23 June 2011

"Dear Projectionist..."

Stanley Kubrick
Whenever Stanley Kubrick's films are released on video, their aspect ratios always provoke intense debate. Most recently, the Warner blu-ray release of Barry Lyndon, Kubrick's exquisite period drama, has attracted criticism because it's framed at 1.78:1 whereas the film's original theatrical ratio was 1.66:1.

1.78:1 corresponds to the ratio of current high-definition widescreen TVs, thus the 1.66:1 image has been horizontally cropped so that the blu-ray image perfectly fits an HD-TV screen. Presumably, the studio felt that viewers would not tolerate the black 'letterbox' bars across their TV screens required for a 1.66:1 image. With similar reasoning, Barry Lyndon's original mono soundtrack has been remixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital on blu-ray, to accommodate contemporary multi-channel home-theatre systems.

Warner claims that the 1.78:1 ratio is in accordance with Kubrick's wishes for Barry Lyndon (thus apparently dismissing its own previous 1.66:1 laserdisc and DVD releases). Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali told blogger Glenn Kenny categorically that Barry Lyndon's ratio had always been 1.77:1, and that it had never been released at 1.66:1, though this is clearly incorrect as its theatrical, laserdisc, and DVD releases were all 1.66:1. It appears, unfortunately, that Vitali is making these revisionist statements in order to justify Warner's commercial decision to reformat Kubrick's films to 1.78:1.

Kenny tracked down a letter to cinema projectionists in which Kubrick specifies the 1.66:1 theatrical ratio. Surprisingly, Vitali responded to this by insisting that Kubrick had always preferred 1.77:1, despite clear evidence to the contrary. 1.77:1 is a digital TV ratio, not an analogue theatrical ratio, thus it is practically impossible that Kubrick ever considered it for Barry Lyndon.

Kubrick's early, independent films Fear & Desire and Killer's Kiss were released in the Academy ratio, though he later favoured 1.66:1 for The Killing, Paths Of Glory, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon. Lolita and Dr Strangelove were released with variable aspect ratios, with individual shots alternating between Academy and 1.66:1. His epics Spartacus and 2001: A Space Odyssey were premiered in 70mm at 2.21:1. His later films The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut were projected at 1.85:1 and released on video at 1.33:1 as per Kubrick's wishes.

Since Kubrick's death, Warner has released four Kubrick collections on DVD. The first Stanley Kubrick Collection, released in 1999, used the versions Kubrick had previously approved for VHS and laserdisc, and thus conformed to Kubrick's specifications. However, when Warner released the second Stanley Kubrick Collection on DVD in 2001, some of the original mono soundtracks were retrofitted into 5.1 Dolby Digital. For the third (Director's Series, 2007) and fourth (Limited Edition Collection, 2011) Warner collections, most films were cropped to 1.78:1 in addition to the 5.1 remixes.

Reformatting films to accommodate domestic audio-visual technology is hardly a new practice. All films are at least slightly cropped for television and video, as the original CRT TV aspect ratio was 1.33:1 whereas the conventional Academy film format was 1.37:1. Widescreen films were often pan-and-scanned on VHS and VCD to fit CRT TV screens. The contemporary high-definition widescreen TV ratio 1.78:1 does not quite match the standard theatrical widescreen ratio 1.85:1, thus 1.85:1 films are routinely cropped to 1.78:1 for DVD and blu-ray release.

The 1.37:1 Academy 35mm format was adopted as an industry standard soon after sound technology had become established in Hollywood. This format persisted, with very few exceptions (such as The Big Trail, in 70mm) until the 1950s, when Cinerama launched the widescreen revolution. The anamorphic 35mm widescreen format then became standardised at 2.35:1. Non-anamorphic 35mm films were projected at either 1.66:1, 1.75:1, or 1.85:1 aspect ratios. Today, 1.85:1 has become the standard non-anamorphic format, and 2.35:1 remains the standard anamorphic widescreen format.

(Kubrick's "Dear Projectionists..." letter has a reliable provenance, and it's consistent with similar correspondence I've seen at the Stanley Kubrick Archive and elsewhere. I also own an original Kubrick document: a signed Christmas card.)

"Dear Projectionist..."

