04 July 2023

Kings of the Road

Kings of the Road

The classic Kings of the Road (Im Lauf der Zeit) is showing at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok this month. An early film by German new wave (das neue Kino) pioneer Wim Wenders, it was previously screened at a Wenders retrospective at the Thai Film Archive in 2016.

Kings of the Road will be shown on 6th, 7th, 10th, 11th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, and 26th July; and 1st, 9th, and 22nd August. On 8th July, it’s being shown as part of a triple bill along with two other Wenders titles, which have become known as his road movie trilogy.

30 June 2023

From Forest to City

From Forest to City

Chatchawal Thongjun’s powerful short film From Forest to City (อรัญนคร) begins with an epigraph by Kittivuddho Bhikku, an influential Buddhist monk: “Killing a communist is not a sin.” This infamous quote gave nationalist paramilitary groups a licence to kill and, a few months later, they invaded Thammasat University’s campus and lynched dozens of students. The monk’s words—taken from an interview he gave to จัตุรัส (‘square’) magazine on 29th June 1976—also appear in Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) and Manussak Dokmai’s short film Don’t Forget Me (อย่าลืมฉัน), and artist Sutee Kunavichayanont rendered the quotation as calligram.

From Forest to City is a black-and-white drama in three parts, narrated by a woman who survived the Thammasat massacre and joined the Communist insurgency. In the first part, smoke billowing from an oil drum signifies the hundreds of suspected Communists who were, as Anocha Suwichakornpong’s film By the Time It Gets Dark (ดาวคะนอง) explains, “set on fire in oil barrels.” In part two, comparing 1976 to the present day, the narrator regrets that Thailand hasn’t changed. Society remains irreconcilably divided, between student protesters and the conservative establishment.

Although the film is black-and-white, there are two flashes of colour: a red folding chair, and a yellow t-shirt. Thanks to Neal Ulevich’s famous photograph of a man beating a corpse with a folding chair, this single item of furniture has come to symbolise the entire Thammasat massacre. The yellow t-shirt in an otherwise black-and-white shot recalls Chai Chaiyachit and Chisanucha Kongwailap’s short film Re-presentation (ผีมะขาม ไพร่ฟ้า ประชาธิปไตย ในคืนที่ลมพัดหวน), in which the yellow t-shirts worn by monarchists are the only objects shown in colour.

From Forest to City Re-presentation

In part three, From Forest to City switches gear with a documentary montage of various dramatic episodes from modern Thai history: the Thammasat massacre, armoured personnel carriers demolishing red-shirt protest camps, riot police firing water cannon at students in Siam Square, and Arnon Nampa’s Harry Potter-themed protest. In an echo of Prap Boonpan’s sadly prophetic short film The Bangkok Bourgeois Party (ความลักลั่นของงานรื่นเริง), a yellow-shirt mob is seen attacking a pro-reform protester.

The montage of news footage is set incongruously to รักกันไว้เถิด (‘let’s love each other’), a Cold War propaganda song whose lyrics call for national unity. This technique—the ironic juxtaposition of uplifting music and images of state violence—has been used in several documentaries, including The Terrorists, This Area Is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน; also from Thunska), and บันทึกสีดำ (‘black record’).

20 June 2023

Cigar Aficionado

Cigar Aficionado

This month’s issue of Cigar Aficionado magazine (vol. 31, no. 4) is dedicated to classic movies, and includes a poll of readers’ favourite films. The magazine surveyed “a random group of readers”—presumably a small sample of subscribers—25% of whom voted for The Godfather. (The other films in the top ten list received less than 10% each.)

Cigar Aficionado has an older, male readership, and the magazine proclaimed The Godfather “the Greatest Film Ever Made” in a cover story last year, so the poll result was fairly predictable. Garrett Rutledge conducted the poll and, as he admits in the magazine, “we can’t say we’re all that surprised.”

Cigar Aficionado readers’ top ten films are as follows:

1. The Godfather
2. Casablanca
3. GoodFellas
4. The Shawshank Redemption / The Sting
6. Gladiator / Tombstone
8. The Godfather Part II / Heat / The Longest Day

16 June 2023

The Political Wanderer

The Political Wanderer

Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia and Koraphat Cheeradit’s Yesterday Is Another Day will be screened next month as part of The Political Wanderer, a programme of short films at Silpakorn University’s Faculty of Information and Communication Technology. The screening, at Silpakorn’s Muang Thong Thani campus, will take place on 26th July. Nostalgia was previously shown at Future Fest 2023, the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26), and Wildtype 2022. Weerapat is also the director of Zombie Citizens.

