01 February 2023

Blade Runner


Blade Runner

The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings that began last December at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues on 5th February with Ridley Scott’s science-fiction dystopia Blade Runner. (Arcadia’s ARC logo uses the same typeface as the Blade Runner poster. Scott’s neo-noir classic was previously shown at Bangkok Screening Room in 2017 and at Jam Café in 2019.)

31 January 2023

Red Poetry


Red Poetry

Supamok Silarak’s documentary Red Poetry (ความกวีสีแดง) will have its premiere next month. The film documents the activities (or, in art terms, happenings) of student performance artists Vitthaya Klangnil and Yotsunthon Ruttapradit, who formed the group Artn’t. 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.

A shorter version of Supamok’s film, Red Poetry: Verse 1 (เราไป ไหน ได้), was shown last year at Wildtype 2022. The full-length version will have an open-air screening at Suan Anya in Chiang Mai on 8th February. (The Power of Doc, a programme of political documentaries, was shown at the same venue last year.)

27 January 2023

Future Fest 2023


Future Fest

Future Fest, the annual arts festival organised by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s Progressive Movement Foundation, will take place next month at Sermsuk Warehouse in Bangkok. A weekend of film screenings includes four recent short films with political themes: Bangkok Dystopia (บางกอกดิสโทเปีย) and Pirab (พิราบ) on 11th February, followed on the next day by Nostalgia and Two Little Soldiers (สาวสะเมิน).

Patipol Teekayuwat’s Bangkok Dystopia was previously shown at Wildtype 2018 and at the 21st Short Film and Video Festival. Prasit Promnumpol’s Pirab was shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya in 2017. Weerapat Sakolvaree’s Nostalgia was shown last year at the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival and at Wildtype 2022. Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Two Little Soldiers was shown at the Bangkok Art Biennale in 2020, and last year at Gallery Seescape in Chiang Mai.

17 January 2023

Hero


Hero

To mark Chinese New Year, Zhang Yimou’s classic film Hero (英雄) returns to the big screen in Bangkok later this week. This wuxia (‘martial arts’) epic was one of China’s most expensive dapian (‘prestige’) productions—at least, until the release of Zhang’s even more lavish Curse of the Golden Flower (满城尽带黄金甲) a few years later. Hero will be screened at Doc Club and Pub on 19th, 21st, 22nd, 24th, 26th, and 29th January.

Hero features stunning cinematography, though its political subtext is more questionable, as it can be read as an endorsement of authoritarianism. Ideologically, it’s a far cry from Zhang’s early films, such as Raise the Red Lantern (大紅燈籠高高掛). In that respect, the trajectory of Zhang’s career echoes that of veteran Thai director Chatrichalerm Yukol, who made his name with socially conscious films like His Name Is Karn (เขาชื่อกานต์) but has more recently produced royalist-nationalist propaganda such as the Legend of King Naresuan series (ตำนานสมเด็จพระนเรศวรมหาราช).

16 January 2023

20 Essential Films


20 Essential Films 20 Essential Films

20 essential films: a crash course in cinema history.

07 January 2023

Mob 2020–2021


Mob 2020-2021

Supong Jitmuang’s film Mob 2020–2021 will be shown tomorrow at the Hom Theatre, a small corrugated-iron screening space in Uttaradit, one of Thailand’s northern provinces. The documentary was previously shown last year in Bangkok at the 2nd Anniversary of We Volunteer (งานครบรอบ 2 ปีกลุ่ม We Volunteer) exhibition, Moving Images Screening Night (คืนฉายภาพเคลื่อนไหว), and the Kinjai Contemporary gallery.

06 January 2023

Thai Cinema Uncensored


International Examiner

Thai Cinema Uncensored has been reviewed in the International Examiner, a fortnightly newspaper published in Seattle, Washington. A headline in the 21st September 2022 issue (vol. 49, no. 18) describes the book as “an illuminating work of resistance to censorship” (p. 6).

In her review, Elinor Serumgard says: “Matthew Hunt writes with a sense of urgency to legitimize these films and work towards a future where Thai filmmakers make the films they want without having to worry if people will be able to watch them. Readers will come away with a deeper understanding of Thai films and the history that has shaped them.”

The book has also been reviewed by the Bangkok Post newspaper, the academic journal Sojourn, and the magazines Art Review and The Big Chilli. An online review was published by the 101 World website.

