23 November 2013

Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Dark Side Of The Rainbow
This Wednesday, Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host screenings of two classic films set to the music of Pink Floyd. The event, Dark Side Of The Rainbow, will begin with an extract from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (the final 'Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite' sequence), accompanied by Pink Floyd's track Echoes. This will be followed by a screening of The Wizard Of Oz, accompanied by the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Both films were screened recently in Thailand. 2001 was shown at the Thai Film Archive last month, and The Wizard Of Oz was shown at the Bangkok Community Theatre in September.

Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Dark Side Of The Rainbow
This Wednesday, Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host screenings of two classic films set to the music of Pink Floyd. The event, Dark Side Of The Rainbow, will begin with an extract from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (the final 'Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite' sequence), accompanied by Pink Floyd's track Echoes. This will be followed by a screening of The Wizard Of Oz, accompanied by the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Both films were screened recently in Thailand. 2001 was shown at the Thai Film Archive last month, and The Wizard Of Oz was shown at the Bangkok Community Theatre in September.

20 November 2013

Double Down

Double Down
Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, who covered the 2008 US presidential election in Game Change, have written a sequel, Double Down: Game Change 2012, about President Obama's re-election last year. Its UK subtitle is The Explosive Inside Account Of The 2012 Presidential Election.

2008 was an extraordinary contest, thanks to the rivalry between Obama and Hillary Clinton, the ridiculous Sarah Palin, and Obama's historic victory. 2012, when Obama defeated the bland Mitt Romney, was a more pedestrian election, though Double Down is still a fascinating account.

Halperin and Heilemann are both heavyweight political journalists, perhaps the only contemporary writers who can match Bob Woodward's level of access and influence. (Woodward's latest books are Obama's Wars and The Price Of Politics; he tends to focus on policies, whereas Halperin and Heilemann emphasise the personalities involved.)

Just as Game Change did in 2010, the revelations in Double Down have been making headlines, especially the book's claim that Obama's campaign team seriously considered replacing Joe Biden as Vice President with Hillary Clinton. The authors explain that "Biden didn't credit the speculation for a minute", though Clinton's own reaction is not included; presumably, she was one of the few key players who refused to be interviewed. Halperin and Heilemann spoke to practically everyone else, including Obama, Biden, Romney, and Bill Clinton (all on 'deep background', i.e. unattributed), though Hillary is conspicuous by her absence.

Double Down notes Obama's reaction to a previous book about his administration: he apparently complained that Ron Suskind's Confidence Men was "largely a piece of fiction". The anecdote is certainly credible, as Double Down's sources are second to none, though it also feels like schadenfreude from the authors towards one of their fellow political writers.

Halperin and Heilemann themselves became part of the narrative when Obama's election strategy was leaked to them: "two authors writing a book on the 2012 campaign knew all about the extraordinary session six weeks earlier; they had the whole roster of Obama's regrets in copious detail. "How could someone do this to me?" Obama asked". This leads to one of the book's most dramatic moments, with Obama storming out of a discussion with his most senior advisers, exasperated at the leak yet meeting another author that same afternoon: "At 2:55pm he had a meeting in the Oval Office. The meeting was with David Maraniss. For a fucking book interview". (The book was Barack Obama: The Story.)

Double Down is at its most captivating when analysing Obama's relationship with Bill Clinton, which develops from wary tolerance to mutual admiration. The book also provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes account of Obama's intense preparations for the presidential debates.

The midsection, with chapters devoted to the various Republican nominee contenders (Chris Christie, Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, et al.), is less interesting, because Romney was clearly Obama's only serious rival. The other contenders were insignificant even in 2012, and should be only minor footnotes today.

15 November 2013

S.

S. Ship Of Theseus
S.
Ship Of Theseus
S. is the new novel from JJ Abrams (director of Super 8 and Star Trek) and Doug Dorst. According to the blurb, it was 'conceived' by Abrams and written by Dorst, which presumably means that Abrams initiated the project though Dorst actually wrote the text.

The novel's title refers to its central character, S, a stranger known only by a single letter, like 'K' in Franz Kafka's The Trial. The title, and Abrams and Dorst's names, appear only on the book's slipcase; the book itself has an alternate title, author, and publisher.