15 June 2023

Cremation Ceremony

Cremation Ceremony

The faces of three politicians stare impassively at the viewer. The three men—Anutin Charnvirakul, Minister of Public Health; Abhisit Vejjajiva, former prime minister; and coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha—are responsible for three tragic injustices. Anutin oversaw the Thai government’s initially sluggish response to the coronavirus pandemic. Abhisit authorised the shooting of red-shirt protesters in 2010. Prayut’s government has revived lèse-majesté prosecutions, and dissidents who fled overseas have disappeared.

In his short film Cremation Ceremony (ประวัติย่อของบางสิ่งที่หายไป), Vichart Somkaew sets fire to photographs of the three men, their faces distorting as the photographic paper burns. There is no sound except the crackling of the flame. This symbolic ritual is a reminder of the deaths of Covid victims, red-shirt protesters, and political dissidents, though it’s also a metaphorical act of retribution, as the three politicians have faced no consequences for their actions. (Anutin is a billionaire, Abhisit was cleared of all charges, and Prayut acts with total impunity.)

While the three portraits burn slowly, captions mourn the forgotten victims: red-shirts shot while sheltering in Wat Pathum Wanaram, political prisoners charged under article 112, and—most heartbreakingly—victims of the coronavirus. Arnon Nampa’s speech calling for reform of the monarchy is also summarised in the captions, and the film ends on an optimistic note: a final caption explains that pro-democracy parties “emerged victorious” in last month’s election. (Of course, the democratic coalition still faces plenty of hurdles before it can form a government.)

Cremation Ceremony’s Thai title is similar to that of Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s short film A Brief History of Memory (ประวัติศาสตร์ขนาดย่อของความทรงจำ), which also mourned the victims of political violence. The short film New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่) also criticised the government’s flawed Covid response. The documentaries Democracy after Death (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย) and The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) also held Abhisit culpable for the 2010 massacre. The exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย) also highlighted the fate of exiled dissidents.

Cremation Ceremony will be shown at the AEY Space gallery in Songkla on 14th July and at Lorem Ipsum in Hat Yai on the following day. It will then be screened at the University of Phayao on 22nd August, as part of a programme organised by their Innovative Learning Institute.

14 June 2023

Apocalypse Now:
The Lost Photo Archive

Apoclaypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive

Photojournalist Chas Gerretsen’s picture of Augusto Pinochet, posing in sunglasses after launching a coup in Chile, is one of the most iconic political portraits. Gerretsen is also known for his work as a stills photographer on the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and his images of that film appear in Apocalypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive. (The book’s subtitle is a publisher’s embellishment, as Gerretsen’s archive is held at the Nederlands Fotomuseum, as seen in the documentary short Dutch Angle: Chas Gerretsen and Apocalypse Now.)

Peter Cowie’s Apocalypse Now: The Book is the definitive guide to the making of the film, though its illustrations look no better than photocopies. The Lost Photo Archive, with its full-page, colour images, is an excellent visual companion to Cowie’s book. Coppola provided a rather ambivalent blurb for The Lost Photo Archive, disputing some of Gerretsen’s recollections—“I don’t remember many of the things talked about in this text quite in the same way”—but he also praised “Chas’s stunning photos”.

Apoclaypse Now: The Lost Photo Archive

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, one of the greatest behind-the-scenes films ever made, documents the making of Coppola’s masterpiece. The work of another stills photographer, Steve Schapiro, appears in two books published by Taschen: Taxi Driver and The Godfather Family Album. Hollywood Movie Stills, by Joel W. Finler, is a history of stills photography.

01 June 2023

Zombie Citizens

Zombie Citizens

Weerapat Sakolvaree’s short documentary Zombie Citizens, like his earlier film Nostalgia, links the recent student protest movement with Thailand’s violent political history. Zombie Citizens begins with captions explaining that a Free Youth march on 7th August 2021 was rerouted after roads leading to the Grand Palace were blocked with shipping containers. Weerapat also filmed at Thammasat University on 6th October 2021, the 45th anniversary of a massacre that took place on the campus in 1976.

When Free Youth were denied entry to the Grand Palace grounds, they marched instead to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s residence, and riot police fired rubber bullets to disperse them. Zombie Citizens doesn’t document the violent clashes between protesters and police; instead, the film is eerily quiet, as the shipping containers block any traffic and the roads are almost deserted. The title hints at the state’s attitude towards the protesters, as shipping containers were also used to prevent zombie attacks in World War Z.