Stanley Kubrick
Whenever Stanley Kubrick's films are released on video, their aspect ratios always provoke intense debate. Most recently, the Warner blu-ray release of Barry Lyndon, Kubrick's exquisite period drama, has attracted criticism because it's framed at 1.78:1 whereas the film's original theatrical ratio was 1.66:1.

1.78:1 corresponds to the ratio of current high-definition widescreen TVs, thus the 1.66:1 image has been horizontally cropped so that the blu-ray image perfectly fits an HD-TV screen. Presumably, the studio felt that viewers would not tolerate the black 'letterbox' bars across their TV screens required for a 1.66:1 image. With similar reasoning, Barry Lyndon's original mono soundtrack has been remixed in 5.1 Dolby Digital on blu-ray, to accommodate contemporary multi-channel home-theatre systems.

Warner claims that the 1.78:1 ratio is in accordance with Kubrick's wishes for Barry Lyndon (thus apparently dismissing its own previous 1.66:1 laserdisc and DVD releases). Kubrick's assistant Leon Vitali told blogger Glenn Kenny categorically that Barry Lyndon's ratio had always been 1.77:1, and that it had never been released at 1.66:1, though this is clearly incorrect as its theatrical, laserdisc, and DVD releases were all 1.66:1. It appears, unfortunately, that Vitali is making these revisionist statements in order to justify Warner's commercial decision to reformat Kubrick's films to 1.78:1.

Kenny tracked down a letter to cinema projectionists in which Kubrick specifies the 1.66:1 theatrical ratio. Surprisingly, Vitali responded to this by insisting that Kubrick had always preferred 1.77:1, despite clear evidence to the contrary. 1.77:1 is a digital TV ratio, not an analogue theatrical ratio, thus it is practically impossible that Kubrick ever considered it for Barry Lyndon.

Kubrick's early, independent films Fear & Desire and Killer's Kiss were released in the Academy ratio, though he later favoured 1.66:1 for The Killing, Paths Of Glory, A Clockwork Orange, and Barry Lyndon. Lolita and Dr Strangelove were released with variable aspect ratios, with individual shots alternating between Academy and 1.66:1. His epics Spartacus and 2001: A Space Odyssey were premiered in 70mm at 2.21:1. His later films The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut were projected at 1.85:1 and released on video at 1.33:1 as per Kubrick's wishes.

Since Kubrick's death, Warner has released four Kubrick collections on DVD. The first Stanley Kubrick Collection, released in 1999, used the versions Kubrick had previously approved for VHS and laserdisc, and thus conformed to Kubrick's specifications. However, when Warner released the second Stanley Kubrick Collection on DVD in 2001, some of the original mono soundtracks were retrofitted into 5.1 Dolby Digital. For the third (Director's Series, 2007) and fourth (Limited Edition Collection, 2011) Warner collections, most films were cropped to 1.78:1 in addition to the 5.1 remixes.

Reformatting films to accommodate domestic audio-visual technology is hardly a new practice. All films are at least slightly cropped for television and video, as the original CRT TV aspect ratio was 1.33:1 whereas the conventional Academy film format was 1.37:1. Widescreen films were often pan-and-scanned on VHS and VCD to fit CRT TV screens. The contemporary high-definition widescreen TV ratio 1.78:1 does not quite match the standard theatrical widescreen ratio 1.85:1, thus 1.85:1 films are routinely cropped to 1.78:1 for DVD and blu-ray release.

The 1.37:1 Academy 35mm format was adopted as an industry standard soon after sound technology had become established in Hollywood. This format persisted, with very few exceptions (such as The Big Trail, in 70mm) until the 1950s, when Cinerama launched the widescreen revolution. The anamorphic 35mm widescreen format then became standardised at 2.35:1. Non-anamorphic 35mm films were projected at either 1.66:1, 1.75:1, or 1.85:1 aspect ratios. Today, 1.85:1 has become the standard non-anamorphic format, and 2.35:1 remains the standard anamorphic widescreen format.

(Kubrick's "Dear Projectionists..." letter has a reliable provenance, and it's consistent with similar correspondence I've seen at the Stanley Kubrick Archive and elsewhere. I also own an original Kubrick document: a signed Christmas card.)

