27 November 2021

The Art of Destruction: The Vienna Action Group in Film, Performance and Revolt


The Art of Destruction

The Art of Destruction: The Vienna Action Group in Film, Performance and Revolt is the most comprehensive English-language study of the Vienna Action Group, the transgressive performance artists whose work explored “the body’s determinedly expelled elements: semen, excrement, urine and blood.” The book was first published in 2004, as Art of Destruction: The Films of the Vienna Action Group; the second edition was published last year.

Author Stephen Barber profiles each artist—Otto Muehl, Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler—individually, and analyses the films they made with experimental filmmakers including Kurt Kren. Amusingly, he claims that Brus was “habitually shy and polite,” which is, to put it mildly, inconsistent with the artist’s role in Kunst und Revolution (‘art and revolution’): “Before several hundred spectators, he undressed completely, incised his chest with a razor, urinated into a cup and drank it... he then reclined on his side, coated in excrement, and sang the Austrian national anthem.”

Muehl’s performances were equally provocative, and he was jailed alongside Brus after Kunst und Revolution. In Oh Sensibility, which Barber describes as “Muehl’s most notorious film”, a goose is decapitated. After initially filming various performances (or ‘actions’), rendered semi-abstract by rapid editing, Kren’s role became increasingly participatory, and he appeared with Muehl in orgiastic performances such as Scheißkerl (whose title is a German pejorative).

The book includes a complete filmography, which is essential as most Vienna Action Group films—aside from Kren’s Action Films DVD—remain unavailable. When they were screened at Warwick University twenty years ago, my partner and I were the only ones in attendance, so the projectionist played the 16mm reels in the order we requested, starting with Kren’s notorious 20. September. (That film inspired Vasan Sitthiket’s equally scatological video There Must Be Something Happen [sic].)

17 November 2021

A Day


A Day

The new issue of A Day magazine (volume 22, number 250) was published yesterday. The issue is entirely devoted to Apichatpong Weerasethakul, under the theme of “Apichatpong’s Universe”. It includes an interview with me about film censorship, on pages 216-219.

PDF

03 November 2021

Transgressive Cinema


Un chien andalou

Un chien andalou, released almost a century ago, begins with one of the most horrific images in film history. There is a disconnect between the film’s antiquity and its graphic imagery, though what is most shocking is that the violence is clearly authentic: we see a razor slicing a real (bovine) eye.

The breaking of taboos on screen is all the more transgressive if the act is unsimulated. I’ve written an introduction to the representation of real death, sex, and bodily emissions in cinema, followed by a comprehensive filmography.

PDF

28 October 2021

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die


1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

The 2021 edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die was published this month. The first edition, edited by Steven Jay Schneider in 2003, was reprinted with minor revisions in 2004, and the book has been updated annually ever since (in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020).

Eleven new films have been added to year’s edition, representing only 1% of the total list. With a single exception, the new entries were all released in the last few years: Tenet, The Vast of Night, The Assistant, Rocks, Saint Maud, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Soul, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Lovers Rock, and Nomadland. Again, with one exception, the corresponding deletions are all from the past decade: Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers Endgame (combined into a single entry), Birdman, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, The Handmaiden (아가씨), 13th, Blade Runner 2049, The Favourite, Hereditary, Sorry to Bother You, and Monos.

The exceptions are Lamerica from 1994 and The Blue Kite (藍風箏) from 1993. In last year’s edition, The Blue Kite was mysteriously deleted and replaced by Lamerica. This year, that decision has been reversed: Lamerica is out, and The Blue Kite is back in. Ian Haydn Smith, editor of recent editions, notes in his preface that the coronavirus pandemic resulted in “a multitude of smaller titles from around the world” gaining releases on streaming platforms, though the new entries in this edition are all English-language films (with The Blue Kite again being the only anomaly).

PDF

27 October 2021

Nang Nak


Nang Nak

To celebrate Halloween, there will be a free screening of Nang Nak (นางนาก) at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 31st October. Nonzee Nimibutr’s horror classic broke domestic box-office records and became one of the key films of the Thai New Wave. It’s also arguably the most famous adaptation of the Mae Nak ghost story. It was shown at Lido Connect last Halloween, though the upcoming Thai Film Archive screening will be a rare opportunity to see it in 35mm.