Shots of the Royal Hotel evoke another violent episode, the 1992 ‘Black May’ massacre, when the hotel lobby was used as a makeshift field hospital. The hotel and the university campus have become what Dutch artist Armando called ‘guilty landscapes’, bearing silent witness to past violence. Taiki Sakpisit’s short film A Ripe Volcano (ภูเขาไฟพิโรธ) and Thunska Pansittivorakul’s documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล) also include sequences filmed at the Royal Hotel, again alluding to ‘Black May’.

A few minutes before it finishes, Zombie Citizens switches into reverse. The film runs backwards—a metaphor for the regressive, cyclical nature of Thai politics?—and View from the Bus Tour’s single Sun Rises When Day Breaks (ลิ่วล้อ) plays on the soundtrack. (The song was released on the forty-fifth anniversary of the Thammasat massacre.)

Nostalgia ended with a shot of the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall seen from behind iron railings, after the building was closed to the public by royal decree. Similarly, Zombie Citizens shows Sanam Luang through barbed wire and the Grand Palace glimpsed from behind shipping containers. The state has battened down the hatches, and this is perhaps the calm before the storm.

25 May 2023

Red Poetry

Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s film Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will be shown in Chiang Mai tomorrow morning. The feature-length documentary follows the activities of performance artist Vitthaya Klangnil, who formed the group Artn’t with fellow student Yotsunthon Ruttapradit. Vitthaya is shown carving “112” into his chest, in protest at the lèse-majesté (article 112) charges they faced after they exhibited a modified version of the Thai flag in 2021.

Red Poetry is screening on 26th May at Chiang Mai University Art Center, as part of the Cinemata Big Screen: Stories of Solidarity film festival. It was previously shown at Suan Anya in Chiang Mai earlier this year, and a shorter version—Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้)—was shown last year at Wildtype 2022. Cinemata Big Screen began on 22nd May and ends tomorrow.

11 May 2023

Warner Bros. 100

The Wizard of Oz

Two Hollywood classics, Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz, are returning to cinemas in Bangkok on general release as part of Warner Bros. 100, marking the centenary of the Warner Bros. studio. They will be shown by Thailand’s two national cinema chains (Major Cineplex and SF Cinema), and at House Samyan, with The Wizard of Oz opening today followed by Casablanca on 18th May.

The Wizard of Oz, one of the most iconic films ever made, was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2018, 2019, and 2020. It’s also been screened at the Scala, Cinema Winehouse, Bangkok Community Theatre, and Jam Café. Casablanca, arguably the greatest (and surely the most quotable) Hollywood movie of all time, was previously screened at the Scala, at Bangkok Screening Room, and (in 35mm) at the Lido.

29 April 2023

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (blu-ray)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Sergio Leone’s epic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo) is the greatest ‘spaghetti western’ ever made, though it has a long and convoluted editing history, with three different cuts supervised by Leone and numerous revisions by MGM. The most recent 4k restoration rectifies most of the problems with previous releases, though the only completely authentic presentation of the international theatrical version is on laserdisc.

When the film premiered in 1966 in Italy, it included a sequence set in a grotto, which was deleted by Leone for pacing reasons before the general theatrical release. Then, in 1967, Leone removed more than ten minutes of footage for the international version. VHS and laserdisc releases were direct transfers of the original theatrical versions, but later DVDs, blu-rays, and UHDs are restorations and reconstructions, all of which are compromised to some extent.

MGM first attempted to reconstruct the international theatrical version for a 1998 DVD release, though some sequences were sourced from Italian prints, leading to inconsistencies with the 1967 version. In 2002, MGM created a new, extended version utilising all extant footage, including the grotto sequence that Leone himself had removed before the Italian theatrical release. This 2002 version also featured new foley effects and newly looped dialogue in some scenes.

For blu-ray and DVD releases in 2014, MGM remastered their extended version and altered the colour grading, adding an incongruous yellow tint to the image. The extended version was remastered again for new blu-rays and DVDs in 2017, when the yellow tint was removed. 2017 also marked MGM’s second reconstruction of the international theatrical version, though this followed the flawed template of their 1998 attempt.

The film was released on 4k UHD and blu-ray in 2021, and this time MGM created an almost flawless reconstruction of the international theatrical version (the only inconsistencies being in the title sequence). Reconstruction credits were added to the end credits sequence of this release, and to all UHD, blu-ray, and DVD editions released since 2002.