22 June 2011

Moral Education: Ethics

Moral Education: Ethics Moral Education: Ethics
A Muslim group in Lucknow, India, has complained after a cartoon image of Mohammed was printed in a school textbook. There have been calls for the book, Moral Education: Ethics by Chandra Prakash, to be withdrawn; the offending cartoon appears in a chapter titled Being Good & Gentle. Visual depictions of Mohammed have caused international controversy ever since a dozen Mohammed caricatures were printed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

This is not the first time Mohammed has been depicted in a school textbook: an illustration from The Remaining Signs Of Past Centuries was censored from Histoire Geographie in France. It is also not the first Indian book to feature a Mohammed image: the author of Hajarat Muhammad was arrested in India after his book depicted Mohammed on its cover.

10 June 2011

Foreign-Familiar

Foreign-Familiar
Bangkok Twilight
Foreign-Familiar, a photographic exhibition exploring Western views of Asian landscapes and lifestyles, opened at BACC on 4th June and closes at the end of the month. The exhibition includes Bangkok Twilight, Nick Nostitz's disturbing portraits of sex, drugs, and death on the streets of Bangkok.

03 June 2011

Carnivalism

Carnivalism
Cinema now has a new 'ism': Carnivalism, a one-day film event organised by New Media Communication students from Assumption University, takes place tomorrow at SF World (CentralWorld, Bangkok). All screenings are free of charge.

Carnivalism

Carnivalism
Cinema now has a new 'ism': Carnivalism, a one-day film event organised by New Media Communication students from Assumption University, takes place tomorrow at SF World (CentralWorld, Bangkok). All screenings are free of charge.

Incidental Art Festival

Incidental Art Festival
Wang Jun, one of the organisers of the Incidental Art Festival at Beijing's CCD 300 gallery, was arrested yesterday, and the Festival was closed down by police the day after it opened. One of the gallery's walls had been left blank, except for a small label bearing the name of artist Ai Weiwei. Ai, China's most famous contemporary artist, was detained earlier this year on vague tax-evasion charges.

01 June 2011

Letter Fountain

Letter Fountain
Joep Pohlen's Letter Fountain: On Printing Types, published by Taschen, is an encyclopedic reference to typography, an expanded English translation of Pohlen and Geert Setola's Letterfontein (fourth edition). At 600 pages, it's far more extensive than the slim Typographic Desk Reference, and its comprehensive scope makes it the best general typographic reference work.

However, Letter Fountain lacks TDR's clear organisation and cross-referencing. The alphabetised sub-sections and extensive appendices are hard to navigate quickly; if tabbed pages or a detailed general index were added, the book's material would be easier to access. (For a detailed account of typographic history, see Printing Types by Daniel Updike and 20th-Century Type by Lewis Blackwell; in both cases, the first and second editions are superior to the third.)

Chiang Mai Now!

Chiang Mai Now!
LHOOQ
LHOOQ Roue De Bicyclette
Chiang Mai Now!, a survey of contemporary art from Chiang Mai now showing at BACC, opened on 7th April and will close on 19th June. The exhibition includes an installation inspired by Marcel Duchamp.

A neon sculpture, LHOOQ, references the title of Duchamp's defaced Mona Lisa portrait; the letters are a pun on the French words 'elle a chaud au cul'. One of Duchamp's early 'found objects', Roue De Bicyclette, a bicycle wheel on a stool, has been slightly modified, with the stool replaced by a fire extinguisher.

Italian Film Festival 2011

Italian Film Festival 2011
Big Deal On Madonna Street
Ploy
Last Life In The Universe
The Italian Film Festival 2011 opens next week, and includes tributes to Mario Monicelli and Pen-ek Ratanaruang. The Festival runs at SFX Emporium for five days starting on 8th June, and all tickets are free. The Festival is held annually in Bangkok; I missed it in 2010 and 2009, though I went to the 2008 Festival at Lido.

Monicelli's Big Deal On Madonna Street, screening on 9th June, was one of the templates for the Commedia All'Italiana tragi-comic style. Its original Italian title translates as 'The Usual Suspects', a reference to Casablanca ("Round up the usual suspects", also the inspiration for the masterpiece The Usual Suspects). The film features an impressive cast, which includes Vittorio Gassman (his first comedic role), Marcello Mastroianni (his most significant pre-Fellini performance), and Toto (an extended cameo from the comic veteran). The jazz score is another highlight, an ironic contrast with the film's visual style (shooting on location in the manner of Neorealism). Monicelli parodies the conventions of heist films (specifically Rififi), an approach employed four decades later in Woody Allen's Small-Time Crooks.