05 January 2023

Un chien andalou


Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

The Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air movie screenings at Bangkok’s Arcadia bar continues on 8th and 15th January with the short Surrealist film Un chien andalou (‘an Andalusian dog’). Luis Buñuel’s silent classic was previously shown at the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, and six years ago it was the unexpected inspiration for a Thai public-information campaign about the dangers of mosquitos. The campaign—“ยุงลาย 1 ตัว ออกลูกได้ 500 ตัว”/‘1 mosquito can give birth to 500 offspring’—recreated the film’s famous shot of ants emerging from a man’s hand, replacing the ants with mosquitos.

Un chien andalou

Un chien andalou is the foundation stone of transgressive cinema. Despite being almost a hundred years old, it begins with one of the most shocking sequences in film history, and one shot in particular (featuring a dead cow’s eye) is still almost impossible to see without flinching. Buñuel deliberately avoided a chronological or otherwise conventional narrative structure, seeking to create a dream-logic that defied rational analysis. After its premiere in Paris in 1929, the film secured Buñuel and his co-director Salvador Dalí’s immediate membership of the French Surrealist group founded by André Breton.

23 December 2022

500 Must-See Movies


500 Must-See Movies

Total Film magazine published a special issue in 2017 listing 500 Must-See Movies. This year, they have released a second edition with an updated list. There are only minor changes to the original edition, with the addition of recent films such as Get Out, 1917, A Quiet Place, Avengers: Infinity War, and Parasite (기생충). As in the first edition, only five genres are included: horror, science-fiction, thrillers, action movies, and comedies.

Empire and Us Weekly magazines have also published top-500 film lists, as did the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers. Empire later revised its list for its Australian edition, and published a collection of 500 five-star reviews. Dateline Bangkok also has its own list of 500 classic films.

Total Film’s previous greatest-film lists are: The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time from 2005, The Top 100 Movies of All Time from 2006, and 100 Greatest Movies from 2010. It also compiled a list of The Sixty-Seven Most Influential Films Ever Made in 2009.

22 December 2022

The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time


Variety

This week’s issue of Variety (vol. 358, no. 12), published yesterday, features The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time, as selected by thirty-two of the magazine’s writers. This is one of the very best greatest-film polls: an ideal combination of arthouse titles, classic Hollywood, world cinema, and popular movies.

Variety’s 100 greatest movies are as follows:

100. The Graduate
99. Twelve Angry Men
98. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown
97. Alien
96. A Hard Day’s Night
95. Toy Story
94. Bridesmaids
93. Le samuraï
92. Pink Flamingos
91. Scenes from a Marriage
90. The Shining
89. Belle de jour
88. Malcolm X
87. The Sound of Music
86. Close-Up
85. Natural Born Killers
84. Pan’s Labyrinth
83. Kramer vs. Kramer
82. Parasite
81. The Dark Knight
80. Pixote
79. Waiting for Guffman
78. Jeanne Dielman
77. Goldfinger
76. The Tree of Life
75. Boogie Nights
74. My Neighbour Totoro
73. Intolerance
72. Breaking the Waves
71. My Best Friend’s Wedding
70. Twelve Years a Slave
69. Beau travail
68. King Kong
67. Bicycle Thieves
66. Paris Is Burning
65. A Man Escaped
64. Carrie
63. Bambi
62. Dazed and Confused
61. The Passion of Joan of Arc
60. Moulin Rouge!
59. Vagabond
58. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
57. Brokeback Mountain
56. Rosemary’s Baby
55. Pather Panchali
54. Mad Max II
53. In the Mood for Love
52. The General
51. Apocalypse Now
50. Breathless
49. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
48. The Piano
47. Mean Streets
46. Notorious
45. Titanic
44. L’avventura
43. Shoah
42. Moonlight
41. The Wild Bunch
40. Fargo
39. Some Like It Hot
38. Lawrence of Arabia
37. Annie Hall
36. On the Waterfront
35. The Silence of the Lambs
34. Stagecoach
33.
32. Vertigo
31. Network
30. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
29. Double Indemnity
28. City Lights
27. Bonnie and Clyde
26. The 400 Blows
25. Bringing up Baby
24. Tokyo Story
23. The Apartment
22. Chinatown
21. Gone with the Wind
20. Blue Velvet
19. The Godfather II
18. Persona
17. Nashville
16. Casablanca
15. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
14. Do the Right Thing
13. The Rules of the Game
12. GoodFellas
11. Singin’ in the Rain
10. Saving Private Ryan
9. All about Eve
8. It’s a Wonderful Life
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey
6. Seven Samurai
5. Pulp Fiction
4. Citizen Kane
3. The Godfather
2. The Wizard of Oz
1. Psycho

(Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comedy, and Titanic is the 1997 blockbuster. Breathless, King Kong, and Psycho are the original versions rather than the remakes.)