The book inside the slipcase is Ship Of Theseus, written by VM Straka and translated by FX Caldiera. Ship Of Theseus was published by Winged Shoes Press in 1949, and it looks, feels, and even smells like a sixty-year-old book. It bears a 1949 copyright notice ("Printed in the United States of America"), the pages have yellowed with age, the spine has a Dewey Decimal sticker, and there are library stamps on the endpapers.

Ship Of Theseus is, of course, entirely fictitious, as are its author and translator and even its publisher. In reality, it's a novel written by Dorst, printed in China in 2013 though designed to look like a 1949 library book. When removed from its modern slipcase, Ship Of Theseus really is an incredibly convincing simulation of a 1949 hardback.

Aside from the prose text, almost every page of Ship Of Theseus contains extensive marginalia. Two students, Eric and Jennifer, have carried out a personal correspondence in the margins of the book. They use a variety of pens, with each pair of colours representing a different dialogue between them, and their handwritten notes are rendered as convincingly as the rest of the book.

In addition, there are twenty-nine pieces of ephemera inserted between the book's pages. These include several handwritten letters, picture postcards, photographs, newspaper clippings, photocopied documents, a volvelle, and even a napkin. Each of these items is reproduced as authentically as the book itself, and the attention to detail is remarkable.

Therefore, S. presents a multitude of inter-connected narratives: the text of Ship Of Theseus by Straka, the footnotes by Caldiera, the numerous threads of Eric and Jennifer's marginalia, and the supplemental material in the ephemera. Eric and Jennifer search for clues to the identity of the mysterious Straka, speculating that Caldiera and Straka may be the same person. An elusive author, a book within a book, and the mystique of old library books were also central to Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Shadow Of The Wind.

Book publishing is currently migrating to tablets and e-readers, so it's encouraging that S. is a defiantly physical, printed object. It fetishises old-fashioned books, and Abrams and Dorst have created a perfect simulacrum of one. Publishers like Taschen specialise in elaborate collector's editions (such as Napoleon), and Visual Editions publishes novels in increasingly experimental formats (such as a reprint of Tristram Shandy), though S. is a unique and extraordinary example of innovation in book design.

14 November 2013

After The Music Stopped

After The Music Stopped
After The Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, The Response, & The Work Ahead, by Alan S Blinder, is the first book to fully explore the causes and consequences of the global economic meltdown that began in 2008. The collapse of America's subprime mortgage market triggered the most damaging financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, and was followed by economic collapses across the Eurozone from which Greece and Spain are still recovering. (Interestingly, the 2008 collapse is known in Thailand as the 'hamburger crisis', just as Thailand's own 1997 economic meltdown was called the 'tom yam kung crisis'.)

After The Music Stops begins with an intimidating three-page list of financial acronyms, though Blinder's accessible writing style - frequent rhetorical questions, subheadings, and conversational asides - guides the reader through the economic complexities. For example: "Now, take a deep breath... this is where we move from issues that were moderately controversial - leaving bipartisan agreement at least conceivable, to issues that were supercontroversial". (This is in contrast to the dry prose of Gordon Brown's Beyond The Crash.)

The text may be accessible, though its analysis is far from superficial, and After The Music Stopped is probably the most authoritative account of the financial crisis to date. As Blinder writes in his preface: "a comprehensive history of this episode has yet to be written. A number of fine books, mostly by journalists, have examined pieces of the puzzle, sometimes in excruciating detail... My purpose, instead, is to give the big picture".

10 November 2013

Legendary Movies (2nd edition)

Legendary Movies
Paolo d'Agostini has written a second edition of his book Legendary Movies. The new edition, published last month, has been expanded to include a handful of films released since 2008, when the first edition was published. It also features a new, lenticular cover. 

The new films include The King's Speech, Avatar, and The Artist. Legendary Movies was translated from an original Italian text, though the extra chapters in the updated edition have been translated quite clumsily, with lines like "These simple plots, for those who desire them, do not weigh on those who settle for a romantic comedy-drama approach".

