29 May 2008

Forbidden Art 2006

This Is My Blood
Yuri Samodurov, director of Moscow's Andrei Sakharov Museum, has been charged with inciting religious hatred. The charge relates to the exhibition Forbidden Art 2006, a survey of censored Russian art, including Alexander Kosolapov's This Is My Blood (2001), hosted by Samodurov's museum in 2007. Several of the exhibits are included in the book Blasphemy. The museum also hosted the controversial exhibition Caution: Religion! in 2003.

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26 May 2008

Indiana Jones IV

Indiana Jones IV
The fourth film in the Indiana Jones series, Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, is similar in tone to the three earlier films, with wit and serial-style adventure in equal measure. Again, it's directed by Steven Spielberg and based on a story by George Lucas.

Unfortunately, these days Lucas can't resist CGI. (His Star Wars prequels were almost entirely computer-generated.) In interviews, Spielberg stresses how traditional the action sequences and special effects are, in keeping with those of the earlier Indiana Jones films (and Spielberg is known for his love of analogue film technology), yet there are still too many CGI elements here. The CG aliens in the finale are excusable, but rendering monkeys, insects, and waterfalls with CGI is just lazy.

As the rather clunky title suggests, the plot is a little convoluted. It's something about aliens from another dimension bringing civilisation to the ancient Mayans, though it results in exposition overkill. After all that exposition, only the most cursory of explanations is given for the incomprehensible events at the end of the film. Anyway, shouldn't Spielberg be done with flying saucers by now? (The film's MacGuffin object is inspired by quartz skulls which, while rumoured to be pre-Columbian artefacts with paranormal powers, are more likely to be 300-year-old fakes.)

The film is set in 1957, so the bad guys this time are Communist Russians. (Since the end of the Cold War, Russians have been replaced as Hollywood movie antagonists by Europeans and Arabs.) The lead villain, played by Cate Blanchette, never poses a real threat; thus, while the chase sequences are exciting, they aren't especially suspenseful, because Blanchette is not particularly scary. The 1950s setting also allows for comments on US domestic nuclear testing (in an eerily realistic mock-suburban test site) and paranoid anti-Commie witch-hunts, though these themes are dropped pretty quickly.

Harrison Ford is on form as Indy, and it's possible to suspend your disbelief that a man his age can still be an action hero. This time around, Ford is joined by Shia LaBeouf, who makes his entrance on a motorcycle in an homage to Marlon Brando's character in The Wild One. In one of Hollywood's least surprising plot twists, LaBeouf's character is later revealed to be Indy's son.

In the first sequence, there's a glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant, a subtle nod to the first (and best) Indiana Jones film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. But how many of the new film's audience-members will get the reference?

24 May 2008

Bill Henson

Works from a photography exhibition by Bill Henson have been removed by Australian police from Roslyn Oxley9, a Sydney art gallery. The confiscated photographs are images of a naked teenaged girl. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has described them as "revolting", and censored versions of some images have been shown by ABC TV in Australia.

Nude images of minors have been removed from galleries in the past, most recently a Nan Goldin photograph investigated, and subsequently exonerated, by UK police last year. Photographs of children by Robert Mapplethorpe, Graham Ovenden, Ron Oliver, Will McBride, David Hamilton, Tierney Gearon, and Annelies Strba have previously been investigated by UK police as potentially obscene. In America, the FBI investigated photographers Jacqueline Livingston and Jock Sturges, though ultimately no charges were brought.

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05 May 2008

Maxim Goes To The Movies

The 300 Movies You Must See Before You Die!
This month's Maxim magazine is a special Maxim Goes To The Movies issue, and includes a list titled The 300 Movies You Must See Before You Die!, divided into genres and other (occasionally odd) categories. (Musicals have been deliberately excluded.)

There are actually slightly more than 300 films included, because original films and their sequels are counted as single entries. The Lord Of The Rings I, The Warriors, Fight Club, A History Of Violence, Star Wars V, and Terminator II all appear twice, each in two different categories.