26 April 2023

Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey

Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey

The Thai Film Archive at Salaya will screen a season of gay films thoughout May and June, under the Thai Queer Cinema Odyssey (การเดินทางของหนังเควียร์ไทย) banner. This will be a rare chance to see the pioneering films of the 1980s—The Last Song (เพลงสุดท้าย), Anguished Love (รักทรมาน), and I Am a Man (ฉันผู้ชายนะยะ)—that constituted the first wave of Thai queer cinema. Also, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit’s Insects in the Backyard (อินเซค อินเดอะ แบ็คยาร์ด) will be shown on 17th and 30th June. The highlights of the season, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (สัตว์ประหลาด) and Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Mundane History (เจ้านกกระจอก), will both be screened in 35mm. (Tropical Malady will be shown on 24th and 30th June, and Mundane History on 20th and 28th July.)

Insects in the Backyard

Insects in the Backyard premiered at the World Film Festival of Bangkok in 2010, though requests for a general theatrical release were denied, making it the first film formally banned under the Film and Video Act of 2008. When the censors vetoed a screening at the Thai Film Archive in 2010, Tanwarin cremated a DVD of the film, in a symbolic funeral. (The ashes are kept in an urn at the Thai Film Museum.) Tanwarin appealed to the National Film Board, which upheld the ban, so she sued the censors in the Administrative Court.

As Tanwarin explained in an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, the censors condemned the entire film: “When we asked the committee who considered the film which scenes constituted immorality, they simply said that they thought every scene is immoral”. When she appealed to the Film Board, they were equally dismissive: “we were told by one of the committee members that we should have made the film in a ‘good’ way. This was said as if we did not know how to produce a good movie, and no clear explanation was given.”

On Christmas Day 2015, the Administrative Court ruled that Insects in the Backyard could be released if a single shot was removed. (The three-second shot shows a hardcore clip from a gay porn video.) Although the film was censored, the verdict represented a victory of sorts, as the court dismissed the censors’ view that the film was immoral. Following the court’s ruling, it was shown at House Rama, Bangkok Screening Room, Sunandha Rajabhat University, ChangChui, and Lido Connect. It was shown at the Thai Film Archive in 2018 and 2020.

Tropical Malady

Internationally, Tropical Malady is one of Apichatpong’s most acclaimed films, though it had rather lacklustre distribution in Thailand. In a Thai Cinema Uncensored interview, he discussed its disappointing domestic theatrical release: “I think, from Tropical Malady, there’s this issue of releasing the film, and marketing, that I don’t like. And also the studio was not interested in the film, anyway, because there’s no selling point: there’s no tiger, there’s no sex, so it’s very personal.”

Tropical Malady: The Book, a deluxe coffee-table book published in 2019, raised the film’s Thai profile. It was previously shown in 35mm at Alliance Française, and it has been screened several times at the Thai Film Archive, including in 2009 and 2018.

Mundane History

Mundane History was the first Thai film to receive the restrictive ‘20’ age rating, though similar content has since been passed with an ‘18’ certificate. One of the greatest of all Thai films, it was previously screened at Warehouse 30 in 2018 and at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017. Anocha’s Krabi, 2562 (กระบี่ ๒๕๖๒) will also be shown at the Archive, on 15th and 26th August.

18 April 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

When the Thai horror film Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์) faced censorship and a restrictive ‘20’ rating, its distributors announced a plan to release it simultaneously in two versions: Hoon Payon—with the ‘20’ rating imposed by the censors—and Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์), with a lower ‘18’ rating though paradoxically four minutes longer. Both versions contain the same level of violence, which is much less than that of many other Thai horror films—such as the gory Art of the Devil II (ลองของ), for example, which was passed by the censors before the rating system existed—making the ‘20’ rating seem rather punitive.

Mindful of how monk characters have often been censored in Thai films (as discussed in Thai Cinema Uncensored), the studio had already taken precautions at the script stage. The film stresses that the abbot (Luang Nha) and his accomplice (Tudd), who are ultimately responsible for the black magic at the heart of the plot, are not real monks. As another monk (Gla) tells the abbot: “You are never ordained to become a monk” [sic]. Similarly, the film revolves around a local superstition, not the Buddhist religion. The various killings are carried out—spoiler alert—by a lay character (Tae), a novice (Kun), and a monk (Tee), though the novice and monk are possessed spirits, not living people.