The Legendary Movies are as follows:
  • Cabiria
  • The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari
  • Nosferatu
  • Battleship Potemkin
  • Metropolis
  • The Blue Angel
  • Frankenstein
  • Grand Hotel
  • King Kong
  • It Happened One Night
  • Modern Times
  • Grand Illusion
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Ninotchka
  • Stagecoach
  • Gone With The Wind
  • Citizen Kane
  • Casablanca
  • Arsenic & Old Lace
  • Rome: Open City
  • Gilda
  • It's A Wonderful Life
  • Bicycle Thieves
  • The Asphalt Jungle
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • Singin' In The Rain
  • High Noon
  • Don Camillo
  • The Wild One
  • Roman Holiday
  • From Here To Eternity
  • A Star Is Born
  • On The Waterfront
  • Sabrina
  • Seven Samurai
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without A Cause
  • & God Created Woman
  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Seventh Seal
  • The Bridge On The River Kwai
  • The Great War
  • Ben-Hur: A Tale Of The Christ
  • Some Like It Hot
  • A Summer Place
  • La Dolce Vita
  • Breathless
  • Two Women
  • Psycho
  • The Magnificent Seven
  • Breakfast At Tiffany's
  • West Side Story
  • Lolita
  • Jules & Jim
  • Lawrence Of Arabia
  • The Pink Panther

  • The Leopard
  • A Fistful Of Dollars
  • Goldfinger
  • Mary Poppins
  • Dr Zhivago
  • A Man & A Woman
  • Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
  • The Dirty Dozen
  • Belle De Jour
  • The Graduate
  • In The Heat Of The Night
  • Romeo & Juliet
  • Planet Of The Apes
  • Bullitt
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Rosemary's Baby
  • Easy Rider
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Love Story
  • M*A*S*H
  • Dirty Harry
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Cabaret
  • The Godfather
  • The Sting
  • American Graffiti
  • The Exorcist
  • Jaws
  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
  • Nashville
  • Taxi Driver
  • Rocky
  • In The Realm Of The Senses
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Star Wars IV: A New Hope
  • Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
  • The Deer Hunter
  • Grease
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Manhattan
  • Alien
  • The Blues Brothers
  • The Shining
  • American Gigolo
  • The Party
  • Raiders Of The Lost Ark
  • Escape From New York
  • First Blood
  • ET: The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Blade Runner
  • Once Upon A Time In America
  • A Nightmare On Elm Street
  • Back To The Future
  • Top Gun
  • 9½ Weeks
  • Wings Of Desire
  • The Last Emperor
  • Rain Man
  • Nikita
  • Pretty Woman
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • Raise The Red Lantern
  • The Silence Of The Lambs
  • Thelma & Louise
  • Basic Instinct
  • Batman Returns
  • Schindler's List
  • Forrest Gump
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Seven
  • Mission: Impossible
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • Titanic
  • The Matrix
  • Gladiator
  • The Lord Of The Rings I-III
  • Amelie
  • Talk To Her
  • Kill Bill I-II
  • The Last Samurai
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum
  • Pirates Of The Caribbean I-III
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • The Twilight Saga I-V
  • Avatar
  • The King's Speech
  • The Artist
Note that Ben-Hur, Frankenstein, and The Ten Commandments are all sound films and not their earlier silent versions. Some Like It Hot is the 1959 classic, not the obscure 1939 comedy. Also, Titanic is the 1997 James Cameron version and Romeo & Juliet is the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli version.

09 November 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013
San-Dan-Ka
The Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013 opened on 2nd November, and will close on 17th November. The Festival includes a revival of San-Dan-Ka, at BACC on 13th and 14th November. San-Dan-Ka, a butoh dance performance inspired by the controversial paintings of Anupong Chantorn, was first performed in 2009, at the Democrazy Theatre Studio in Bangkok.

Anupong's paintings depict monks with beaks, as if they were scavenging crows. One of his works caused controversy when it was shown as part of the 53rd National Exhibition in 2007, and he exhibited a similar piece at the 2nd Bangkok Triennale in 2009. His 2010 solo exhibition Hope In The Dark was even more provocative, with portraits of nude monks painted on saffron robes.