Comedy
  • The Big Lebowski
  • Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy
  • Kingpin
  • Monty Python & The Holy Grail
  • This Is Spinal Tap
  • Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan
  • Airplane!
  • Animal House
  • Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery
  • American Pie
  • Bachelor Party
  • Bananas
  • Beverly Hills Cop
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Caddyshack
  • The Cannonball Run
  • Clerks
  • Dazed & Confused
  • Duck Soup
  • Dumb & Dumber
  • Election
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin
  • Ghostbusters
  • Groundhog Day
  • Happy Gilmore
  • Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
  • It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
  • The Jerk
  • Modern Times
  • The Nutty Professor
  • Office Space
  • Old School
  • The Pink Panther Strikes Again
  • The Princess Bride
  • Raising Arizona
  • Sixteen Candles
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Trading Places
  • Vacation
  • Wedding Crashers
  • Wet Hot American Summer
  • Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
  • Young Frankenstein
The Master Class
  • Breathless
  • Citizen Kane
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Seven Samurai
  • The 400 Blows
  • The Seventh Seal
  • Un Chien Andalou
War
  • The Deer Hunter
  • The Bridge On The River Kwai
  • Dr Strangelove
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Black Hawk Down
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Gallipoli
  • The Great Escape
  • M*A*S*H
  • Platoon
  • Saving Private Ryan
So Bad They're Good
  • Glen Or Glenda?
  • Showgirls
  • Airport 1975
  • Barbarella
  • Battlefield Earth
  • Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls
  • Death Race 2000
  • Phantom Of The Paradise
  • Reefer Madness
  • Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • The Toxic Avenger
Sequels That Are Better Than The Original
  • Bride Of Frankenstein
  • Evil Dead II
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
  • Superman II
  • Terminator II: Judgment Day
  • Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Rebels
  • Cool Hand Luke
  • Taxi Driver
  • Sid & Nancy
  • Easy Rider
  • Billy Jack
  • Dirty Harry
  • Dirty Mary Crazy Larry
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off
  • The Graduate
  • A History Of Violence
  • The Hustler
  • The King Of Comedy
  • Network
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Raging Bull
  • Risky Business
  • Smokey & The Bandit
  • Three Days Of The Condor
  • Trainspotting
Classics
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • Kind Hearts & Coronets
  • The Adventures Of Robin Hood
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
  • Casablanca
  • Double Indemnity
  • Metropolis
  • The Night Of The Hunter
  • On The Waterfront
  • The Third Man
  • Touch Of Evil
  • Vertigo
  • White Heat
  • The Wizard Of Oz
Sci-Fi/Fantasy
  • Starship Troopers
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Alien I-II
  • Back To The Future
  • Blade Runner
  • Children Of Men
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • King Kong
  • Planet Of The Apes
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Terminator I-II
Horror
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • Night Of The Living Dead
  • Dawn Of The Dead
  • Carrie
  • The Exorcist
  • The Fly
  • Halloween
  • Jaws
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street
  • Psycho
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • The Shining
  • 28 Days Later
Non-Boring Documentaries
  • Brother's Keeper
  • Don't Look Back
  • Hoop Dreams
  • Pumping Iron
  • Richard Pryor: Live In Concert
  • When We Were Kings
Conspicuously Gay Straight Movies (Beyond Top Gun)
  • 300
  • Fight Club
  • Spartacus
  • The Bear
  • The Lord Of The Rings I: The Fellowship Of The Ring
  • The Warriors
  • X-Men
Westerns
  • The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
  • The Searchers
  • Jeremiah Johnson
  • Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
  • High Noon
  • High Plains Drifter
  • Tombstone
  • True Grit
  • Unforgiven
  • The Wild Bunch
Buddy Movies
  • The Last Detail
  • Top Gun
  • Superbad
  • Deliverance
  • American Graffiti
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Breaking Away
  • Glengarry Glen Ross
  • The Goonies
  • Lethal Weapon
  • The Right Stuff
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Stand By Me
  • Stripes
  • Swingers
  • The Warriors
Conspicuously Gay [Patrick] Swayze Movies
  • Next Of Kin
  • Red Dawn
  • Road House
  • The Outsiders
  • Youngblood
Action
  • The Matrix
  • Rocky I-IV
  • The Road Warrior
  • Batman
  • Batman Begins
  • Battle Royale
  • The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  • Braveheart
  • Clash Of The Titans
  • Die Hard
  • Enter The Dragon
  • Face/Off
  • First Blood
  • 48 Hours
  • Gladiator
  • The Incredibles
  • Kill Bill I-II
  • The Lord Of The Rings I-III
  • Predator
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Speed
  • Spider-Man
Non-Gratuitous Nudity!
  • Wild Things
  • Fast Times At Ridgemont High
  • Carnal Knowledge
  • Angel Heart
  • Body Heat
  • Boogie Nights
  • Coffy
  • Jackass: The Movie
  • McCabe & Mrs Miller
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Poison Ivy: The New Seduction
  • Revenge Of The Nerds
  • Ten
Essential James Bond Movies
  • Casino Royale
  • Goldfinger
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Live & Let Die
  • You Only Live Twice
Arthouse
  • City Of God
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Annie Hall
  • Withnail & I
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Badlands
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Conversation
  • Do The Right Thing
  • The Elephant Man
  • The Last Picture Show
  • Repo Man
  • Rushmore
  • Short Cuts
  • There Will Be Blood
Mindbenders
  • Akira
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  • Beetlejuice
  • Blue Velvet
  • Brazil
  • Donnie Darko
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
  • Fight Club
  • Memento
  • Pink Floyd: The Wall
  • The Manchurian Candidate
Best Movies With Puppets
  • Being John Malkovich
  • Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
  • Team America: World Police
  • The Dark Crystal
  • The Muppet Movie
  • Weekend At Bernie's
Cops
  • To Live & Die In LA
  • Bullitt
  • Hard-Boiled
  • Bad Lieutenant
  • Chinatown
  • The Departed
  • Donnie Brasco
  • Fargo
  • The French Connection
  • RoboCop
  • Seven
  • Shaft
  • The Silence Of The Lambs
  • The Untouchables
Criminals
  • The Godfather I-II
  • No Country For Old Men
  • Bonnie & Clyde
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Atlantic City
  • Bad Boys
  • Bloody Mamma
  • The Boys From Brazil
  • Boyz 'N The Hood
  • Carlito's Way
  • Casino
  • Crimes & Misdemeanors
  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • The Getaway
  • Get Carter
  • GoodFellas
  • Heat
  • A History Of Violence
  • In Cold Blood
  • The Long Good Friday
  • Mean Streets
  • Midnight Express
  • Natural Born Killers
  • Pulp Fiction
  • River's Edge
  • Scarface
  • Sexy Beast
  • Sin City
  • Super Fly
  • True Romance
Movies You Need To See Once But Are
So Traumatic You Never Need To See Again
  • Leaving Las Vegas
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • Requiem For A Dream
  • Schindler's List
  • United 93
Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy. Casino Royale is [presumably] the recent version rather than the 1960s spoof, Ben-Hur is the William Wyler version, and Scarface is the Brian de Palma version instead of the Howard Hawks original, but otherwise the list is refreshingly free of remakes. Note that Carrie is de Palma's 1976 horror film, not William Wyler's 1952 romantic drama.

01 May 2008

Adaptation

Adaptation
Adaptation was directed by Spike Jonze, and stars Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. It was written by Charlie Kaufman, one of the most fascinating contemporary screenwriters (who also wrote Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind).

Cage plays a character called Charlie Kaufman, a fictionalised version of Kaufman himself. [Subsequent references will be to the character, not the real writer.] Cage also plays Charlie's brother, Donald, who is credited as co-writer of the film, though Donald Kaufman is a purely fictitious character. Charlie is hired to adapt a book, The Orchid Thief, into a screenplay; he hopes to produce a profound, true-to-life script, though he spends months on frustrated false starts. Donald, meanwhile, writes a formulaic thriller screenplay which is immediately optioned. Unable to create a compelling narrative from The Orchid Thief, Charlie decides to follow the book's author, Susan Orlean; surprisingly, her secret (and totally fictionalised) double-life is a far more fascinating screenplay subject, providing the character arcs and suspense that Charlie had dismissed as unrealistic.