Despite this, the censors initially required edits to several scenes in Hoon Payon before granting the ‘20’ rating: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed inappropriate.

After negotiations between the censors and the film studio, some of this ‘unacceptable’ material was cut, though some remains intact (in both versions). The novices—and, indeed, the full-fledged monks—still have eyebrows, as presumably it was too expensive to remove them all with CGI. Novices are shown swearing (“Hia!”/“Shit!”). One novice (Kun) bullies a young boy (Tae), calling him a “retard”. Another novice (Breeze) hugs his mother, comforting and protecting her. The second Buddhist precept (“stealing is a sin”) is recited by Tae while he hangs a monk (Tudd) for stealing temple funds.

Pook Payon

Pook Payon

As part of its marketing campaign, the studio claimed on Facebook: “ไม่ตัดฉาก!!” (‘no scenes cut!!’), and it’s true that no entire scenes have been removed, though some individual shots have been censored. In both versions, the intensity of the bullying scene has been reduced: shots of Kun spoon-feeding Tae, and the protagonist (Tham) raising his fists to fight the bully, have both been replaced with reaction shots. The temple sign has also been changed, using CGI: the original sign (“วัดเทพพยนต์”/‘Teppayon temple’) became “เทพพยนต์” (‘Teppayon’). But although the sign was modified, the soundtrack wasn’t: in both versions, the Thai dialogue (“วัดเทพพยนต์”) and the English subtitles (“Teppayon temple”) use the temple’s full name.

Most of the extra footage in Pook Payon is barely noticeable, even after watching both versions back-to-back. But in the most conspicuous additional scene, clearly tacked on to appease the censors—with earnest, didactic dialogue, out of place in a horror film—a lay character (Jate) resolves to become a monk, and Gla tells him: “Becoming a monk is good... it’s best that we hold onto Buddhism.” Jate answers with equal sincerity: “That’s right. I’ll always support Buddhism.” Amen!

30 March 2023

Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship

Anatomy of Time / Come Here / Worship, published this week, explores the making of three recent independent Thai films: Jakrawal Nilthamrong’s Anatomy of Time (เวลา), Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Come Here (ใจจำลอง), and Uruphong Raksasad’s Worship (บูชา). The book gives a valuable insight into the creation of each film: Anatomy of Time is particularly well covered, with a production diary, director interview, and the complete script; there are also long essays by the directors of Come Here and Worship. Early copies of the book come with film posters, and all copies include links to watch the three films online.

Anatomy of Time made headlines this week as, despite its critical acclaim, it was excluded from consideration for the Suphannahong National Film Awards. The awards organisers, the National Federation of Motion Pictures and Contents Associations, now require films to sell a minimum of 50,000 cinema tickets in at least five provinces, to be eligible for awards nomination. These commercial stipulations effectively remove independent films from awards contention.

27 March 2023

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์), the horror film whose theatrical release was blocked by Thai censors, will be released next month in an edited version, retitled Pook Payon (ปลุกพยนต์). The censors originally gave Hoon Payon a restrictive ‘20’ rating, requiring audiences to show ID before admittance, which director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon described as crazy (“บบ้าตาย”) in a Facebook post on 9th March. Pook Payon, on the other hand, has been rated ‘18’ after an extra four minutes of contextualising footage was added.

The National Film and Video Committee initially required several edits to Hoon Payon before permitting its release: novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows (as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination), and references to the Wat Teppayon temple were also deemed unacceptable.

Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon Hoon Payon / Pook Payon

The case echoes that of Karma, a previous Thai horror film that was also retitled to appease the censors; its Thai title was changed from Arbat (อาบัติ) to Arpat (อาปัติ). Pook Payon will be released on 12th April, and Hoon Payon, with its ‘20’ rating, will be released on the same day. (The studio has published before and after shots online to illustrate the changes.) The only precedent for the simultaneous release strategy is the thriller In the Shadow of Naga (นาคปรก), which was also released in both ‘18’ and ‘20’-rated versions.

Five Star, the studio behind Pook Payon, is one of Thailand’s most prestigious film production companies—releasing critically acclaimed films by auteur directors like Wisit Sasanatieng and Pen-ek Ratanaruang—though in commercial terms it remains dwarfed by major studios such as Sahamongkol. In an interview for Thai Cinema Uncensored, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul contrasted his experience of censorship with that of Pen-ek: Apichatpong’s film Blissfully Yours (สุดเสน่หา) was distributed by Sahamongkol, and thus received lenient treatment from the censors, while Pen-ek’s Ploy (พลอย)—a Five Star release—was given no such concessions.