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013

Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013
San-Dan-Ka
The Bangkok Theatre Festival 2013 opened on 2nd November, and will close on 17th November. The Festival includes a revival of San-Dan-Ka, at BACC on 13th and 14th November. San-Dan-Ka, a butoh dance performance inspired by the controversial paintings of Anupong Chantorn, was first performed in 2009, at the Democrazy Theatre Studio in Bangkok.

Anupong's paintings depict monks with beaks, as if they were scavenging crows. One of his works caused controversy when it was shown as part of the 53rd National Exhibition in 2007, and he exhibited a similar piece at the 2nd Bangkok Triennale in 2009. His 2010 solo exhibition Hope In The Dark was even more provocative, with portraits of nude monks painted on saffron robes.

Cinema Diverse

Cinema Diverse
Cinema Diverse
Synecdoche, New York
The Good, The Bad, & The Weird
Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice, an annual season of free film screenings introduced by acclaimed Thai directors, began at BACC today with Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York introduced by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. Synecdoche, New York will be shown again next week as part of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Nonzee Nimibutr (director of Nang Nak) will introduce The Good, The Bad, & The Weird, along with the film's director, Kim Jee-Woon, on 17th May 2014; the festival runs until 19th July 2014. Last year's Cinema Diverse season included a screening of Tears Of The Black Tiger introduced by its director, Wisit Sasanatieng.

Cinema Diverse

Cinema Diverse
Cinema Diverse
Synecdoche, New York
The Good, The Bad, & The Weird
Cinema Diverse: Director's Choice, an annual season of free film screenings introduced by acclaimed Thai directors, began at BACC today with Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York introduced by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee. Synecdoche, New York will be shown again next week as part of this year's World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Nonzee Nimibutr (director of Nang Nak) will introduce The Good, The Bad, & The Weird, along with the film's director, Kim Jee-Woon, on 17th May 2014; the festival runs until 19th July 2014. Last year's Cinema Diverse season included a screening of Tears Of The Black Tiger introduced by its director, Wisit Sasanatieng.

02 November 2013

Currency Crisis

Currency Crisis
Butterfly
Fighting Fish, Money
Currency Crisis, a group exhibition featuring interpretations on the theme of money, opened today at Whitespace Gallery's new venue in Bangkok. (Whitespace relocated from Siam to Silom earlier this year.) Each of the participating artists, from Thailand and elsewhere in South-East Asia, subverts money in some way, both physically and symbolically, either by drawing on banknotes, reducing them to powder, or sawing coins in half. The exhibition, a comment on the global economic crash and the commodification of contemporary art, will close on 29th December.

The show includes a new painting by Pornprasert Yamazaki, a distorted portrait of King Taksin, titled Butterfly. Beneath the picture is an installation of fighting fish in a row of fifty individual jars, separated by crisp twenty-baht banknotes. Butterfly represents the fish's eye-view of Taksin as depicted on the banknotes, refracted through the jars. Like the works from his solo exhibition Suicide Mind, Butterfly was painted using Pornprasert's own blood.

Previously, Kosit Juntaratip used blood in his performance art, and Kristian von Hornsleth collected Thai blood samples for his Deep Storage Art Project. Manit Sriwanichpoom soaked autopsy photographs in blood for his series Died On 6th October 1976. UDD protesters painted a banner in blood at Democracy Monument in 2010.

Private Eye

Private Eye
The Attourney General has announced that Private Eye will not face charges over its current issue (dated 1st November) with its cover portraying Rebekah Brooks as a witch. Brooks, a former editor of The Sun and the News Of The World, is currently on trial for phone-hacking. Metropolitan Police had asked news vendors near the Old Bailey in London to remove copies of the magazine from sale, as it was potentially in contempt of court.

Private Eye

Private Eye
The Attourney General has announced that Private Eye will not face charges over its current issue (dated 1st November) with its cover portraying Rebekah Brooks as a witch. Brooks, a former editor of The Sun and the News Of The World, is currently on trial for phone-hacking. Metropolitan Police had asked news vendors near the Old Bailey in London to remove copies of the magazine from sale, as it was potentially in contempt of court.