Adaptation is incredibly self-referential, recalling films about the frustrations of filmmaking such as 8½ and Stardust Memories, and the novel Tristram Shandy (and thus the film A Cock & Bull Story). The film is not only about Charlie's Orchid Thief adaptation, it is his adaptation, as all of his ideas have been incorporated. His voice-over in which he runs through several potential film openings echoes Woody Allen's opening monologue in Manhattan.

All About Eve

All About Eve
All About Eve, starring Anne Baxter and Bette Davis, was directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz. Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a seemingly devoted fan of the actress Margo Channing (played by Davis, who smokes throughout the entire film). Margo takes Eve under her wing, initially taken in by Eve's faux humility and innocence. It later transpires that Eve is calculating and ambitious, exploiting Margo's insecurities about impending middle-age.

Baxter has the title role, but the film is largely a study of Davis's Margo, who is far more realistic than Eve. Davis is sensational: alternately cynical, compassionate, warm, and bitter. By contrast, Baxter simply goes from too-good-to-be-true to scheming bitch. The greatest scene, showcasing Davis's impressively unglamorous performance, is the party sequence, in which a drunk Margo warns her guests: "Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night!". The party also features a scene-stealing cameo from Marilyn Monroe, in the same year as her bit-part in The Asphalt Jungle.

The two leading men, especially Hugh Marlowe, are rather bland, though George Sanders, as an oily gossip columnist, is more interesting. The ending (in which the cycle begins again, with a young girl ready to do to Eve what Eve did to Margo) is disappointing, considering the otherwise sophisticated, witty script.

While the film is set on Broadway, the script includes regular industry in-jokes and barbs about Hollywood. Rather than a backstage theatre story, it might be more accurate to call it a behind-the-scenes film, and it's one of the very best of its kind.

The Top 100 Films Of All Time

Top 100 Films Of All Time
On Saturday, The Times published a list of the Top 100 Films Of All Time, chosen by a selection of the newspaper's film critics led by James Christopher. The list is deliberately revisionist and provocative, hence its intentional omission of established classics like Citizen Kane. (Kane as the world's greatest film may be a cliche, but it's still an essential film by any standard.) There are actually 102 films on the list, as the entry for Pather Panchali also includes two subsequent films about the Apu character.

The Top 100 Films are as follows:

1. Casablanca
2. There Will Be Blood
3. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
4. Chinatown
5. The Shining
6. Vertigo
7. Kes
8. Sunset Boulevard
9. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
10. The Godfather
11. The Sound Of Music
12. Alien
13. 2001: A Space Odyssey
14. The Jungle Book
15. Apocalypse Now
16. Metropolis
17. Annie Hall
18. Don't Look Now
19. The Exorcist
20. The Wizard Of Oz
21. The Towering Inferno
22. The Breakfast Club
23. Some Like It Hot
24. The Philadelphia Story
25. Picnic At Hanging Rock
26. GoodFellas
27. A Clockwork Orange
28. Gone With The Wind
29. Duck Soup
30. Rebel Without A Cause
31. His Girl Friday
32. Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
33. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
34. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
35. Withnail & I
36. Jaws
37. Beau Travail
38. Rear Window
39. The Graduate
40. Monty Python's Life Of Brian
41. A Star Is Born
42. Blue Velvet
43. Terminator II: Judgment Day
44. A Streetcar Named Desire
45. The Life & Death Of Colonel Blimp
46. All About Eve
47. Fargo
48. Shoah
49. High Society
50. Blade Runner
51. Cabaret
52. La Dolce Vita
53. Mildred Pierce
54. Roman Holiday
55. The Matrix
56. Whisky Galore
57. Raging Bull
58. Dr Zhivago
59. Pulp Fiction
60. The Crying Game
61. Rashomon
62. Taxi Driver
63. On The Waterfront
64. Do The Right Thing
65. The Thin Blue Line
66. Toy Story
67. The Piano
68. The Maltese Falcon
69. Cache
70. The Conversation
71. This Is Spinal Tap
72. Days Of Heaven
73. Great Expectations
74. Rosemary's Baby
75. The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly
76. From Here To Eternity
77. Pather Panchali/Aparajito/Apur Sansar
78. The Lady Eve
79. Deliverance
80. Tokyo Story
81. North By Northwest
82. Chungking Express
83. Spartacus
84. Festen
85. Dog Day Afternoon
86. Nosferatu
87. The Silence Of The Lambs
88. Wild Strawberries
89. Touch Of Evil
90. Trainspotting
91. Short Cuts
92. Breathless
93. Cool Hand Luke
94. La Haine
95. Grand Hotel
96. Lost In Translation
97. Point Break
98. My Fair Lady
99. La Belle & La Bete
100. Jurassic Park

Every film on this list is important in some way, but there should be more silents (there are only two) and more foreign-language films (there's nothing from Italy pre-La Dolce Vita, and nothing by Jean Renoir or Sergei Eisenstein). There Will Be Blood may be a modern classic, but is it really the second-greatest film ever made? (Note that The Maltese Falcon is the John Huston version, which is actually a remake of an earlier Roy Del Ruth film. Also, Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.)

Blood For Dracula

Blood For Dracula
Blood For Dracula was filmed by Paul Morrissey back-to-back with his Flesh For Frankenstein. (Antonio Margheriti is sometimes cited as a co-director with Morrissey, though the extent of his contribution is unclear.)

The two films are very similar: both star Udo Kier and a cast of other non-native English speakers concentrating on their lines so much that they forget to emote, both feature the incongruous Joe Dallesandro, and both are Gothic melodramas which culminate in campy violence. In both films, Dallesandro appears out of place not only because of his beefcake physique and American accent but also due to the attitudes of his characters. In Blood For Dracula, in contrast to the aristocratic lineage of every other main character, he plays a worker who hopes for a Communist revolution, adding the theme of class conflict to the traditional Dracula story.

Blood For Dracula is notable for the cameo roles played by two acclaimed directors. Roman Polanski (director of Chinatown) is great as a labourer playing cards in a tavern, though Vittorio de Sica (director of Bicycle Thieves) is almost incomprehensible as a down-on-his-luck aristocrat.