25 October 2021

Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds


Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds

Who is Viriyaporn Boonprasert? She has submitted quite a few films to the Thai Short Film Festival, though the organisers have no idea who she is. Her short films, with their ironic juxtapositions of found footage, satirise the elitism and nationalism of the Thai political establishment.

Viriyaporn’s Ghost of Centralworld, from her Develop Blessing Giant Dhamma in Three Worlds (เจริญพรมหาธรรมใน 3 โลก) series, was made in response to the 2010 military crackdown. It features an emotional account from the father of Kittipong Somsuk, whose death was caused by arsonists who burnt the Zen department store, followed by news footage of the store’s reopening, when tragedy and political controversy were swept away in the name of consumerism.

Viriyaporn Boonprasert is a pseudonym, and presumably she disguises her identity because her work deals with Thai politics and touches on the ultra-sensitive issue of the monarchy. One of her short films, พ่อจ๋าหนูอยากกลับบ้าน (‘daddy, I want to go home’), submitted to Filmvirus Wildtype, was too controversial even for that progressive group, and the organisers reluctantly declined to screen it. (The film features photographs of King Rama X and his youngest son living in Germany.)

The mysterious tale of the anonymous filmmaker is told in the short documentary Develop Viriyaporn Who Dared in Three Worlds (เจริญวิริญาพรมาหาทำใน 3 โลก), which was released on YouTube yesterday. Director Kanyarat Theerakrittayakorn interviewed various film experts—including Chalida Uabumrungjit, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Jit Phokaew, and Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa—who speculate on Viriyaporn’s real identity. They even begin to suspect each other, as Thai cinephiles are a close-knit group and she seems to be an insider. This leads to bemused denials by some contributors, and Viriyaporn remains an enigma.

22 October 2021

Danse Macabre


Danse Macabre Remember Supernatural

“Thunska who makes everything sexy.”
“But I’m talking about death in this one...”

From Eros to Thanatos: Danse Macabre (มรณสติ) begins with director Thunska Pansittivorakul explaining to a dance choreographer that his new documentary explores darker territory. Unlike his last film, the sexually frank Avalon (แดนศักดิ์สิทธิ์), Danse Macabre juxtaposes accounts of violent deaths with interpretive dance routines.

The film was codirected by Phassarawin Kulsomboon, and will have its world premiere at the Doclisboa film festival in Lisbon on 27th October. Thunska’s Santikhiri Sonata (สันติคีรี โซนาตา) was named best film at Doclisboa in 2019.

As the proverb says, death is the great leveller. But in Thailand, one of the world’s most unequal societies, not even death can rupture the social hierarchy. Danse Macabre highlights the disparity between the deaths of royals and commoners: kings receive lavish state funerals followed by prolonged periods of enforced national mourning, whereas murder victims become objects of public spectacle as undignified crowds of gawping onlookers gather freely at crime scenes.

The starkest contrast is that between King Rama VIII (who died from a bullet wound in 1946) and Porlajee Rakchongcharoen (a human rights activist nicknamed Billy who was murdered in 2014). The King’s corpse was placed in a golden urn atop a gilded chariot. Porlajee’s body, however, was stuffed unceremoniously into an oil drum. (Pin Sasao’s installation ถังแดง​: ความตายของบิลลี่—‘red barrel: the death of Billy’—also addresses Porlajee’s murder.)

In Thunska’s documentary Homogeneous, Empty Time (สุญกาล), one interviewee mentions “soldiers getting beaten to death during training” and shortly after that film was completed, army cadet Phakhapong Tanyakan died during a training exercise. Danse Macabre has an equally tragic topicality: on 20th July, just a few days after the rough cut was finished, three people dropped dead on the streets of Bangkok, and their bodies were left in situ for hours. (Thunska added an epilogue highlighting these recent cases.)

Danse Macabre also deals with Thai state violence, from the massacres of October 1976—also covered in The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย)—May 1992, and May 2010, to the recent student protests. Footage of riot police firing water canon last year is cut to the beat of the Subtitle Project’s song Remember. The track’s Thai title, วน, literally translates as ‘loop’, indicating the cyclical nature of violent state oppression. (Thunska directed the music video for Remember when it was released as a single.)