23 October 2013

Gravity (4DX)

Gravity
Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who are left stranded after satellite debris destroys their space shuttle, the Explorer. To survive, they must reach nearby space stations (the International Space Station and the Chinese Tiangong station) before their oxygen supply is depleted. Cuaron previously directed Y Tu Mama Tambien, one of the key films of the Mexican Nueva Ola (New Wave) movement.

Gravity relies extensively on photo-realistic CGI, not only for the backgrounds and spacecraft, but even for the astronauts' spacesuits. In some sequences, the actors' faces are the only non-CG elements in the frame; a minor character, who appears in the first scene, is entirely CG, blurring the boundaries between live action and digital animation.

Cuaron's Children Of Men was acclaimed for its long takes, and Gravity begins with a seventeen-minute sequence without a visible edit. In both films, however, these shots consist of multiple takes connected by seamless digital transitions, creating the illusion of a single take. (Touch Of Evil famously begins with an extended single take; Timecode and Russian Ark were both filmed as a continuous, unedited digital shot.)

Gravity occasionally resembles Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it features some direct tributes to that film, including a floating pen suspended in zero gravity. The ending was presumably inspired by another science-fiction classic, as Sandra Bullock's character has the same determination as Ripley from Alien. There is also a reference to Wall-E, with a fire extinguisher being used as a propulsion device.

I saw Gravity in 4DX, which combines 3D projection with motion-controlled seats, wind effects, smoke, scents, and water vapour sprayed into the audience. The process was developed in South Korea, and was first used for Eric Brevig's 3D remake of Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Gravity has also been released in 3D, 2D, and IMAX DMR 3D.

4DX is a gimmick, applying 4D effects from theme-park attractions to feature-length Hollywood films. Other cinematic gimmicks include Cinerama, Sensurround, Smell-O-Vision, Aroma-Rama, Aroma-Scope, Odorama, Emergo, Percepto, and Illusion-O - the last three all developed by William Castle.

Gravity (4DX)

Gravity
Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron, stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who are left stranded after satellite debris destroys their space shuttle, the Explorer. To survive, they must reach nearby space stations (the International Space Station and the Chinese Tiangong station) before their oxygen supply is depleted. Cuaron previously directed Y Tu Mama Tambien, one of the key films of the Mexican Nueva Ola (New Wave) movement.

Gravity relies extensively on photo-realistic CGI, not only for the backgrounds and spacecraft, but even for the astronauts' spacesuits. In some sequences, the actors' faces are the only non-CG elements in the frame; a minor character, who appears in the first scene, is entirely CG, blurring the boundaries between live action and digital animation.

Cuaron's Children Of Men was acclaimed for its long takes, and Gravity begins with a seventeen-minute sequence without a visible edit. In both films, however, these shots consist of multiple takes connected by seamless digital transitions, creating the illusion of a single take. (Touch Of Evil famously begins with an extended single take; Timecode and Russian Ark were both filmed as a continuous, unedited digital shot.)

Gravity occasionally resembles Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it features some direct tributes to that film, including a floating pen suspended in zero gravity. The ending was presumably inspired by another science-fiction classic, as Sandra Bullock's character has the same determination as Ripley from Alien. There is also a reference to Wall-E, with a fire extinguisher being used as a propulsion device.

I saw Gravity in 4DX, which combines 3D projection with motion-controlled seats, wind effects, smoke, scents, and water vapour sprayed into the audience. The process was developed in South Korea, and was first used for Eric Brevig's 3D remake of Journey To The Center Of The Earth. Gravity has also been released in 3D, 2D, and IMAX DMR 3D.

4DX is a gimmick, applying 4D effects from theme-park attractions to feature-length Hollywood films. Other cinematic gimmicks include Cinerama, Sensurround, Smell-O-Vision, Aroma-Rama, Aroma-Scope, Odorama, Emergo, Percepto, and Illusion-O - the last three all developed by William Castle.

Spanish Week 2013

Spanish Week 2013
Una Pistola En Cada Mano
Spanish Week 2013 began in Bangkok on 14th October and finished on 20th October. The event included a film festival at SF World (CentralWorld), with free screenings of new Spanish films.

I saw Una Pistola En Cada Mano, directed by Cesc Gay, on 19th October. It's structured as a series of vignettes featuring a group of middle-aged (and all heterosexual) men going through various relationship problems including impotence, infidelity, and divorce. It's being marketed as a comedy, though its dysfunctional relationships are pretty depressing.