30 April 2008

Hard Candy

Hard Candy
Madonna's new album, Hard Candy, is out now. The cover photo and font look terrible, and it's certainly not one of Madonna's best albums.

The full track-listing is: Candy Shop, Four Minutes, Give It 2 Me, Heartbeat, Miles Away, She's Not Me, Incredible, Beat Goes On, Dance 2night, Spanish Lessons, Devil Wouldn't Recognize You, and Voices. An additional track, Ring My Bell, was included on the Japanese edition.

21 April 2008

Inside Out, Outside In

Inside Out Outside In
Middle-Earth
Soak
Action!
Voodoo Girls
Happy Berry
Gallery VER, Bangkok, hosted a short season of indie films by Thunska Pansittivorakul and Panu Aree from 18th to 20th April. The event, Inside Out, Outside In, featured a complete retrospective of both directors.

Panu Aree's first film, Once Upon A Time, is a compilation of home movie footage of his family at an amusement park, and was edited by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. His other films are: Destiny, Postcards From Kaosan Road, In Between, The Magic Water, Stills, Parallel, The Lost Highway, and Silent Lights.

Thunska's excellent Middle-Earth originally screened at the 11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival, and his recent films Soak and Action! were screened at the 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival.

Thunska's early short films are:

Private Life
(Thunska's first film: he drives to the beach with his boyfriend, but they never make it and can't find the time or place to be alone with each other)

Lovesickness (aka Just A Life II)
(a man in his studio apartment, with only a goldfish for company; he treats it obsessively as a partner: feeding it rice, washing it with soap, and ejaculating into its water)

...For Shiw Ping 28/12/97
(faces filmed in negative, and footage of a rainstorm: Thunska's memories of his relationship with Ping in 1997)

Sigh
(two men have sex, with the images filtered by double-exposures, rapid editing, and low resolution)

Chemistry
(a man narrates his formative sexual experiences in voice-over)

Life Show
(a young actor is interviewed about his illicit sex-life, with nudity and smoking censored in the style of Thai TV)

After Shock
(a man masturbating in a boat; made for the Ministry of Culture in response to the 2004 tsunami)

Unseen Bangkok
(a split-screen film: a nude hustler discusses his clients, and a covert recording of a man taking a shower)

Endless Story
(a slideshow of Thunska's personal and graphic snapshots)

Vous Vous Souviens De Moi?
(a short story about a robot who cannot feel love, narrated over images of a nude man in an apartment)

Out Of Control
(a group of boys playing on a beach)

You Are Where I Belong To
(Thunska filming people he meets in Japan, as he tries to forget his ex-boyfriend)

Thunska's feature-length documentaries Voodoo Girls and Happy Berry (and the short sequel Happy Berry: Oops I Did It Again; all featuring frank discussions between groups of Thai youngsters), and his music video Blinded Spot (for Soundlanding) were also screened.

The Asphalt Jungle

The Asphalt Jungle
The Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston, is a heist film starring Sterling Hayden. As in so many subsequent heist films, a gang of expert criminals is assembled to plan and execute the perfect robbery. Naturally, the execution doesn't quite go according to plan: a combination of coincidences and double-crossings ensure that crime does not pay (as dictated by the American film censors, of course).

While in later films it's often the chief of police who's revealed to be the most corrupt character, in The Asphalt Jungle it seems that every character except the chief is corrupt. In fact, the police commissioner makes an earnest speech about the necessity of law enforcement, which is out of place alongside the film's otherwise gritty dialogue.

This is Huston's third film noir, after The Maltese Falcon and Key Largo. Those two earlier films had noir plots, though they were both rather stagey (confined to unatmospheric interiors, with characters who are entertaining rather than menacing). The Asphalt Jungle, on the other hand, is more stylistically and emotionally a film noir. It's full of dark shadows, and the equally dark plot offers no redemption for any of the characters.

There's a notable pre-stardom cameo from Marilyn Monroe, though Sterling Hayden in the hardboiled lead role gives the film's greatest performance. He would later star in Kubrick's The Killing, a film whose plot owes a great deal to The Asphalt Jungle.

10 April 2008

Syndromes & A Century
(Thailand's Edition)

Syndromes & A Century: Thailand's Edition
postcard
Following the Thai censorship of his film Syndromes & A Century, Apichatpong Weerasethakul has agreed to present a censored version of the film (Thailand's Edition) for Thai audiences. It will be screened at Paragon Cineplex, starting today (preceded by a panel discussion with Apichatpong at 6pm), for the next fortnight.

Silent leader footage will be projected in place of the censored scenes, to draw attention to the censorship of the film. In a stroke of genius, each ticket comes with a free Syndromes & A Century postcard, which features photographs of the censored scenes and links to YouTube where the censored footage can be seen, thus making a mockery of the censor's decision.

Infamously, Ladda Tangsupachai, the director of the Ministry of Culture's Cultural Surveillance Department, once said: "Nobody goes to see films by Apichatpong. Thai people want to see comedy. We like a laugh."

08 April 2008

12:08 East Of Bucharest

12:08 East Of Bucharest
12:08 East Of Bucharest is a comedy directed by Corneliu Porumboiu, set in the small Romanian town of Vaslui. It is one of a handful of recent Romanian films to receive international critical acclaim, including Cristian Mungiu's Four Months, Three Weeks, & Two Days.

The film is divided into two distinct halves. First, we are introduced to the three central characters on a typical morning. There is a TV host, trying to book guests for his cheap talkshow; later, he pretentiously introduces the show with quotations from ancient philosophers. Then a henpecked history teacher, who drinks too much and owes everyone money. Finally, a lonely old man, who is busy buying a Father Christmas costume so he can entertain school-children. The teacher and pensioner will be the only guests on the TV host's talkshow.

The second half is taken up entirely with the talkshow, and is filmed by the TV studio's camera. The show's topic is: was there a revolution in Vaslui, or not? Anti-Communist demonstrations led to Romania's self-appointed leader Nicolae Ceausescu fleeing Bucharest by helicopter at 12:08 on 22nd December 1989. The talkshow takes place on the sixteenth anniversary of Ceausescu's downfall, and hinges on a debate about when the population of Vaslui began demonstrating.