Like Thunska’s Reincarnate (จุติ), Danse Macabre begins with a written prologue explaining the Thai law under which “a film may be banned as unsuitable for public exhibition” and then proceeds to deliberately flout those rules. I interviewed Thunska about this law for Thai Cinema Uncensored, and one of his early features, This Area is Under Quarantine (บริเวณนี้อยู่ภายใต้การกักกัน), was the first film to fall foul of it. Thunska uses explicit sexual content as a political commentary in many films, and Danse Macabre is no exception: it includes photos from vintage porn magazines to show how Thailand has since become more culturally—and, by implication, politically—conservative.

Even more provocatively, the indirect allusions to the monarchy in his sci-fi dystopia Supernatural (เหนือธรรมชาติ) are replaced by a direct account of modern Thai royal history, including a subliminal image hinting at an explanation for the death of Rama VIII. Three scapegoats were executed for the King’s murder on 17th February 1955, and coded references to that date appear in Danse Macabre, Supernatural, and the Remember music video.

13 October 2021

The Year of the Everlasting Storm


The Year of the Everlasting Storm

Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest feature film, Memoria, won the Jury Prize after its world premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film received a standing ovation, after which Apichatpong memorably declared: “Long live cinema!” With coronavirus vaccines in short supply and the registration system in disarray, he also used his Cannes acceptance speech as an opportunity to call on the Thai government to “please wake up, and work for your people, now.”

A promotional clip from Memoria attracted attention in Thailand for its political meaning: Tilda Swinton’s character performs a magic trick with a red, white, and blue handkerchief, making the blue colour disappear. Blue has a symbolic meaning on the Thai flag, and in an online Q&A with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, Apichatpong confirmed: “I chose the colours.” Last week, the film’s distributors announced that it would never be available on any video format, and instead would remain an exclusively theatrical presentation.

Apichatpong’s short film Night Colonies also premiered at Cannes, as part of the anthology film The Year of the Everlasting Storm. Night Colonies combines two of the director’s consistent themes, light and the natural world, as it features insects buzzing around neon lights. The film begins with a poem paying tribute to “distant friends, and those who had disappeared”, a reference to pro-democracy campaigners self-exiled or abducted following lèse-majesté charges.

The poem continues: “The young leaves unfold, flushed with memories in the year of the everlasting storm.” In addition to giving the portmanteau film its title, these lines are also a metaphor for the student protesters campaigning for reform of the monarchy. In fact, the film’s soundtrack includes audio recorded at protests in Bangkok on 27th July and 20th August 2020.

Apichatpong’s exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย)—now on show at 100 Tonson in Bangkok—also addresses the murder of lèse-majesté suspects, and the title of his short film October Rumbles (เสียงฟ้าเดือนตุลา) hints at the rumblings of dissent from the student protesters. He co-directed the video installation Silence—shown at 100 Tonson last week—which refers directly to the tragic “memories” mentioned in the Night Colonies poem.

07 October 2021

The Mystery of Picasso


Henri-Georges Clouzot’s classic documentary The Mystery of Picasso (Le mystère Picasso) will be shown at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok on 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 21st, and 26th October. The film has been screened in Thailand a few times before, at TCDC, Smalls, Warehouse 30, and the Thai Film Archive.

06 October 2021

45 ปี 6 ตุลา


Burning Sky Lucky Leg

Today marks the 45th anniversary of the 6th October 1976 massacre. There is no official 6th October exhibition at Thammasat University this year (apparently due to pressure from the government), though a large painting by Lucky Leg was displayed on campus today. (It depicts a monk tying a chord around a dead man’s neck, in reference to Kittivuddho Bhikku, the monk who encouraged the killing of Communists.) More of his work is currently on show at the Specter (ปีศาจ) exhibition, and there have been plenty of other artistic responses to the anniversary.

5 ตุลาฯ ตะวันจะมาเมื่อฟ้าสาง (‘5th Oct.: sun rises when day breaks’), the team behind the recent ‘museum in a box’, released a half-hour documentary at midnight this morning. The film, Dawn of a New Day (ก่อนฟ้าสาง), traces the history of the student protest movement from the 14th October 1973 uprising to the 1976 massacre. As in the short film Pirab (พิราบ), the violence of 6th October is represented in sound only, over a blank screen. It ends with footage of water cannon being used against students on 16th October 2020—showing that the mantle of pro-democracy protest has passed to a new generation—and a list of the names of the 6th October victims.