Spanish Week 2013

Spanish Week 2013
Una Pistola En Cada Mano
Spanish Week 2013 began in Bangkok on 14th October and finished on 20th October. The event included a film festival at SF World (CentralWorld), with free screenings of new Spanish films.

I saw Una Pistola En Cada Mano, directed by Cesc Gay, on 19th October. It's structured as a series of vignettes featuring a group of middle-aged (and all heterosexual) men going through various relationship problems including impotence, infidelity, and divorce. It's being marketed as a comedy, though its dysfunctional relationships are pretty depressing.

22 October 2013

ดูหนังกับโดม

ดูหนังกับโดม
2001: A Space Odyssey
This Saturday, Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey will be screened at the Thai Film Archive at Salaya. The screening is part of ดูหนังกับโดม, a season of films introduced by the Archive's founder, Dome Sukwong.

ดูหนังกับโดม

ดูหนังกับโดม
2001: A Space Odyssey
This Saturday, Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey will be screened at the Thai Film Archive at Salaya. The screening is part of ดูหนังกับโดม, a season of films introduced by the Archive's founder, Dome Sukwong.

16 October 2013

Moments That Made The Movies

Moments That Made The Movies
In his new book Moments That Made The Movies, David Thomson analyses seventy classic film scenes. Each essay is accompanied by several gorgeous photographs (frame enlargements, rather than publicity stills). For film lovers, of course, this is a wonderfully evocative book. The obvious classics (Psycho, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, etc.) are all included, along with a few esoteric choices. As Thomson explains in his introduction: "There are surprises, offbeat choices, perhaps even capricious or provocative selections, as well as plenty of films that you might have guessed would be included - though not always with the moments you anticipated".

Thomson previously wrote A Biographical Dictionary Of Film, Have You Seen...?, The Moment Of Psycho, and The Big Screen. He was the screenwriter for the documentary Gone With The Wind: The Making Of A Legend, and a contributor to 39 Steps To The Genius Of Hitchcock. He wrote a short History Of The Movies In Four Parts for the Wall Street Journal last year, and he also writes regularly for GQ magazine.

15 October 2013

The Art Of Movie Storyboards

The Art Of Movie Storyboards
The Art Of Movie Storyboards: Visualising The Action Of The World's Greatest Films, by Fionnuala Halligan, is a collection of storyboard excerpts from around forty films. It was published in America as Movie Storyboards: The Art Of Visualizing Screenplays.

The book showcases the work of pre-visualisation artists in the film-production process. Some of the greatest production designers (such as Saul Bass and William Cameron Menzies) are included, and plenty of classic films (including Psycho, Gone With The Wind, The Big Sleep, Apocalypse Now, and Raging Bull) are represented.

Most of the storyboards were not produced by the directors themselves, though there are a few notable exceptions, including Martin Scorsese's drawings for Raging Bull and Akira Kurosawa's preparatory paintings for Ran. (There is some overlap with Karl French's book Art By Film Directors.) Scorsese's rough sketches and Kurosawa's exquisite artworks represent two opposite approaches to storyboarding, and Scorsese's is the more conventional method: storyboards are not generally intended as works of art, they function instead as blueprints for the director and cinematographer.

The book reproduces storyboard frames, though corresponding stills from the films themselves are not included, so there's no way of comparing them directly. Also, some of the films Halligan selects, especially those in the final chapter, are very far from classics.

International New York Times

International New York Times
Today, the International New York Times published its first issue, following the rebranding of the International Herald Tribune by its owner, The New York Times. Today's newspaper includes a letter from publisher Arthur Sulzberger who explains that "we are creating a single, unified global media brand". The International New York Times is now part of a triumvirate of international newspapers, alongside The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

International New York Times

International New York Times
Today, the International New York Times published its first issue, following the rebranding of the International Herald Tribune by its owner, The New York Times. Today's newspaper includes a letter from publisher Arthur Sulzberger who explains that "we are creating a single, unified global media brand". The International New York Times is now part of a triumvirate of international newspapers, alongside The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
Discussion of Woody Allen's films generally boils down to two questions. Why won't he make more of his "early, funny" comedies? (An issue he dealt with in Stardust Memories.) And, after plenty of near-misses, when will he make a true return to form? His latest film, Blue Jasmine, isn't a comedy (despite co-starring comedian Louis CK), though it's the closest he's come to a return to form in almost two decades.