The teacher maintains that he was part of a small group of people who shouted anti-Ceausescu slogans in the town square before 12:08, though all of the show's callers disagree with him. Defending himself against accusations that he is a liar, he repeatedly recounts what happened in the town square, adding extra information each time. The callers (including an ex-guard, with all the best lines, who exposes the show's inadequacies) all offer their own different versions of what took place. As in Rashomon, objective truth remains elusive.

03 April 2008

Death Proof

Death Proof
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof was originally part of Grindhouse, a double bill also featuring Planet Terror. After the lukewarm American reaction to Grindhouse, the concept was dropped for international markets, and instead the films have been released separately. The revised release pattern enabled Tarantino (who also did his own cinematography) to add almost thirty minutes to Death Proof, including much more dialogue and a lap-dancing scene which was completely cut from the Grindhouse version. After reviving other 1970s exploitation genres (Blaxploitation in Jackie Brown and 'chop socky' kung-fu in Kill Bill), Grindhouse is a natural progression, in which he uses jump-cuts and scratched prints to recreate the lurid experience of 1970s grindhouse films. Death Proof was shot entirely on location, which adds to the cheap, gritty grindhouse look.

The film has two halves, which are roughly parallel. In each segment, a quartet of women is observed at a distance by Stuntman Mike, a retired film stuntman. Mike is one of the few characters in cinema to get sexual pleasure from car crashes (the only other example that comes to mind is Crash, the JG Ballard novel and David Cronenberg film). The first half of Death Proof ends with Mike crashing into the girls' car at 200mph, killing all four of them. In the second half, after he chases the girls (in a stunningly tense though implausible sequence) they are eventually able to overtake him, leading to a (convincingly grindhouse-style) feminist revenge ending.

Death Proof (titled Thunder Bolt in a split-second jump-cut during the title sequence) is exactly what you'd expect a Tarantino car-chase film to be. It's full of witty, profane, trivial, naturalistic dialogue; it has moments of bloody, stylised violence; there are constant references to cult cinema, music, and television; there's a cool 1970s soundtrack; there's a low-angle point-of-view shot (from inside a car bonnet, rather than the usual car boot); it exists within the self-referential Tarantino universe, with name-checks for Big Kahuna Burger and Red Apple cigarettes (from Pulp Fiction) and recurring characters (from Kill Bill). There are even in-joke references to his other films: Tarantino (in a traditional cameo) repeats the "tasty beverage" line from Pulp Fiction, and Rosario Dawson's ringtone is a Bernard Herrmann composition used in Kill Bill.

01 April 2008

War Of The Worlds

War Of The Worlds
War Of The Worlds (a remake of the 1950s classic The War Of The Worlds) is a major disappointment. Its director (Steven Spielberg) and leading actor (Tom Cruise) are arguably the two most successful men in Hollywood, and their previous collaboration, Minority Report, was a sophisticated sci-fi thriller, though War Of The Worlds pales in comparison.

Tom Cruise gives his standard Cruise smirk and nothing more, so his character has no real development. Dakota Fanning, playing Cruise's daughter, spends the entire film screaming, in a hugely irritating performance. The plot, which is sometimes borderline illogical, sets up several possibilities that are later simply dropped. The feel-good ending is implausible.

The original version is one of the greatest science-fiction films of the 1950s, and one of only a handful of films featuring a full-scale alien invasion. (Others include Earth Vs The Flying Saucers, Independence Day, and the parodic Mars Attacks.) It is also, however, an overtly Christian film, with a quasi-Biblical narration.

Surprisingly, this religious aspect has been retained in Spielberg's remake. Spielberg's film, a blockbuster 'event movie', was released around the world, yet he still included references to "God's creatures" in the narration, turning American cultural imperialism into proselytism.

27 March 2008

Tomyam Pladib

Tomyam Pladib
Tomyam Pladib, which opened on 19th March until 5th June, is an exhibition of Thai and Japanese art hosted by The Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok. The exhibition features Morakot, a video by Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Morakot is the name of an abandoned Bangkok hotel, and Apichatpong's slow-moving camera films the hotel's deserted rooms filled with (digitally added) floating white feather-like objects. The effect is elegiac, evoking the memories of the hotel's long-departed guests.

Apichatpong discussed his various films and videos in a presentation this evening (Apichatpong On Video Works). He explained the origins of his multi-screen video installations (one of the more surprising sources being Thai melodramas), and played extracts from several of his films. He also screened a few short films in full:

Ghost Of Asia
(a man follows a child's instructions all day, with the action sped up for comic effect; part of the Tsunami Digital Short Film project),

0116643225059
(a telephone call between the director and his mother)

The Anthem
(a wonderful overture to cinema, first screened at the 11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival)

There was also a short Q&A session with the director.

26 March 2008

5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival

BEFF 2008
Action!
Soak
The 5th Bangkok Experimental Film Festival began yesterday, and runs until Sunday at Esplanade Cineplex. This year's event, organised by Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Project 304, has The More Things Change... as its central theme.

There will be two programmes commenting on post-Thaksin political instability (Learned Behaviour, 27th and 30th March; Track Changes, 26th and 30th March). Both of these programmes will include films from Spoken Silence at the 11th Thai Short Film & Video Festival, including Middle-Earth in Learned Behaviour. Another highlight is sure to be Thaiindie Buffet, featuring a selection of independent Thai films (Thaiindie Showcase, 29th March) and music videos (Experimental Music Videos, 27th March).

This evening, the Sompot+Thunska programme featured three works by Sompot Chidgasornpongse (Naoko Is Trying To Teach Me How To Make Tonkatsu In One Minute, 8,241.46 Miles Away From Home, and Landscape 101 01 1101 01...) and two new films by Thunska (Action! and Soak). There was also a Q&A session with Thunska.

Action! is a short compilation of out-takes from Zart Tanchareon's film God Man, featuring the actor Sitthipong Prempridi. Sitthipong died last year, and Action! is Thunska's tribute to him.

Soak stars Saifah Tanthana, who is filmed swimming in the sea (during which the soundtrack is dominated by the gurgling of the water) and riding a motorcycle, with the video camera representing Thunska's gaze. The film is an extended, improvised sequel to Thunska's first film, Private Life. It also recalls his film You Are Where I Belong To, which briefly features Thunska filming a man as they paddle in the sea.

