of this month. When House opened twelve years ago at RCA, the area was one of Bangkok’s most popular nightlife destinations, though it has become increasingly neglected following the gentrification of numerous other districts in the city. In that time, there has also been a significant expansion of indie cinemas in Bangkok, including Cinema Oasis, Bangkok Screening Room, and the members-only Friese-Greene Club.

House will open at its new location, Samyan Mitrtown, in September. To celebrate its relocation, it will be screening a classic film each month for the next year. The 12 Classics season includes Woody Allen’s Manhattan, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (東京物語). The season starts with Pulp Fiction, from 26th to 29th September, and it will also be shown at Bangkok Screening Room, on 14th September.

Next year, the season concludes with Manhattan and Tokyo Story. Manhattan will be screened from 9th to 15th July, and then from 26th July to 5th August. Tokyo Story will be shown on 25th and 26th July, and from 1st to 19th August.

Cut and Paste

Cut and Paste
The Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage exhibition is currently showing at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The scholarly exhibition catalogue describes the show as “the first historical survey exhibition of collage ever held” and the catalogue itself as “the first publication to look at the broad history of collage.” (For good measure, the back cover calls the catalogue “the first historical survey book ever published on the subject.”) In fact, neither the exhibition nor the catalogue represent the first surveys of collage in art history, though they are both more wide-ranging than previous histories of the technique.

The standard accounts of collage trace its origins to 1912, and the newspaper cuttings appliquéd to Cubist paintings by Picasso and Braque. Cut and Paste, however, antedates the technique by 400 years, and Patrick Elliott's fascinating catalogue essay demonstrates the extent and variety of pre-Cubist collage. Nineteenth and early twentieth century collages are also discussed in the first chapter of Herta Wescher’s Collage which, with its tipped-in colour plates, remains the definitive work on the subject. A more recent history, Brandon Taylor’s Collage, covers the twentieth century and - like the Cut and Paste catalogue - includes an extensive bibliography.