In the 1970s, Allen's "early, funny" films (Sleeper, Love & Death), full of one-liners and slapstick, were followed by romantic comedies with fully-developed characters (the masterpieces Annie Hall and Manhattan). In the 1980s and 1990s, he balanced comedy with observations about life and relationships (Zelig, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Hannah & Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Mighty Aphrodite), with occasional returns to broad farce (Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan Murder Mystery).

Then, after Deconstructing Harry in 1997 (his last great work), Allen's films began a sharp decline in quality (The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, and other flops). Unable to secure funding in America, he made a series of touristy films in Europe (Match Point, Scoop, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris, To Rome With Love), though he returned to New York for Whatever Works.

Allen had an unexpected commercial hit with Midnight In Paris, and Match Point was a critical success in America, though he hasn't made anything approaching a classic for almost twenty years. That is, until now, because Blue Jasmine is arguably his best film since Deconstructing Harry. The ensemble cast is consistently excellent (as in many of Allen's films), though Cate Blanchette gives an extraordinary, unselfconscious central performance as Jasmine, an unstable New York socialite whose rich husband was convicted of fraud. Alec Baldwin (the highlight of To Rome With Love) is perfectly cast as the charming fraudster, whose downfall is modelled on that of Bernie Madoff.

With Blue Jasmine, Allen is clearly paying homage to A Streetcar Named Desire. Like Streetcar's Blanche DuBois, Jasmine is a delusional, tragic figure forced to move in with her working-class sister. (Jasmine's sister, Ginger, lives in a supposedly run-down - though actually spacious and rather nice - apartment in San Francisco. Jasmine's fish-out-of-water experience is juxtaposed with flashbacks to her previous New York life.) She forms a new relationship, though her boyfriend eventually discovers her past, as Blanche's boyfriend Mitch does in Streetcar. Ginger's fiance and ex-husband are both echoes of Streetcar's brutish Stanley Kowalski, though they're more sympathetic characters than Stanley. (Ginger mocks her ex's "Polish jokes", just as Blanche dismissed Stanley as a "Polack".) There's no sexual tension between them and Jasmine, though the antagonism, claustrophobia, and class conflict are familiar from Streetcar.

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
Discussion of Woody Allen's films generally boils down to two questions. Why won't he make more of his "early, funny" comedies? (An issue he dealt with in Stardust Memories.) And, after plenty of near-misses, when will he make a true return to form? His latest film, Blue Jasmine, isn't a comedy (despite co-starring comedian Louis CK), though it's the closest he's come to a return to form in almost two decades.

In the 1970s, Allen's "early, funny" films (Sleeper, Love & Death), full of one-liners and slapstick, were followed by romantic comedies with fully-developed characters (the masterpieces Annie Hall and Manhattan). In the 1980s and 1990s, he balanced comedy with observations about life and relationships (Zelig, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Hannah & Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Husbands & Wives, Mighty Aphrodite), with occasional returns to broad farce (Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan Murder Mystery).

Then, after Deconstructing Harry in 1997 (his last great work), Allen's films began a sharp decline in quality (The Curse Of The Jade Scorpion, and other flops). Unable to secure funding in America, he made a series of touristy films in Europe (Match Point, Scoop, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight In Paris, To Rome With Love), though he returned to New York for Whatever Works.

Allen had an unexpected commercial hit with Midnight In Paris, and Match Point was a critical success in America, though he hasn't made anything approaching a classic for almost twenty years. That is, until now, because Blue Jasmine is arguably his best film since Deconstructing Harry. The ensemble cast is consistently excellent (as in many of Allen's films), though Cate Blanchette gives an extraordinary, unselfconscious central performance as Jasmine, an unstable New York socialite whose rich husband was convicted of fraud. Alec Baldwin (the highlight of To Rome With Love) is perfectly cast as the charming fraudster, whose downfall is modelled on that of Bernie Madoff.