24 March 2008

Hajarat Muhammad

Rabindra Prasad Panda, author of the Odia-language book Hajarat Muhammad, has been arrested in Cuttack, India. The cover of his book features an image of Mohammed wielding a sword.

15 March 2008

The Lord Of The Rings
The Return Of The King (director's cut)

The Return Of The King
The Return Of The King is the third film in Peter Jackson's trilogy The Lord Of The Rings. I saw the extended version, which is almost an hour longer than the theatrical version. This third film is more satisfying than the second, The Two Towers, perhaps because the battle of Gondor (in this film) has more narrative significance than the battle of Helm's Deep (in the second film). In retrospect, the substantial time devoted to Helm's Deep now seems more like an excuse for dramatic tension in the second film rather than an integral episode in the overall narrative. It's nice to return to bucolic Hobbiton at the end, a place which (as in the first film, The Fellowship Of The Ring) resembles Teletubbyland!

14 March 2008

The Lord Of The Rings
The Two Towers (director's cut)

The Two Towers
The Two Towers is the second film in Peter Jackson's trilogy The Lord Of The Rings, the sequel to The Fellowship Of The Ring. I saw the extended version, which is substantially longer than the theatrical version, containing several unique sub-plots. It was as impressive as The Fellowship, although slightly less enjoyable. I was fascinated by the sheer variety of characters and locations established in The Fellowship, whereas The Two Towers more conventionally intercuts between three plot strands. Andy Serkis is outstanding as the schizophrenic Gollum, physically ravaged and mentally unbalanced by his "precious" ring.

05 March 2008

Daily Xpress

Daily Xpress
Today saw the launch of Thailand's first free daily newspaper, the Daily Xpress, published in Bangkok by The Nation. (The Nation is one of two daily English-language newspapers on sale in Thailand, the other being the Bangkok Post.)

The first issue of the Xpress has forty-eight pages. Even with ten pages of classified ads, it's an impressive total for a freesheet. 100,000 copies will be distributed every day. The emphasis is on features, human interest, and lifestyle.

The Xpress does have a surprising amount of entertaining and original content. It is, however, disposable rather than informative, and it can't replace other titles as a news source.

To coincide with the Xpress launch, the Nation itself has been rebranded. It now styles itself as "Thailand's biggest business daily", and has shifted its focus almost entirely to business news. Politics and international news have been reduced to one page each, and sports news has been moved over to the Xpress. There is no coverage of general Thai news at all.

This is a risky decision, as it narrows the Nation's target market and takes it out of direct competition with the Post. The new business focus also makes it an odd bedfellow for the Xpress, as the two papers are aimed at opposite audiences. While the Xpress may attract young readers who pick it up for free, the copies bundled with the Nation will probably remain unread.

03 March 2008

The Stranger

The Stranger
The Stranger was the first film directed by Orson Welles following his Rio documentary It's All True. His work on It's All True earned Welles an unfair reputation: that he was profligate and extravagant. The Stranger was a conscious (and successful) attempt to prove otherwise - to show that he could make a regular, popular film within the studio system, on-budget and on-schedule.

In the film, Welles plays a Nazi war criminal (the architect of the Holocaust, no less) who has changed his identity and escaped to a small American town. He marries a judge's daughter, played by Loretta Young, to keep up appearances. Edward G Robinson plays a detective attempting to track him down.

A similar situation occurs in Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious, made in the same year, with the major difference being the role of the Nazi's wife: Loretta Young's extremely naive character is very different from the Ingrid Bergman role in Notorious. A more general comparison could be made with Hitchcock's Shadow Of A Doubt, in which a killer seeks refuge in a small American town; in that film, it is the killer's sister who is (initially) as naively unsuspecting as Young is in The Stranger. Welles's line about watching people from the clock tower "like God, looking at little ants" anticipates his role in The Third Man, when he looks down from the ferris wheel at the "dots" below.

The Stranger is a less personal project than Welles's other films, though it does include numerous high-angle and low-angle shots which add visual interest. The dark lighting and heavy shadows are not only typical of early Welles but also typical of the period, as by this point film noir had caught up with Welles's eccentric cinematography. (Welles later directed the final film in the classic noir cycle, Touch Of Evil.)

Indie Sex

Indie Sex
Indie Sex is a series of documentaries broadcast on America's Independent Film Channel last year. Each episode deals with a different theme: Censored, Taboos, Teens, and Extremes. Each show features critics and directors discussing the history of (almost exclusively heterosexual) sex in cinema. Most of the film clips (with a few exceptions) are very tame, though the DVD includes more graphic sequences.

The first episode, Censored, gives a detailed history of American film censorship (and is less polemical than This Film Is Not Yet Rated). There is quite a lot of overlap, though, with the same points being made, and the same films being discussed, in several episodes. Among the directors interviewed are John Waters (discussing A Dirty Shame), Fenton Bailey (discussing Inside Deep Throat), Catherine Breillat (discussing Anatomy Of Hell), and John Cameron Mitchell (discussing Shortbus).

02 March 2008

Navar Igen IV

Navar Igen IV
The editor of a Swedish newspaper has received death threats after he published a poster featuring Satan defecating on Jesus. The poster, advertising the Navar Igen IV: Punx Against Christ! festival, was censored by the local council, though the Ostgota Correspondenten newspaper published it uncensored yesterday.

01 March 2008

A World History Of Photography

A World History Of Photography
The fourth edition of Naomi Rosenblum's A World History Of Photography has recently been published. The book's 800 images are beautifully reproduced, the text is as wide-ranging as the title suggests, and there is a useful annotated bibliography. At the end of each chapter are themed albums of full-page photographs, profiles of significant photographers, and technical histories.

The wealth of visual and textual information could, however, be more clearly organised and more up-to-date. Rosenblum acknowledges that the book is "structured in a somewhat unusual way", with chapters arranged thematically rather than chronologically (rather like the Tate Modern galleries). The book is divided into twelve major chapters, including portraiture, landscape, still life, art, and media. The chapters are too broad, however, a problem compounded by the lack of detail in the table of contents and the scarcity of subheadings within chapters. This also makes the layout feel rather dated, as do the line drawings in the technical history sections - does a book about photography really need to use line drawings? Similarly, there is not enough space given to recent and contemporary photographic artists and technologies: only a general account of digital technology, nothing about war photography after 1945, and no examples of contemporary fashion or advertising images.