Pen-ek is one of Thailand's greatest contemporary directors, though he has no obvious connection to Italian cinema. He is represented at the Festival by Ploy on June 9th and Last Life In The Universe on June 10th.

Italian Film Festival 2011

Italian Film Festival 2011
Big Deal On Madonna Street
Ploy
Last Life In The Universe
The Italian Film Festival 2011 opens next week, and includes tributes to Mario Monicelli and Pen-ek Ratanaruang. The Festival runs at SFX Emporium for five days starting on 8th June, and all tickets are free. The Festival is held annually in Bangkok; I missed it in 2010 and 2009, though I went to the 2008 Festival at Lido.

Monicelli's Big Deal On Madonna Street, screening on 9th June, was one of the templates for the Commedia All'Italiana tragi-comic style. Its original Italian title translates as 'The Usual Suspects', a reference to Casablanca ("Round up the usual suspects", also the inspiration for the masterpiece The Usual Suspects). The film features an impressive cast, which includes Vittorio Gassman (his first comedic role), Marcello Mastroianni (his most significant pre-Fellini performance), and Toto (an extended cameo from the comic veteran). The jazz score is another highlight, an ironic contrast with the film's visual style (shooting on location in the manner of Neorealism). Monicelli parodies the conventions of heist films (specifically Rififi), an approach employed four decades later in Woody Allen's Small-Time Crooks.

Pen-ek is one of Thailand's greatest contemporary directors, though he has no obvious connection to Italian cinema. He is represented at the Festival by Ploy on June 9th and Last Life In The Universe on June 10th.

24 May 2011

The Sunday Herald

The Sunday Herald
Ryan Giggs took out an injunction earlier this year to prevent the news of his affair with Imogen Thomas from being made public. The injunction only applied to English and Welsh media, and Giggs was named by the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald two days ago.

Yesterday, MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Giggs in the House of Commons: "With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it's obviously impracticable to imprison them all". This opened the floodgates, and today's newspapers have all named Giggs despite the injunction.

The Sunday Herald

The Sunday Herald
Ryan Giggs took out an injunction earlier this year to prevent the news of his affair with Imogen Thomas from being made public. The injunction only applied to English and Welsh media, and Giggs was named by the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Herald two days ago.

Yesterday, MP John Hemming used parliamentary privilege to name Giggs in the House of Commons: "With about 75,000 people having named Ryan Giggs on Twitter, it's obviously impracticable to imprison them all". This opened the floodgates, and today's newspapers have all named Giggs despite the injunction.

23 May 2011

ตัวตน โดย ตัวงาน

Thai Film Archive
Apichatpong Weerasethakul will host a four-hour film masterclass, titled ตัวตน โดย ตัวงาน, at the Thai Film Archive (in Salaya, near Bangkok) on 14th June. Apichatpong last appeared at the Archive almost a year ago, after winning the Cannes Palme d'Or.

He has previously given shorter lectures in 2010 (Indy Spirit Project) and 2008 (Apichatpong On Video Works). His best-known films are Uncle Boonmee and Syndromes & A Century.

09 May 2011

Phenomena & Prophecies

Phenomena & Prophecies
Horror In Pink I
Phenomena & Prophecies, a retrospective of Manit Sriwanichpoom's photographs, opened at G23 in Bangkok on 23rd April. The exhibition will close on 18th July.

Most of the images feature Manit's trademark 'Pink Man', the conspicuous consumer portrayed by Sompong Tawee, including the truly shocking Horror In Pink series (shown previously in From Message To Media). (At the opening reception, Sompong posed for photographs with visitors.) There are also portraits of soldiers posing for snapshots after the 2006 coup, ironic commentaries on politics-as-spectacle that echo Manit's recent contributions to Rupture.

Manit is one of Thailand's most celebrated contemporary photographers. Flashback '76 was arguably his most powerful solo exhibition; his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently Dialogues.