Silence, a three-channel video commemorating 6th October, opened today at 100 Tonson Foundation in Bangkok. The video—co-directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, Chatchai Suban, and Pathompong Manakitsomboon—is part of Apichatpong’s exhibition A Minor History (ประวัติศาสตร์กระจ้อยร่อย), and will be on show until 10th October. Silence includes autopsy photographs of 6th October victims, and graphic footage of the desecration of their corpses. It also shows how prejudice is inculcated, with flashcards of pejoratives such as ‘หนักแผ่นดิน’ (‘scum of the earth’) and ‘ควายแดง’ (‘red buffalo’).

Rap Against Dictatorship released a new music video today, which also refers to 6th October. The video—Burning Sky (ไฟไหม้ฟ้า), directed by Skanbombomb—features a hanging corpse shown in silhouette, and ends with a caption commemorating the massacre. The silhouette echoes Rap Against Dictatorship’s most famous video, My Country Has (ประเทศกูมี), which included a mannequin hanging from a tree.

A music video by T_047—ความฝันยามรุ่งสาง (‘dreaming at dawn’), directed by Yanna—also released today, begins with a toddler watching footage of 6th October on multiple TV screens. Another music video released today, หัวใจเสรี (‘free heart’) by TaitosmitH, has no content directly related to 6th October, though it was released in solidarity with the movement to commemorate the massacre; directed under a pseudonym (อัมรินทร์ อินทารักษ์, meaning ‘Ammarin defender’) it features footage of recent anti-government protests in Bangkok, filmed at Siam Square and Democracy Monument.

03 October 2021

They Will Never Forget


Yesterday, the Thai Film Archive screened the documentary They Will Never Forget on its YouTube channel. (It was previously shown at the Archive in 2017.) The film, which documents a strike by female workers at the Hara factory in Bangkok, was originally released in 1977. Directed by Ooka Ryuuchi, it was a co-production between independent filmmakers in Thailand and Japan.

The circumstances of the film’s production were similar to those of the Thai docudrama Tongpan (ทองปาน). Both films were celebrations of workers’ rights, made during the brief spell of democracy that followed the 14th October 1973 uprising. This period of optimism ended in a violent coup on 6th October 1976, which appears as a tragic epilogue in both films.

Following the 1976 coup, state censorship increased dramatically, though postproduction of They Will Never Forget was completed in Japan, giving the filmmakers more freedom in their political commentary. The film condemns military dictator Thanom Kittikachorn, “whose hands were stained with the blood of at least seventy-six patriots,” and its assessment of the coup is equally honest and unrestrained: “The reign of violence and injustice was back.”

It also includes a surprisingly direct reference to student actors whose mock hanging led to the 6th October massacre. The film mentions media reports that an actor playing a hanging corpse “resembled the Crown Prince,” an issue that remains unspoken in Thailand even today. In contrast, the 2014 documentary Different Views, Death Sentence (ต่างความคิด ผิดถึงตาย ๖ ตุลาคม ๒๕๑๙) claimed only that students were accused of “severe ill-will to the Crown Prince”, without reference to the hanging; and the 2011 film The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย) referred only to “the hanging of an important person in effigy.”

In hindsight, They Will Never Forget’s title was somewhat idealistic, because the massacre was indeed forgotten for twenty years, as Thongchai Winichakul discusses in his book Moments of Silence. Unfortunately, the titles of Napat Treepalawisetkun’s short film We Will Forget It Again (แล้วเราจะลืมมันอีกครั้ง) and Vasan Sitthiket’s video Delete Our History, Now! (อำนาจ/การลบทิ้ง) are more accurate comments on the whitewashing of Thai history.

17 September 2021

New Abnormal


In a series of static shots and long takes, Sorayos Prapapan’s satirical short film New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่) takes aim at Prayut Chan-o-cha and his mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. In one sequence, a paramedic reveals the scale of the problem: “It’s already mid-2021, our country’s people is still only less than 10% vaccinated.” Sadly and shamefully, the statistic is accurate.

Another scene eavesdrops on a meeting between Prayut, deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwan, and a civil servant. When the bureaucrat asks about bailouts for businesses affected by the lockdown, an irritable Prayut barks back: “Why do you always hand me problems? It’s tiring enough acting as Prime Minister, you know!” Meanwhile, Prawit remains slumped in his chair, fast asleep (as is often the case in parliament). Prayut is played by Phayao Nimma, who also portrayed the PM in The Cave (นางนอน); in the credits, he’s described as “Stupid Prime minister who did coup” [sic].