25 March 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues its weekly cult film screenings tomorrow with Katsuhiro Otomo’s animated cyberpunk masterpiece Akira (アキラ). Previous films in the open-air Arcadia Rooftop Cinema programme have included 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’), Videodrome, and Alien. Akira was shown at another Bangkok venue in 2019, alongside Arcadia’s signature film, Blade Runner.

10 March 2023

Hoon Payon

The release of Hoon Payon (หุ่นพยนต์), a new Thai horror film, has been postponed after it was censored by the National Film and Video Committee. The censors required five edits to the film before permitting its release: references to the Wat Teppaton temple, novice monks fighting and swearing while wearing saffron robes, novices bullying another young boy, a novice hugging his mother, and the recitation of one of the Buddhist precepts during a murder scene. They also raised concerns about the actors playing novices all having eyebrows, as monks are required to shave their body hair before ordination.

Some of the censors’ concerns are in line with the censorship of previous Thai films featuring Buddhist monks: Karma, for example, was also censored for its misbehaving monks and for physical contact between a monk and a woman. (Thai Cinema Uncensored discusses the almost 100-year relationship between Buddhism and banned films.) The censors’ objection to the novices’ eyebrows, on the other hand, seems over-sensitive and inconsistent. Mario Maurer, for instance, was not required to shave his eyebrows for his starring role as a monk in The Outrage (อุโมงค์ผาเมือง).

Hoon Payon

Hoon Payon had its premiere at Major Cineplex Ratchayothin on 7th March, followed by a post-screening discussion with director Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon. Its theatrical release is now on hold, as the studio considers the censors’ verdict. Even if the required cuts were made, the film would receive a restrictive ‘20’ rating, requiring audiences to show ID before admittance, which Phontharis described as crazy (“บบ้าตาย”) in a post on Facebook yesterday. The Thai Film Director Association issued a statement yesterday, calling for an amendment to the Film and Video Act designating the National Film and Video Committee as purely a ratings body without the authority to cut or ban films.

07 March 2023

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues this weekend with another classic film. After 2001: A Space Odyssey, Die Hard, Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’), Blade Runner, and Videodrome—all screened in the past few months—comes Ridley Scott’s SF-horror masterpiece Alien, showing on 12th March.

The Greatest Films of All Time

Sight and Sound

Last year, Sight and Sound published the results of its Greatest Films of All Time survey. Ever since 1952, the magazine has polled film critics around the world every ten years, to compile authoritative lists of the ten greatest films ever made. In 2012, for the first time, they expanded their list to include 100 titles, and their 2022 poll was also initially published as a list of 100 films. Now, last year’s list has been expanded further, to 250 films, printed as a checklist on pp. 50–53 of the new April issue (vol. 33, no. 3).

27 February 2023

The Visible Woman:
Selected Works of Chantal Akerman

The Thai Film Archive in Salaya will hold a mini retrospective of films by Chantal Akerman on 23rd April. The Visible Woman: Selected Works of Chantal Akerman begins with a rare screening of the director’s feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, which was recently voted the greatest film of all time in a poll conducted by Sight and Sound magazine.

เปี๊ยกโปสเตอร์ 90+
(‘Piak Poster 90+’)

เปี๊ยกโปสเตอร์ 90+ (‘Piak Poster 90+’), an exhibition celebrating the 90th birthday of director Somboonsuk Niyomsiri, opened at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 18th October last year and runs until 19th March. The exhibition is accompanied by a retrospective of Somboonsuk’s films, culminating with screenings of his classic debut feature A Man Called Tone (โทน) on 7th and 19th March.

The release of A Man Called Tone in 1970 was a turning point in Thai cinema history. Filmed in widescreen 35mm, it marked the end of the 16mm era, a formulaic mode of production that had dominated the industry for the previous twenty years. Stylistically, its modern approach to characterisation, acting, narrative, music, and cinematography was equally groundbreaking. It was shown last year at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok, though a gala screening at the Scala cinema in 2020 was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Somboonsuk, known as Piak Poster, is also one of Thailand’s most prolific poster artists, and those who emerged after him were either taught by him or influenced by his style. He ran his studio like a Renaissance workshop, creating posters bearing the master’s signature—effectively a brand logo for his studio—yet produced by apprentices under his supervision. The poster for A Man Called Tone, for example, is signed by Somboonsuk though it was painted by Banhan Thaitanaboon.