30 April 2011

Voice Of Taksin

Voice Of Taksin
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Voice Of Taksin magazine, has been arrested and charged with lèse-majesté. The charge relates to two columns, titled คมความคิด ("Sharp thinking"), published in February and March 2010, written by Jit Pollachan (a pseudonym for Jakrapob Penkair). Voice Of Taksin is notorious for its radical and inflammatory content: some issues have incited violence, with a cartoon of a Molotov cocktail ("Don't throw more than two bottles per day!") and a cover depicting a hand grenade ("Bomb the aristocrats").

Voice Of Taksin

Voice Of Taksin
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of Voice Of Taksin magazine, has been arrested and charged with lèse-majesté. The charge relates to two columns, titled คมความคิด ("Sharp thinking"), published in February and March 2010, written by Jit Pollachan (a pseudonym for Jakrapob Penkair). Voice Of Taksin is notorious for its radical and inflammatory content: some issues have incited violence, with a cartoon of a Molotov cocktail ("Don't throw more than two bottles per day!") and a cover depicting a hand grenade ("Bomb the aristocrats").

29 April 2011

Digiplay

Digiplay
Pong
Digiplay opened at TCDC on 25th March. It was originally scheduled to close on 1st May, though it has now been extended to 22nd May. The exhibition showcases contemporary computer-game design and animation from Thai and British artists.

Digiplay also includes a selection of old games consoles representing the history of video games. There are playable versions of many games, including the first-ever computer game, Spacewar; the original console game, Pong; and an interactive/virtual-reality game, Kinectimals.

28 April 2011

Modern Architecture A-Z

Modern Architecture A-Z
Modern Architecture A-Z is a dictionary of architects and architectural styles, edited by Laszlo Taschen (a project he inherited from Peter Gossel, who co-wrote Taschen's Architecture In The 20th Century) and similar in format to Taschen's Photographers A-Z. It's published in two volumes: A-K and L-Z.

Significant modern and contemporary architects, including masters such as Le Corbusier and Frank Gehry, are profiled. There are gorgeous full-page photographs of iconic buildings such as the Eiffel Tower (Paris), the Chrysler Building (New York), and the Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao). The Encyclopedia Of Architecture, edited by Joseph A Wilkes, is a five-volume encyclopedia that also includes biographies of key architects.

Photographers A-Z

Photographers A-Z
Photographers A-Z, compiled by Hans-Michael Koetzle for Taschen, is a bibliographical dictionary of modern photography, from portraiture and photomontage to photojournalism. The format is similar to that of Taschen's Modern Architecture A-Z (and Ian Jeffrey's The Photography Book). Each entry - covering one or two pages - includes a bibliography and a list of selected exhibitions.

Each photographer's work is illustrated with (sometimes rather small) reproductions from one of their published monographs. The selected artists range from masters such as Man Ray and Henri Cartier-Bresson to leading contemporary photographers such as Andreas Gursky and Sebastiao Salgado. For more historical context, see A World History Of Photography, Photography: A Cultural History, and The Focal Encyclopedia Of Photography.

23 April 2011

Conversations With Scorsese

Conversations With Scorsese
Richard Schickel's book-length interview with Martin Scorsese, Conversations With Scorsese, expands and updates Schickel's documentary Scorsese On Scorsese. (It's also more comprehensive than Ian Christie's book Scorsese On Scorsese.)

Many of the anecdotes are familiar from previous Scorsese interviews, and there are no personal revelations. (Peter Biskind's book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls has more explosive details about Scorsese's drug use.) Scorsese is more candid than usual, however: describing the delayed release of Shutter Island, he says it felt like "somebody just has a baseball bat and hits you in the chest". He is surprisingly dismissive of Shutter Island, in fact ("I want to leave Shutter Island"), and critical of the constraints imposed by the studio system during the making of Gangs Of New York, The Aviator, and The Departed.

The book also includes a detailed filmography of Scorsese's work as director, actor, and producer. Schickel's previous interviews with film directors include The Men Who Made The Movies (a documentary series and book) and Woody Allen: A Life In Film (a documentary and book).