The film ends with a recreation of an anti-government protest (on a small scale, given the low budget), which is dispersed by riot police with water cannon, tear gas, and rubber bullets (the latter heard but not seen). In the last shot, wisps of tear gas swirl slowly around a solitary rubber duck. The end-credits song is an anti-government anthem based on the Hamtaro (とっとこハム太郎) anime theme tune.

Sorayos’s equally satirical Prelude of the Moving Zoo premiered at ANIMAL KINgDOM last year, as did his documentary Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. His parody Dossier of the Dossier (เอกสารประกอบการตัดสินใจ) was shown at the 30th Singapore International Film Festival, and his comedy Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้) played at the 18th Thai Short Film and Video Festival.

15 September 2021

Signes de Nuit


This week, Documentary Club is hosting Signes de Nuit, a festival of short films and documentaries. The event, now in its seventh year, will take place predominantly online due to the coronavirus pandemic, though some films will be shown at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok.

Doc Club and Pub is the new venue for Documentary Club, after its previous collaborations with Warehouse 30, Lido Connect, and House Samyan. Documentary Club took over the space from Bangkok Screening Room, which sadly closed in March.

Chaweng Chaiyawan’s Please... See Us will be shown at Doc Club and Pub on 19th and 20th September. Chaweng’s powerful film features an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand.

Please... See Us was also shown as part of Wildtype 2021 earlier this month. Signes de Nuit begins online today and runs for a week. (Films at Doc Club and Pub are currently screened on a large TV in the café/bar, as cinemas in Bangkok are still subject to the coronavirus lockdown.)

04 September 2021

Wildtype 2021


Wildtype 2021, a weekend of film screenings curated by Wiwat Lertwiwatwongsa, takes place today and tomorrow on YouTube. The screenings will also be shown at Ar(t)cade, a venue at the Arcade Market in Phayao. Both days include Politix, a selection of short films commenting on Thai political events.

This evening’s Politix strand begins with Veerapong Soontornchattrawat’s Official Trailer (อนุสรณ์สถาน), which intercuts footage of the 6th October 1976 massacre with clips from Love Destiny (บุพเพสันนิวาส), a popular historical lakorn. This is followed by a film referencing another massacre: Nil Paksnavin’s Rajprasong (ราชประสงค์), which ends with a black screen and the jolting sound of eighty-seven gunshots, representing the victims of the 2010 military crackdown in downtown Bangkok. (Rajprasong was previously shown at Histoire(s) du thai cinéma, another two-day film event programmed by Wiwat.)

The highlight of the evening is a more recent film, Sorayos Prapapan’s Prelude of the Moving Zoo, which begins subversively with a cylinder recording of the royal anthem, accompanied by footage of penguins seemingly standing to attention. (It was previously shown at ANIMAL KINgDOM, also programmed by Wiwat; and it was selected for the 24th Short Film and Video Festival.)

Wildtype concludes tomorrow, and the second Politix strand includes Prap Boonpan’s The Bangkok Bourgeois Party (ความลักลั่นของงานรื่นเริง), in which a group of yellow-shirted Bangkokians murder a man merely because he disagrees with their ideology. Less than a year after it was first shown, this dystopian satire became a reality when Narongsak Krobtaisong was beaten to death by PAD guards in 2008.

Chaweng Chaiyawan’s Please... See Us, which highlights the displacement of ethnic minorities, will also be shown tomorrow. This new film includes an extended sequence in which a pig is killed and dismembered, the helpless animal being a metaphor for the plight of ethnic minorities in Thailand. It will also be shown later this month as part of Signes de Nuit, hosted by Documentary Club.

01 September 2021

Snap


In Kongdej Jaturanrasmee’s Snap, released in 2015, a high school reunion rekindles an old romance, and the film trades heavily on Millennial nostalgia, though—as in Kongdej’s other films—there is also a political undercurrent in the background. News of the 2014 coup is mediated through newspapers (a man reading the Bangkok Post, with a headline about martial law) and television (the female lead doing her ironing while the coup announcement is broadcast). Likewise, Kongdej’s Sayew (สยิว) begins with a radio news report on the ‘Black May’ massacre, and his Tang Wong (ตั้งวง) is punctuated by TV news updates on the red-shirt protests, making him one of the few mainstream genre directors whose films address Thailand’s political crises.