With Blue Jasmine, Allen is clearly paying homage to A Streetcar Named Desire. Like Streetcar's Blanche DuBois, Jasmine is a delusional, tragic figure forced to move in with her working-class sister. (Jasmine's sister, Ginger, lives in a supposedly run-down - though actually spacious and rather nice - apartment in San Francisco. Jasmine's fish-out-of-water experience is juxtaposed with flashbacks to her previous New York life.) She forms a new relationship, though her boyfriend eventually discovers her past, as Blanche's boyfriend Mitch does in Streetcar. Ginger's fiance and ex-husband are both echoes of Streetcar's brutish Stanley Kowalski, though they're more sympathetic characters than Stanley. (Ginger mocks her ex's "Polish jokes", just as Blanche dismissed Stanley as a "Polack".) There's no sexual tension between them and Jasmine, though the antagonism, claustrophobia, and class conflict are familiar from Streetcar.

14 October 2013

11th World Film(s) Festival of Bangkok

11th World Film Festival of Bangkok
Boundary
Stranger By The Lake
Synecdoche, New York
The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok takes place next month at the SF World cinema (CentralWorld). It will open on 15th November, and will run until 24th November. (Oddly, the Festival's poster calls it the World Films [sic] Festival.)

Nontawat Numbenchapol's controversial Thai documentary Boundary will be screened on 17th and 18th November. Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York will be shown on 16th November. (Kaufman wrote the screenplays for Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich.)

Alain Guiraudie's Stranger By The Lake, one of the most explicit gay dramas ever made, has also been selected, and will be shown on 21st and 22nd November. Filmed entirely on location, it features a man who witnesses a murder yet falls in love with the killer. The central character makes increasingly reckless decisions; his friend, a lonely bi-curious older man, is the only sympathetic character. The final reel increases the suspense, and veers towards Cruising-style excess, before ending abruptly.

The Festival is organised by Kriengsak Silakong, who I interviewed last year. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th Festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.)

Unfortunately, one film has been withdrawn from the Festival. The Thai Film Board denied permission to show To Singapore, With Love, directed by Tan Pin Pin, as the director did not apply for a permit before filming the documentary in Thailand. It seems that a film is withdrawn from a Thai film festival almost every year: Persepolis was banned from the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, This Area Is Under Quarantine was banned from the 7th World Film Festival, and Insects In The Backyard was banned after its screening at the 8th World Film Festival.

11th World Film(s) Festival of Bangkok

11th World Film Festival of Bangkok
Boundary
Stranger By The Lake
Synecdoche, New York
The 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok takes place next month at the SF World cinema (CentralWorld). It will open on 15th November, and will run until 24th November. (Oddly, the Festival's poster calls it the World Films [sic] Festival.)

Nontawat Numbenchapol's controversial Thai documentary Boundary will be screened on 17th and 18th November. Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut Synecdoche, New York will be shown on 16th November. (Kaufman wrote the screenplays for Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich.)

Alain Guiraudie's Stranger By The Lake, one of the most explicit gay dramas ever made, has also been selected, and will be shown on 21st and 22nd November. Filmed entirely on location, it features a man who witnesses a murder yet falls in love with the killer. The central character makes increasingly reckless decisions; his friend, a lonely bi-curious older man, is the only sympathetic character. The final reel increases the suspense, and veers towards Cruising-style excess, before ending abruptly.

The Festival is organised by Kriengsak Silakong, who I interviewed last year. (The 6th, 7th, and 8th Festivals were held at Paragon Cineplex; the 5th, 9th, and 10th took place at Esplanade Cineplex.)

Unfortunately, one film has been withdrawn from the Festival. The Thai Film Board denied permission to show To Singapore, With Love, directed by Tan Pin Pin, as the director did not apply for a permit before filming the documentary in Thailand. It seems that a film is withdrawn from a Thai film festival almost every year: Persepolis was banned from the 2007 Bangkok International Film Festival, This Area Is Under Quarantine was banned from the 7th World Film Festival, and Insects In The Backyard was banned after its screening at the 8th World Film Festival.