15 April 2011

Scream IV

Scream IV
Scream IV (or Scre4m) was directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, as were Scream I-II. (Williamson wrote a treatment for Scream III, though not the script; Craven and Williamson also collaborated, less successfully, on Cursed.) The original Scream was a genre classic, starting a trend for post-modern horror; in Nightmare Movies, Kim Newman calls it "the defining horror film for a generation". (Craven's earlier New Nightmare was equally post-modern, though less successful at the box office.) Scream II was an unusually impressive sequel, though the metafictional self-referentiality in Scream III felt too much like a parody. Since Scream III, Craven has directed the effective thriller Red Eye, one of the better segments of Paris, Je T'Aime, and the shockingly mediocre My Soul To Take.

With Williamson (who also wrote the excellent The Faculty) back on board, Scream IV should have reinvigorated the series. However, there's nothing original here, merely the same old phone calls (once clever, now formulaic) and villain-unmaskings (inviting unwelcome Scooby Doo comparisons). The body count is extremely high, though the large cast and frequent killings mean that characters are given very little back-story, so it's hard to become emotionally involved in their fates. Also, there is little suspense, and each victim is dispatched so quickly, thus the film is never really scary.

Scream IV

Scream IV
Scream IV (or Scre4m) was directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, as were Scream I-II. (Williamson wrote a treatment for Scream III, though not the script; Craven and Williamson also collaborated, less successfully, on Cursed.) The original Scream was a genre classic, starting a trend for post-modern horror; in Nightmare Movies, Kim Newman calls it "the defining horror film for a generation". (Craven's earlier New Nightmare was equally post-modern, though less successful at the box office.) Scream II was an unusually impressive sequel, though the metafictional self-referentiality in Scream III felt too much like a parody. Since Scream III, Craven has directed the effective thriller Red Eye, one of the better segments of Paris, Je T'Aime, and the shockingly mediocre My Soul To Take.

With Williamson (who also wrote the excellent The Faculty) back on board, Scream IV should have reinvigorated the series. However, there's nothing original here, merely the same old phone calls (once clever, now formulaic) and villain-unmaskings (inviting unwelcome Scooby Doo comparisons). The body count is extremely high, though the large cast and frequent killings mean that characters are given very little back-story, so it's hard to become emotionally involved in their fates. Also, there is little suspense, and each victim is dispatched so quickly, thus the film is never really scary.

13 April 2011

The Film Theory Reader

The Film Theory Reader
The Film Theory Reader: Debates & Arguments, edited by Marc Furstenau, includes some of the most fundamental film-studies texts, covering auteurism (two extracts from Andre Bazin's What Is Cinema?), semiotics (an extract from Christian Metz's Film Language), and spectatorship (Laura Mulvey's widely-anthologised Visual Pleasure & Narrative Cinema). The final chapter, Digital Cinema, is a sceptical essay by cinema's leading technology writer, John Belton. Film Theory & Criticism: Introductory Readings (1974) and Movies & Methods (1976) are the most comprehensive film-theory anthologies.

11 April 2011

The Typographic Desk Reference

The Typographic Desk Reference
The Typographic Desk Reference (abbreviated to TDR), by Theo Rosendorf, is a concise guide to typographical terminology and type anatomy. TDR's design is especially striking: it's slim, stark, sturdy, and elegant.

Fortunately not another conventional font catalogue, TDR instead devotes more space to the minutiae of typography, complete with diagrams and examples. This material is usually covered only in brief glossaries, so TDR's meticulous coverage is exceptional. (For a detailed account of typographic history, see Daniel Updike's Printing Types and Lewis Blackwell's 20th-Century Type; in both cases, the first and second editions are superior to the third.)

...Isms
Understanding Architecture

...Isms: Understanding Architecture
...Isms: Understanding Architecture, by Jeremy Melvin, is part of the ...Isms series (also including Understanding Art and Understanding Cinema). Whereas Understanding Cinema contained mostly redundant 'isms', the '-ism' suffixes in Understanding Architecture are all kosher.

Like Understanding Art, the book presents a logical and concise historical summary. The book was subsequently reprinted under the less succinct subtitle Understanding Architectural Styles.

...IsmsUnderstanding Cinema

Film Isms
Film Isms: Understanding Cinema classifies film history into a series of categories, all suffixed by '-ism'. This approach was adopted successfully by the first book in the ...Isms series, Understanding Art, because modern art has fragmented into numerous isms. (Other books in the series include Understanding Architecture; Manifesto and Styles, Schools, & Movements, unrelated to this series, are more extensive studies of artistic isms.)