24 July 2021

100 Greatest Films


100 Greatest Films

100 greatest films, in chronological order:
  • A Trip to the Moon (1902)
  • The Great Train Robbery (1903)
  • The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (1919)
  • Nosferatu (1922)
  • Nanook of the North (1922)
  • Battleship Potemkin (1925)
  • Metropolis (1927)
  • The Jazz Singer (1927)
  • Un chien andalou (1928)
  • Man with a Movie Camera (1929)
  • Frankenstein (1931)
  • City Lights (1931)
  • The Public Enemy (1931)
  • Scarface (1932)
  • 42nd Street (1933)
  • It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
  • Grand Illusion (1935)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
  • Port of Shadows (1938)
  • Bringing up Baby (1938)
  • Gone with the Wind (1939)
  • The Rules of the Game (1939)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • Le jour se lève (1939)
  • His Girl Friday (1940)
  • The Maltese Falcon (1941)
  • Citizen Kane (1941)
  • Casablanca (1942)
  • Cat People (1942)
  • Double Indemnity (1944)
  • Rome, Open City (1945)
  • The Big Sleep (1946)
  • Notorious (1946)
  • Out of the Past (1947)
  • The Lady from Shanghai (1947)
  • Bicycle Thieves (1948)
  • Red River (1948)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  • Ikiru (1952)
  • Tokyo Story (1953)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Seven Samurai (1954)
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
  • Pather Panchali (1955)
  • The Searchers (1956)
  • The Seventh Seal (1957)
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
  • Vertigo (1958)
  • Touch of Evil (1958)
  • Look Back in Anger (1959)
  • Some Like It Hot (1959)
  • The 400 Blows (1959)
  • Breathless (1960)
  • Psycho (1960)
  • Night and Fog in Japan (1960)
  • Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
  • Chronique d’un été (1961)
  • (1963)
  • Dr Strangelove (1964)
  • A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
  • Black God, White Devil (1964)
  • Closely Observed Trains (1966)
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
  • Yesterday Girl (1966)
  • The Fireman’s Ball (1967)
  • Dont Look Back (1967)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • Bonnie and Clyde (1968)
  • Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  • The Wild Bunch (1969)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Pink Flamingos (1972)
  • The Godfather (1972)
  • Chinatown (1974)
  • Jaws (1975)
  • Taxi Driver (1976)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • Alien (1979)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979)
  • Raging Bull (1980)
  • Yellow Earth (1984)
  • A Better Tomorrow (1986)
  • Die Hard (1988)
  • A City of Sadness (1989)
  • GoodFellas (1990)
  • A Brighter Summer Day (1991)
  • Raise the Red Lantern (1991)
  • Farewell My Concubine (1993)
  • Pulp Fiction (1994)
  • The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  • La haine (1995)
  • Toy Story (1995)
  • Taste of Cherry (1997)
  • Memento (2000)
  • Tears of the Black Tiger (2000)
  • Spirited Away (2001)
  • City of God (2002)
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)

20 July 2021

The Seventh Seal (blu-ray)


Det Sjunde Inseglet Sjunde Inseglet

Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet) was released on blu-ray and DVD in 2007 by Tartan in the UK, to mark the film’s fiftieth anniversary. Other blu-ray and DVD releases followed over the next decade, from Criterion in the US, Studio Canal in France, and Arthaus in Germany.

Unlike all previous VHS and DVD editions, each of these discs has an altered version of the film’s opening title sequence: the first word, “DET” (‘the’) is missing, and the rest of the title (“SJUNDE INSEGLET”—‘seventh seal’) appears off-centre. This anomaly was corrected by Criterion for their Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema blu-ray collection, which featured a 2018 4k restoration of The Seventh Seal that restored the definite article to the title sequence.

16 July 2021

The Short Story of Film


The Short Story of Film: A Pocket Guide to Key Genres, Films, Movements and Techniques, by Ian Haydn Smith, was published last year. As its subtitle suggests, it’s divided into four parts, though the ‘key films’ section occupies the bulk of the book. Fifty films are included (one per director), the selection is international in scope, and each film has a decent one-page review.

The one-page-per-entry format also applies to the other sections, and while a single page is sufficient to summarise an individual film, it’s not really enough to cover entire genres or movements. Consequently, these potted histories are sometimes quite general, and often have better coverage of a genre or movement’s origins than its subsequent evolution. The book features an impressively diverse range of subgenres, and these are summarised in more detail than the major genres.