Arguably the first book to present the history of photography as an art form, emphasising aesthetics alongside technology, was Beaumont Newhall's The History Of Photography, first published in 1937 and last revised in 1982. The first edition of Rosenblum's survey appeared in 1984, and since then it has been generally accepted as a successor to Newhall in scope and authority.

Both Newhall and Rosenblum begin their histories in 1839, with the invention of the Daguerreotype, though they also provide extensive pre-photographic background, as the invention and initial demonstration of photography was a process of simultaneous experimentation rather than a single 'eureka moment'. The first extant photograph, taken by Joseph Niepce in 1827, appears in Rosenblum's first chapter; it was discovered by Helmut Gernsheim, author of The History Of Photography, published in 1955.

The most recent historical survey of international photography is Mary Warner Marien's Photography: A Cultural History. It has 200 fewer pages than Rosenblum's, and 200 fewer illustrations, and is subsequently less in-depth in its coverage. On the other hand, it is more clearly organised and feels more up-to-date (with a large Andreas Gursky reproduction, for example). Marien's chapters are more specfic, and are subdivided more clearly. Her final chapter discusses photography after 1975 (and in the second edition she adds a new post-2000 chapter), whereas Rosenblum's final chapters begin as far back as 1950.

26 February 2008

L'Erotisme

L'Erotisme
Ritualis
Maldoror
Ass
KI
Le Fin De Notre Amour
Extase De Chair Brisee
Baby Doll
The Loneliest Little Boy In The World
Paranoid
D'Yeux
Imperatrix Cornicula
L'Erotisme is an anthology of eleven underground films, inspired by Georges Bataille's excellent book Eroticism, a study of sex and death as cultural taboos:

Ritualis
(a Black Mass ritual set to Heavy Metal music; directed by Pat Tremblay)

Maldoror: A Pact With Prostitution
(a man meets a prostitute in a cemetery, and kills a grotesque glow-worm [!] with a rock; directed by Nate Archer and Micki Pellerano)

Ass
(as a woman fingers herself, the red-tinted film intercuts rapidly between her face and her buttocks; directed by Usama Alshaibi)

KI
(partially obscured glimpses of a man receiving fellatio; directed by Karl Lemieux)

La Fin De Notre Amour
(an artist and an unidentified woman cut themselves with razors and surgical instruments; directed by Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani)

Extase De Chair Brisee
(a rape-revenge story: a woman kills two masked men with a drill, after they molest her in a park; directed by Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt and Frederick Maheaux)

Baby Doll
(a doll is tied up and fondled, in a bondage fantasy; directed by Serge de Cotret)

The Loneliest Little Boy In The World
(a pig's head is licked and worshipped by a nude woman; directed by Mike Dereniewski)

Paranoid
(a woman films herself with a camcorder as she inserts a dildo; directed by Anna Hanavan)

D'Yeux
(a slide-show of erotic photo-montages featuring body parts and meat; directed by Monk Boucher)

Imperatrix Cornicula
(a woman rubbing herself with feathers, and birds gathering in the sky; directed by Jerome Bertrand)

Almost all of these short films are silent, except for Ritualis (which features slowed-down incantations as dialogue, though would be more effective as a silent film). Maldoror even adds mock-Victorian inter-titles, to add to the silent film aesthetic.

Maldoror's occult symbols evoke Kenneth Anger's treatment of magick, and the film's decaying, abject glow-worm could be a refugee from David Lynch's Eraserhead. It's one of the best films in the anthology.

Another highlight is KI, the only film to cross the borderline into hardcore imagery. Its intentionally degraded and washed-out images resemble Peggy Ahwesh's The Color Of Love, another porn/sex scene rendered semi-abstract by degraded film-stock, though KI is less confrontational than Ahwesh's uncomfortable film.

I also like La Fin De Notre Amour very much. It's filmed as a series of static images (like La Jetee), and, though it's perhaps a bit too stylised (tinted red and blue), it is certainly disturbing.

In my opinion, the weakest films are Ritualis (cliched, verging on self-parody) and, especially, Extase De Chair Brisee. This latter film is like a cross between I Spit On Your Grave and The Driller Killer - in other words, it's an exercise in gratuitous exploitation; the unconvincing acting, costumes, and make-up remove any sense of empathy or engagement, and the camerawork is frequently out of focus.

17 February 2008

100 Best Films

The Sunday Telegraph
Today, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, in its magazine supplement Seven, has published a 100 Best Films list. The list was compiled by Catherine Shoard, Jenny McCartney, Alan Stanbrook, and Mike McCahill. It is divided into ten categories: drama, thriller/action, comedy, animation, horror, romance, kids, musicals, documentary, and world cinema. Each category has ten films, arranged preferentially.

Drama

1. The Conversation
2. Strangers On A Train
3. There Will Be Blood
4. Winter Light
5. Dogville
6. Raging Bull
7. The Godfather I-II
8. Double Indemnity
9. Apocalypse Now
10. Chinatown

Thriller/Action

1. North By Northwest
2. Raiders Of The Lost Ark
3. Manhattan Murder Mystery
4. Heat
5. The 39 Steps
6. Terminator II: Judgment Day
7. Once Upon A Time In The West
8. The Ladykillers
9. The Silence Of The Lambs
10. Die Hard

Comedy

1. Some Like It Hot
2. Annie Hall
3. Meet The Parents
4. Withnail & I
5. His Girl Friday
6. The Odd Couple
7. Zoolander
8. Stir Crazy
9. Gregory's Girl
10. Tootsie

Animation

1. Dimensions Of Dialogue
2. The Jungle Book
3. Spirited Away
4. Toy Story
5. Composition In Blue
6. Grave Of The Fireflies
7. The Secret Adventures Of Tom Thumb
8. Finding Nemo
9. Perfect Blue
10. Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs

Horror

1. Psycho
2. Frankenstein
3. The Exorcist
4. Night Of The Living Dead
5. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
6. Dead Of Night
7. The Wicker Man
8. The Blair Witch Project
9. Vampyr
10. The Kingdom I-II

Romance

1. Before Sunset
2. Head-On
3. I Know Where I'm Going!
4. Brief Encounter
5. The Lady Vanishes
6. The Quiet American
7. Hannah & Her Sisters
8. Bringing Up Baby
9. Days Of Heaven
10. Casablanca

Kids

1. Back To The Future
2. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
3. Babe: Pig In The City
4. Freaky Friday
5. Addams Family Values
6. Mean Girls
7. Anne Of Green Gables
8. Clueless
9. Enchanted
10. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Musicals

1. West Side Story
2. The Sound Of Music
3. Cabaret
4. Top Hat
5. Chicago
6. Mary Poppins
7. Singin' In The Rain
8. Nashville
9. Woodstock
10. My Fair Lady

Documentary

1. American Splendor
2. The Sorrow & The Pity
3. American Movie
4. Touching The Void
5. Capturing The Friedmans
6. Spellbound
7. To Be & To Have
8. Hearts & Minds
9. My Kid Could Paint That
10. Neil Young: Heart Of Gold

World Cinema

1. Battleship Potemkin
2. The Passion Of Joan Of Arc
3. The Rules Of The Game
4. Tokyo Story
5. Seven Samurai
6. Pather Panchali
7. Smiles Of A Sumer Night
8. A Man Escaped
9. Andrei Rublev
10. The Colour Of Pomegranates

The animation section is surprisingly diverse and even avant-garde. That's the exception rather than the rule, though, because, in general, this list is terrible.

Dividing the 100 titles into ten rigid categories is asking for trouble. Manhattan Murder Mystery, for example, is listed as a thriller/action film (the third greatest thriller/action film, no less), but it's actually a comedy. Why it's listed at all is a mystery, because it's a pale imitation of Annie Hall. Bringing Up Baby appears in the romance list, even though it's one of the most famous comedies ever made.

The inclusion of so many very recent films is bizarre. Is Enchanted (released last year) really one of the greatest children's films ever made? Is There Will Be Blood (released this year) really one of the best dramas of all time? Is it really necessary for seven of the ten documentaries to be films made after 2001? Emphatically no, in all cases.

Why is world cinema relegated to only ten films, as if it were a genre? Are 90% of the 100 'best films' really English-language? No. The world cinema category whitewashes whole chapters of film history: no German Expressionism, no French New Wave, and no Italian Neorealism.

Oh, and the compilers seem to have forgotten about science-fiction and westerns altogether. D'oh! So there's no place for Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey (no Kubrick films at all, in fact), Metropolis, Stagecoach, The Searchers, or High Noon.

Finally, what about Citizen Kane? I'd like to think that the compilers were making a revisionist statement by omitting it, but I'm more inclined to believe that they simply forgot about it because it doesn't fit into one of their ten categories.

(Note that Frankenstein is, of course, the superior James Whale sound version, not the Thomas Edison silent film. Also, Some Like It Hot is the 1959 comic masterpiece, not the obscure 1939 comedy.)

11 February 2008

Cumhuriyet

Cumhuriyet
Cumhuriyet
Two Turkish cartoonists, Musa Kart and Zafer Temocin, have been charged with defamation, after the Cumhuriyet newspaper published their caricatures of Turkish President Abdullah Gul. Kart's cartoon, depicting Gul as a scarecrow, was published on 28th November 2007. Temocin's caricature, of Gul in an envelope, appeared the next day.

04 February 2008

Fast Food Nation

Fast Food Nation
Richard Linklater's film Fast Food Nation is a drama inspired by the superb investigative book of the same name by Eric Schlosser. It follows two recent documentaries on the secretive and unhealthy nature of McDonald's and its products, McLibel and Super-Size Me.

The exploitation of the American fast food industry is illustrated by the experiences of Mexican immigrants working at a meat-packing factory, a student activist who has a McJob at Mickey's (the fictional company created for the film), and a Mickey's executive who investigates claims of contaminated beef. Though the characters are fictitious, the film concludes with genuine Blood Of The Beasts-style slaughterhouse footage.

The narrative intercuts between a series of concurrent stories, though characters from separate stories never meet (except for one shot in which vehicles from two different segments unknowingly stop beside each other at a traffic light). The structure doesn't quite work, though, because it's too episodic. Characters are introduced, they have one or two major scenes, then they are never seen again, leaving numerous plot points unresolved. This pattern is repeated throughout the film, which has an impressive ensemble cast but no strong central plot line to link everything together.

The Seven-Year Itch

The Seven-Year Itch
The Seven-Year Itch is a comedy directed by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. Like all 20th Century Fox productions of the period (the mid-1950s), it was filmed in CinemaScope. Wilder would later direct Monroe in his fantastic Some Like It Hot.

Ewell plays Richard Sherman, a New York publisher whose wife and son go on holiday for the summer. Monroe's un-named character sub-let's the apartment above Sherman's, and he fantasises about seducing her while his wife is away. In the earlier play of the same name, they do have an affair, though in the toned-down film version he is only unfaithful in his imagination. (Some of the fantasy sequences are parodies of popular films, such as From Here To Eternity.)

At the start, the premise is laboured a bit too much, with repeated emphasis on Sherman's regular office job and normal marriage, and several references to the New York wives who apparently all go on summer vacations without their husbands. It seems a bit strained, as if it were attempting to normalise an unrealistic scenario.

There's a bit too much of Ewell, who narrates the story and appears in every scene, though when Monroe appears she is sensational. She has some great lines, such as recognising classical music because "there's no vocal". This film also contains Monroe's most famous scene: standing over a subway grating, her skirt billowing above her waist. (A similar scene was filmed by George S Flemming and Edwin S Porter for What Happened On 23rd Street in 1901.)

A nude photograph of Monroe had been published by Playboy the year before the film was released, and in an interesting parallel, Monroe's character had also previously posed for a cheesecake photo. In an even more blatant in-joke, Sherman, discussing Monroe's character, says "Maybe it's Marilyn Monroe"!