Unlike art, cinema is more suited to classification by genre than by ism, though Film Isms (written by Ronald Bergan, co-author of 501 Must-See Movies) takes "an 'ismatic' viewpoint" that awkwardly converts genres into isms, coining such bizarre neologisms as 'Horrorism', 'Film Noirism', 'New Wavism', etc. These incongruous labels are unfortunate distractions, obfuscating rather than simplifying their subject-matter, and are thus counter-productive in a book that purports to provide a concise and accessible summary of film history. Also, Bergan's definition of Orientalism is simply incorrect, and the appendices are too short to be useful.

Finally, the book's title punctuation is unclear. Film Isms... appears on the cover and title page, while Film...Isms appears on the spine and flaps. ...Isms: Understanding Cinema would be more consistent with the other titles in the series. Bergan's previous book Film is a better beginner's guide to cinema history, and 1,000 Films To Change Your Life is a better thematic guide to great films.

...Isms
Understanding Cinema

Film Isms
Film Isms: Understanding Cinema classifies film history into a series of categories, all suffixed by '-ism'. This approach was adopted successfully by the first book in the ...Isms series, Understanding Art, because modern art has fragmented into numerous isms. (Other books in the series include Understanding Architecture; Manifesto and Styles, Schools, & Movements, unrelated to this series, are more extensive studies of artistic isms.)

Unlike art, cinema is more suited to classification by genre than by ism, though Film Isms (written by Ronald Bergan, co-author of 501 Must-See Movies) takes "an 'ismatic' viewpoint" that awkwardly converts genres into isms, coining such bizarre neologisms as 'Horrorism', 'Film Noirism', 'New Wavism', etc. These incongruous labels are unfortunate distractions, obfuscating rather than simplifying their subject-matter, and are thus counter-productive in a book that purports to provide a concise and accessible summary of film history. Also, Bergan's definition of Orientalism is simply incorrect, and the appendices are too short to be useful.

Finally, the book's title punctuation is unclear. Film Isms... appears on the cover and title page, while Film...Isms appears on the spine and flaps. ...Isms: Understanding Cinema would be more consistent with the other titles in the series. Bergan's previous book Film is a better beginner's guide to cinema history, and 1,000 Films To Change Your Life is a better thematic guide to great films.

05 April 2011

Nightmare Movies

Nightmare Movies
Kim Newman has revised and substantially updated his definitive history of modern horror cinema, Nightmare Movies, which has been published with the new subtitle Horror On Screen Since The 1960s. This edition is divided into two parts: the previous version of Nightmare Movies (covering horror cinema since Night Of The Living Dead, which he profiled recently in The Empire Five-Star 500; the original text is untouched, except for new footnotes) and "the sequel" titled New Nightmares (a reference to Wes Craven's film New Nightmare).

Newman is the ultimate horror expert, and Nightmare Movies is his magnum opus. In the updated version, he discusses serial-killer films (notably The Silence Of The Lambs), the proliferation of vampires in cinema and on TV, postmodernism (Scream) and Hollywood's current obsession with remakes, J-Horror ghost films (Ringu), 'torture porn' (Hostel), virtual-reality SF (The Matrix), and zombie horror. The last two categories also serve as an update of his apocalypse-cinema book Millennium Movies. He previously summarised contemporary horror trends in Horror, which he co-edited.

Newman is also a contributor to 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, Contemporary American Cinema, Fear Without Frontiers, 100 European Horror Films, The Oxford History Of World Cinema, and the Aururm Film Encyclopedia: Horror. He has written for various magazines, including Premiere, Sight & Sound, and Empire. He also appears in the supplements to DVDs of Video Nasties, Double Indemnity, Notorious, Suspiria, and The Old Dark House. I saw him introduce a screening of Zombie Holocaust at the ICA, London.

04 April 2011

A Voix Nue

Last month, the French radio station France Culture broadcast five episodes of A Voix Nue, directed by Manoushak Fashahi and featuring Stanley Kubrick. Each episode, transmitted daily from 21st to 25th March, was an extract from interviews with Kubrick recorded by film critic Michel Ciment.