Other lists of fifty greatest films have also been compiled by Vanity Fair, The Spectator, MovieMail, Film4 (and Dateline Bangkok). Ian Haydn Smith updated 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die for its tenth anniversary, and has edited each subsequent edition (2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020).

PDF

01 June 2021

Democracy.exe

Untitled for Us / Untitled for Them
Democracy.exe
White Bird
Aomtip Kerdplanant
The Untitled for Film group held a screening of short films on 29th May, providing a platform for young, independent directors to respond to seven years of Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government. The event, Democracy.exe, was originally to form part of the Untitled for Us / Untitled for Them season at the RDX Offsite gallery in Bangkok. The season was scheduled to run from 3rd April to 24th May, with the Democracy.exe films to be shown from 2nd to 8th May, though the screening ultimately took place online (streamed via Facebook Live) due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The programme began with Panya Zhu’s White Bird, in which an origami bird (representing a dove of peace?) is seen at various locations around Bangkok, including Ratchaprasong, the 14th October 1973 Memorial, Democracy Monument, and Thammasat University. These are all sites with histories of political violence and are thus, to use Dutch painter Armando’s term, ‘guilty landscapes’. (Chulayarnnon Siriphol’s short film Planking and Pachara Piyasongsoot’s painting What a Wonderful World feature similarly ‘guilty landscapes’, silent witnesses to past traumas.) Prayut’s announcement of his coup is heard on the soundtrack, and the film ends with the lowering of the Thai flag, symbolising the country’s political regression.

Democracy.exe also featured four short documentaries by Ratakorn Sirileark, filmed at anti-government protests last year. 21 October 2020: The Event Nearby the Government House and 8 November 2020: The Unintentional Mistake (8 November 2020: มือลั่น) were, like the others in the series, filmed in black-and-white. In 17 November 2020: Tear Gas and Water Canon [sic], Ratakorn documents the grossly disproportionate use of tear gas and water cannon by riot police, with Paint It, Black by the Rolling Stones on the soundtrack. (This is also the subject of Sorayos Prapapan’s short film Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship.) The title of Ratakorn’s 26 October 2020: The Owner of the Mutt is a reference to King Rama X, who has a pet poodle.

The final film in the programme was Aomtip Kerdplanant’s 16 ตุลา (‘16 Oct.’), a drama in which three student protest leaders debate their tactics in the aftermath of the 2014 coup: should they apply for a protest permit, or not?; should they organise a flashmob, or a large-scale rally? The three students could, of course, be substitutes for Arnon Nampa (released on bail today), Panusaya Sithjirawattanakul, and Parit Chirawak; they also resemble the protagonists of Sunisa Manning’s novel A Good True Thai.

16 ตุลา shows how the students’ lives have changed in the years since their initial campaign, indicating how seasoned protesters can become disillusioned, and how Prayut has become entrenched in Thai politics. The title is a conflation of two massacres, on 14th October 1973 and 6th October 1976, which have been whitewashed to such an extent that many people believe they are synonymous. The film ends with a written caption endorsing the three demands of the real-life student protest movement: Prayut’s resignation, a democratic constitution, and reform of the monarchy.

06 May 2021

Reside

Reside
Following The Unseeable (เปนชู้กับผี) and Senior (รุ่นพี่), Reside (สิงสู่) makes three ghost films in a row for director Wisit Sasanatieng. It also sees Wisit reunited with Ananda Everingham, who previously starred in The Red Eagle (อินทรีแดง). (Reside was released in 2018, and its international title is The Summoning. This month’s planned Wisit retrospective at the Thai Film Archive has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Reside begins with an archetypal horror scenario: a small group stuck in an isolated house. Ananda’s character spells out the inevitable: “The road downhill has been cut by flash floods. We’ll be stranded here for a while.” This Old Dark House cliché is acknowledged self-referentially by another member of the group, who complains that “the lights go out every time it rains. Like in a horror film.”

For most of the running time, the characters are possessed one-by-one by spirits summonsed during a seance (one of whom transforms into a malevolent tree!). This leads to other intentional horror references, including several inevitable nods to The Exorcist, with possession resulting in spider-walking and projectile vomiting. The spirits seem relatively easy to exorcise, though, and they’re not particularly scary. The twist ending isn’t especially surprising, either.