A third of Variety’s choices are also included in Dateline Bangkok’s 100 greatest films list. (That list is not ranked, though if it were, Psycho would also be at no. 1, as it is in Variety.)

21 December 2022

500 Best Movies of All Time



In 2018, Us Weekly magazine published a special 500 Best Movies of All Time issue (vol. 18, no. 47). The top twenty-five titles are listed first, and the others are classified by genre. The films are organised alphabetically within these categories, and are not ranked. The list features more than 500 titles, as some series—the Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises; The Naked Gun and Kill Bill and their sequels—are counted as single entries.

Us Weekly is a mainstream entertainment magazine, so the selection is weighted in favour of popular Hollywood movies; as the editors wrote in their introduction: “we tried to pay attention not just to what critics like, but to what audiences like as well.” There are a handful of foreign-language titles, including Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette, classified rather literally as a crime film), and just one silent film (Metropolis, listed under drama rather than science-fiction).

Us Weekly’s top twenty-five films are as follows:
  • Avatar
  • Black Panther
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Casablanca
  • Chinatown
  • Citizen Kane
  • E.T. the Extra-terrestrial
  • Get Out
  • The Godfather
  • Gone with the Wind
  • Harry Potter
  • Inception
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • National Lampoon’s Animal House
  • Psycho
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Raging Bull
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Rocky
  • Scarface
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Titanic
  • Toy Story
  • The Wizard of Oz
(Titanic is the 1997 blockbuster, Psycho is the 1960 masterpiece, and Scarface is the 1983 remake. Harry Potter refers to all eight films in the series.)

Empire and Total Film magazines have also published top-500 film lists, as did the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph newspapers. Empire later revised its list for its Australian edition, and also published a collection of 500 five-star reviews. Not to be outdone, Dateline Bangkok has its own list of 500 classic films.

19 December 2022

Ali:
Fear Eats the Soul


Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Angst essen Seele auf), arguably Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s greatest film, is showing at Doc Club and Pub in Bangkok from this week. Alongside Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog, Fassbinder was one of the leading figures of the 1970s German new wave (das neue Kino), and his death from a drug overdose effectively marked the end of the movement.

Ali was heavily influenced by Douglas Sirk’s Hollywood melodrama All That Heaven Allows (which also inspired the Todd Haynes film Far from Heaven). It will be screened at Doc Club on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th December this year; and 2nd, 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 18th, 23rd, 24th and 30th January, and 1st February next year. It will also be shown at Bookhemian in Phuket on 14th January 2022. (It was previously shown at the Thai Film Archive earlier this year.) Doc Club is also currently showing two other classics: The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc) and Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un été).

13 December 2022

Arcadia Rooftop Cinema


Arcadia Rooftop Cinema

Bangkok’s new Arcadia bar is launching a weekly Rooftop Cinema programme of open-air film screenings. One of the first films will be Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, showing on 18th December, followed by the classic action movie Die Hard on Christmas Day.

2001 has previously been shown at the Scala cinema in 2017 and at the Thai Film Archive in 2013. Die Hard was screened at Cinema Winehouse in 2019 and at Bangkok Screening Room in 2019. Both titles are included in Dateline Bangkok’s list of 100 greatest films.

12 December 2022

On Going / Going On


On Going / Going On

Director Pen-ek Ratanaruang, documentarian and producer Santi Taepanich, and theatrical troupe Theatre to Go have collaborated on On Going / Going On, which opened on 9th December. The group exhibition runs until 28th February next year.

The exhibition is being held at Noble Play, which is appropriate as the show is a tactile experience that encourages participation: while many exhibitions place lines on the floor, preventing visitors from approaching the artworks, in On Going / Going On the lines are marked “PLEASE CROSS”. There’s also a table with eccletic objects to rummage through, from preserved animals (a frog and cockroach) to vintage gadgets.

Pleasure and Pain On Going / Going On

Pen-ek’s graphic novel Trouble in Paradise is on display, as are plenty of his drawings (collectively titled Pleasure and Pain) and the entire text of his new script, Storm (ครัวแม่สะอิ้ง). Another series of his drawings was previously shown at the Bangkok Art Biennale (บางกอก อาร์ต เบียนนาเล่) in 2020. Pen-ek’s most recent film was Samui Song (ไม่มีสมุยสำหรับเธอ); I interviewed him about his earlier work, such as Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย), Headshot (ฝนตกขึ้นฟ้า), and Nymph (นางไม้), for Thai Cinema Uncensored.