Ciment interviewed Kubrick in 1975, 1980, and 1987, and they discussed Kubrick's films Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. The interviews were originally published in the French newspaper L'Express, and subsequently in Ciment's book Kubrick: The Definitive Edition.

A Voix Nue

Last month, the French radio station France Culture broadcast five episodes of A Voix Nue, directed by Manoushak Fashahi and featuring Stanley Kubrick. Each episode, transmitted daily from 21st to 25th March, was an extract from interviews with Kubrick recorded by film critic Michel Ciment.

Ciment interviewed Kubrick in 1975, 1980, and 1987, and they discussed Kubrick's films Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket. The interviews were originally published in the French newspaper L'Express, and subsequently in Ciment's book Kubrick: The Definitive Edition.

02 April 2011

Obsessive Compulsive

Obsessive Compulsive
ตัวใครตัวมันนะโยม
Vasan Sitthiket's latest exhibition, Obsessive Compulsive, opened yesterday at Number One Gallery, Bangkok, and will close on 7th May. (Vasan's previous exhibition, Ten Evil Scenes Of Thai Politic [sic], was shown at the same gallery last year.)

The exhibition includes ตัวใครตัวมันนะโยม, a painting of naked monks fighting and having sex, with a monk's saffron robe appliqued to the canvas. This characteristically provocative work is as controversial as Anupong Chantorn's painting Moral Boundary, in which naked monks were painted onto a monk's robe.

La Fete 2011

La Fete 2011
Cinema Picnic By Moonlight
Monrak Transistor
This year's La Fete festival runs from 10th February until 10th April, at various venues around Bangkok. The highlight of the festival was Museum Siam's Cinema Picnic By Moonlight, an evening of free outdoor film screenings. To celebrate Valentine's Day, Pen-ek Ratanaruang's romantic comedy/thriller Monrak Transistor was screened on 14th February.

La Fete, like the recent French Open Air Cinema Festival, is organised by Alliance Francaise. Pen-ek's other films are Fun-Bar Karaoke, 6ixtynin9, Last Life In The Universe, Invisible Waves (shown at the 2006 Bangkok International Film Festival), Ploy (shown at the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival), and Nymph (shown at the 2009 Bangkok International Film Festival; also released in a director's cut version). He has directed several short films, including a segment of Sawasdee Bangkok.

19 March 2011

Silent Movies

Silent Movies
Silent Movies: The Birth Of Film & The Triumph Of Movie Culture, by Peter Kobel, styles itself as a "definitive illustrated history of silent movies". The key word here is 'illustrated', as the book's large, glossy images, many of which were previously unpublished, are its main attraction.

The book provides a useful introduction to silent cinema, though the text is a concise overview rather than an in-depth analysis. As in much writing about silent cinema, the American film industry and the star system receive the most coverage. A foreword by Martin Scorsese and an introduction by Kevin Brownlow add prestige to this lavish and accessible survey of silent film.

Anyone who is fascinated by this book should also read Brownlow's The Parade's Gone By and Hollywood, William K Everson's American Silent Film, and Richard Abel's Encyclopedia Of Early Cinema. Brownlow also directed two outstanding television series about silent film: Hollywood and Cinema Europe.

06 March 2011

Dialogues

Dialogues
Ash Heart Project
Dead Chicken On Thai Flag | Dog Skull On Thai Flag | Dead Dove On Thai Flag | Pig's Heart On Thai Flag
WWF
Dialogues is a multi-media exhibition showcasing recent works by prominent Thai and Belgian artists. The exhibition opened at BACC on 27th January, and will close today.

Among the numerous highlights are a ceramic sculpture by Wasinburee Supanichvoraparch (previously shown at Another Side), WWF (an enormous wasp by Pascal Bernier), and Manit Sriwanichpoom's photographs of dead animals on the Thai flag. (Manit has contributed equally political images to the Rupture, Flashback '76, and From Message To Media exhibitions.)

There is also a rare opportunity to see Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook's videos The Class I-III, in which she teaches a class of corpses. (Her video Conversation was shown at The Suspended Moment, and Reading For Female Corpse was at From Message To Media.) However, the most fascinating exhibit at Dialogues is Ruangsak Anuwatwimon's Ash Heart Project, a collection of heart sculptures made of animal and human ashes.