In addition to his table of objets trouvés, Santi has created a collage that resembles a mood board, including a poster of the classic film A Man Called Tone (โทน). Santi is the brother of comedian Udom Taephanich, and he produced many of Udom’s stand-up shows. He has also directed several documentaries—including เนื้อกับหนัง (‘flesh and skin’)—about the making of Pen-ek’s films, and a segment of the portmanteau film Sawasdee Bangkok (สวัสดีบางกอก).

15th World Film Festival of Bangkok


15th World Film Festival of Bangkok

The 15th World Film Festival of Bangkok (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์โลกแห่งกรุงเทพฯ ครั้งที่ 15) opened on 2nd December, and closed yesterday with an award for veteran Thai New Wave director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and the Thai premiere of Sorayos Prapapan’s Arnold Is a Model Student (อานนเป็นนักเรียนตัวอย่าง). There had been a five-year hiatus since the 14th festival, which was held in 2017.

In his acceptance speech, Apichatpong recalled the Ministry of Culture’s dismissal of his work, and told young directors, in both Thai and English, “don’t give a damn” about such attitudes. Phantoms of Nabua (ผีนาบัว), perhaps Apichatpong’s greatest short film, will be shown at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya on 23rd December as part of the 26th Thai Short Film and Video Festival (เทศกาลภาพยนตร์สั้นครั้งที่ 26).

Kriengsak Silakong, the World Film Festival’s founder and organiser, sadly died earlier this year, and the Lotus award for lifetime achievement has been renamed in his honour. (Kriengsak’s final public appearance was in February this year, when he interviewed Apichatpong at the Thai premiere of Memoria.) Like the 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th festivals, this year’s event was held at CentralWorld’s SF World cinema. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.)

Arnold Is a Model Student

Over the past decade, Sorayos has made witty, satirical short films such as Dossier of the Dossier (เอกสารประกอบการตัดสินใจ), Auntie Maam Has Never Had a Passport (ดาวอินดี้), and New Abnormal (ผิดปกติใหม่). He has also dabbled in documentary filmmaking, with Prelude of the Moving Zoo and Yellow Duck Against Dictatorship. His debut feature Arnold Is a Model Student combines both of these elements, sharp satire mixed with found footage. The film was conceived in the aftermath of the 2014 coup, when the military’s authority was accepted unquestioningly by large swathes of the population. Eight years later, the film is complete and the junta leader remains in power.

The eponymous Arnold coasts through his final school year, while his classmates rebel against institutional authoritarianism, personified by the matronly teacher Ms Wanee, who tells them: “Know your place and you will be successful.” This somewhat feudalistic attitude persists in wider Thai society, and is inculcated by an education system that encourages conformity. The film’s parody of a traditional instructional video—“How to Behave Elegantly Like a Thai”, in which Ms Wanee teaches students to prostrate before their elders—seems absurd, though it’s based on a real video made by the Ministry of Culture (as seen in the documentary Censor Must Die/เซ็นเซอร์ต้องตาย).

The film’s high school is a microcosm of Thailand—as in the recent music videos อีกไม่นาน นานแค่ไหน (‘how long is ‘soon’?’) and อนาคตคือ (‘the future is...’)—and the connection to contemporary politics is clear. Arnold attends a REDEM rally, and symbols of state authority are visible throughout the school, from a large portrait of Rama X in the headmaster’s office to the number 112 on a table in the computer lab. (The lèse-majesté law is article 112 of the criminal code.) When the fictional high school students organise a protest, their headmaster orders them back to class. Cut to: documentary footage of water cannon being deployed against anti-government protesters, with riot police shouting “Disperse now!”

08 December 2022

Lawrence of Arabia


lawrenceofarabia

Bangkok’s Prince Theatre hotel will screen the classic Hollywood epic Lawrence of Arabia on 10th December. It was previously shown at the Prince Theatre in 2020, and has played at various other Bangkok cinemas over the last decade: at Cinema Winehouse in 2015 and 2018, the Scala cinema in 2016, and Bangkok Screening Room in 2017

The Prince Theatre was established as a cinema in 1917, and was converted into a film-themed hotel a year after its centenary, in 2018. The cinema screen has been retained, though the auditorium is now the hotel bar.

06 December 2022

The Passion of Joan of Arc


The Passion of Joan of Arc

The Passion of Joan of Arc (La passion de Jeanne d’Arc) will be shown at Doc Club and Pub this month. The boutique Bangkok cinema will be screening Carl Dreyer’s silent classic on 8th, 10th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th, 23rd December, and Christmas Day this year; and 2nd, 12th, 18th, 24th and 30th January next year. (Jean Rouch’s documentary Chronicle of a Summer/Chronique d’un été is also showing this month at the same venue.)

The Passion of Joan of Arc has been shown numerous times in Bangkok over the past decade: an open-air screening in 2018 at Bangkok Underground Cinema, a gala Silent Film Festival screening at the Scala cinema, at Jam Ciné Club, and a 2012 Design Nation open-air screening. It was also shown at Bangkok Screening Room (which established the cinema space now occupied by Doc Club) in 2020.

02 December 2022

The Greatest Films of All Time


Sight and Sound

Sight and Sound magazine has announced the results of its 2022 critics’ and directors’ polls, The Greatest Films of All Time. There have been dozens of similar polls, based on votes by either critics or the public—Dateline Bangkok has featured every greatest-film list published since 2005—though Sight and Sound’s list is the first and most authoritative of them all. The magazine compiled its original list in 1952, with Bicycle Thieves (Ladri di biciclette) being the inaugural winner. For fifty years, starting in 1962, Citizen Kane was in first place, until it was overtaken by Vertigo in 2012.

This year’s result is much more surprising, with Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles at the top of the new list. (As Laura Mulvey writes on the magazine’s website, “Vertigo had been gradually closing in on Citizen Kane for decades; Jeanne Dielman has appeared from nowhere.”) 2001: A Space Odyssey came first in the directors’ poll, replacing Tokyo Story (東京物語). The full results of both polls are published in the magazine’s winter issue (vol. 33, no. 1).

The Sight and Sound critics’ top ten is as follows:

1. Jeanne Dielman
2. Vertigo
3. Citizen Kane
4. Tokyo Story
5. In the Mood for Love
6. 2001: A Space Odyssey
7. Beau travail
8. Mulholland Drive
9. Man with a Movie Camera
10. Singin’ in the Rain

25 November 2022

Chronicle of a Summer


Chronicle of a Summer

Doc Club and Pub, the boutique Bangkok cinema, will be screening the classic Chronicle of a Summer (Chronique d’un été) every day from today until 7th December, and on 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 20th December, and Boxing Day; and 9th January 2022. This self-reflexive documentary is an experiment in cinematic truth, which director Jean Rouch readily acknowledged was a contradiction in terms. It was the first example of cinéma vérité, a French movement that developed in parallel with the non-participatory ‘direct cinema’ approach pioneered in the US. Chronicle of a Summer, one of Dateline Bangkok’s 100 greatest films, was previously shown by Doc Club at Warehouse 30 in 2018.

19 November 2022

Democracy after Death:
The Tragedy of Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan


The Power of Doc

There will be a rare screening of Neti Wichiansaen’s film Democracy after Death: The Tragedy of Uncle Nuamthong Praiwan (ประชาธิปไตยหลังความตาย เรื่องเศร้าของลุงนวมทอง) tomorrow in Chiang Mai. The documentary covers almost a decade of divisive Thai politics, a period bookended by the coups of 2006 and 2014. It describes the 2010 military crackdown as “the most brutal political massacre in Thai history” and—like Thunska Pansittivorakul’s The Terrorists (ผู้ก่อการร้าย)—it blames former prime minister Abhisit personally for the incident: “Directly responsible, Abhisit Vejjajiva holds Thailand’s new record of the number of people shot by the military.”

The film is significant for its inclusion of sensitive political events excluded from Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Paradoxocracy (ประชาธิป'ไทย). It also serves as a counterpoint to Ing Kanjanavanit’s Bangkok Joyride (บางกอกจอยไรด์): whereas Bangkok Joyride is pro-PDRC, Democracy after Death is equally biased in favour of deposed PM Thaksin Shinawatra, noting sympathetically that he “was forced to leave and has had to remain outside Thailand” though ignoring his corruption conviction. These events are all narrated in a voiceover addressed to Nuamthong Praiwan, a pro-democracy protester who committed suicide in 2006. Nuamthong was also the subject of Prap Boonpan’s short film Letter from the Silence (จดหมายจากความเงียบ) and Rap Against Dictatorship’s recent music video 16 ปีแล้วไอ้สัส (‘it’s been 16 years, ai sat’).

Democracy after Death’s director is living in exile, due to an outstanding lèse-majesté prosecution. As in Narayana’s Arrow Spaceship (ยานศรนารายณ์), the film’s credits have been self-censored to avoid potentially incriminating any of the cast or crew. It will be shown in an open-air screening at Suan Anya tomorrow evening, as part of The Power of Doc, a weekend of political documentaries showing at various venues around Chiang Mai University.