Art, Music & Culture
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

EU Opening Festivities – December 11, 2008

Harps and Spices – An Interesting Lecture-Recital at Payap

An Explosion of Passion – Jazz at Payap

Violin Recital at Payap

European Film Festival: The Remaining Films

 

EU Opening Festivities – December 11, 2008

Film Festival opens with Gala Reception

Deputy Governor of Chiang Mai, Chuchart Keelapang (centre), presided over the opening of the European Union Film Festival with Nuno Caldeira da Silva (4th right) from the Political Press Office of the EU and Emmanuelle Deprats (3rd right) Embassy of France Audiovisual Attache.

Mark Gernpy
Dignitaries and well-wishers gathered in the lobby of the Kad Theater at Kadsuankaew last Thursday night for the opening ceremonies of the EU Film Festival. We were there to mark the start of eleven days of screenings of European Union films.
Leading the luminaries was Nuno Caldeira da Silva, representing the Delegation of European Commission to Thailand. Addressing the assembled filmgoers, speaking on behalf of the EU, he said that in presenting the EU Film Festival “we wish to open the eyes of Thai audiences to new cinematic experiences, and to provide an insight into other cultures and lives.”
Also speaking at the opening festivities was Emmanuelle Déprats of the French Embassy, introducing the evening’s film from France, and Chuchart Keerapang.
The EU’s festival of films has been a highlight of Chiang Mai life for the past 11 years. I walked about with Kobkul Ratchakitti, Cultural Assistant, Delegation of European Commission, who did a great deal of the day-to-day work to bring the festival to Chiang Mai. She and I sampled the variety of foods catered by the Lotus Hotel, courtesy of owner Suchai Kengkarnkar, and being entertained by the dancing and singing of young students from the Kad School of Performing Arts.
We all then adjoined to the cinema to see the festival’s opening film Ulzhan, a well-reviewed 2007 drama from France (and Kazakhstan and Germany) about a man on a pilgrimage of penance and his wandering search for solace in the Kazakhstan desert. It was to my mind an eye-opening introduction to a strange land and its people, full of stark, thought-provoking images.
Altogether, it was a fine evening of ceremony, ending with a film of disturbing beauty.

 

Harps and Spices – An Interesting Lecture-Recital at Payap

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
This unusual sensory combination of flavours and music was the subject of Phatsharasakon Po’s well-informed and carefully researched lecture recital at the Saisuree Hall, Payap University on Wednesday December 10. The advertised title was a somewhat confusing one – Harp Effects in “Epices” by Bernard Andres.

Phatsharasakon Po
Fortunately, a well-crafted and designed explanatory program in English gave the audience much of the background information it needed. Phatsharasakon herself expanded on the written notes by presenting her lecture in Thai with an excellent slide presentation in English to support her delivery. The core of her presentation was a piece of harp music written by Irish-born composer, Bernard Andres entitled in English ‘Spices,’ each of the movements depicting the essence of eight spices.
After an interesting and informative introduction on the history of the harp, from Ancient Egyptian times through to the modern pedal harps and lever harps, Phatsharasakon, with a very confident stage presence, took us through each movement of this curious musical (or was it culinary?) composition. Each ‘spice’ or movement was carefully illustrated with musical annotations to show the different effects used by the composer to produce the sounds we then heard, which she illustrated by playing the two harps on centre stage, the pedal and the lever. Then came a full performance of each movement at the end of each explanation. Phatsharasakon played with firmness and good finger control throughout. The delightfully tuneful melodies positively soared through the hall, notably in Pistacchio with its flamenco-type rhythms and in the beautifully melodic Cinnamon. These pieces contrasted sharply with the jaunty rhythms of Kola and the more complex rhythms of Saffron, played with considerable dexterity. Throughout this rather extraordinary lecture recital, the harp playing was delicate when needed, firm, assured and precise. The material for the evening had been carefully researched so that the mixed Thai and foreign audience were well informed by the end of this instructive and entertaining event. And what a difference it made to the success of the evening to have been given such a well documented and enlightening program to help guide us through the event and to help enhance our enjoyment.


An Explosion of Passion – Jazz at Payap

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
Sunday December 7 – Saisuree Hall, Payap University – the hottest place in town! Jazz fans and music lovers were given a rare yet really welcome indulgence when young 22 year old L.J. Bain Chompoowong (LJ) presented a selection of his own compositions, played with great fervor and enthusiasm by his ensemble of dedicated musicians. This was a unique and highly entertaining event and it was good to see the hall half-full. LJ, a former student of Suprakarn School of Music and Bangkok Christian College, is now in his final year at Payap. Having spent some time in the USA studying at Pitzer College, this talented young man invited us all to share in his compositions, while warning us in the very nicely presented and well constructed program note that this music was likely to ‘test a lot of the audiences’ boundaries because it is expressionist music: atonal and avant-garde.’
LJ needed to have had no fears – from his opening solo on acoustic guitar of Thought in the Morning Fog, and then when joined by Kevin John Bradley on flugelhorn in Chiang Mai Horizon – we were whisked away into a dreamy world of lilting melodies that hung in the air like mist and evaporated into long ecstatic haunting passages full of lyricism and nostalgic beauty. Much of this music was very reminiscent of the great jazz master, Pat Metheny, with its challengingly beautiful acoustic guitar solos and its incessant driving rhythms. But there the parallel ends, as when the whole ensemble was gathered, the scoring became more complex and lush, with enormously demanding passages at times for saxophone, played with great musicianship by the very talented Pharadon Phonamnuai, who really excelled himself throughout the evening to the great delight of the audience. There were three world premiers of LJ’s music – each very tuneful and carefully constructed with wonderful performances by all players, including the two percussionists, Arnuphap Kamma and Ayu Charubu­rana and bass player Siraphop Sitson. The most extensive of these pieces was a three movement composition entitled Anatomy of Relationship which moved from a wistful and tentative start through a frenetic second movement which was exciting, harmonically challenging and at times frantic with a great solo performance by Pharadon on the saxophone, through to the floating sensuous delectable melodies of the final section. This was truly a memorable composition from the pen of such a young man. Perhaps the most challenging piece was the spookily resonant Atonal Exuberant, pre-recorded on contrabass and played through speakers while the audience gazed at a bass lit up on the front of the stage – the music here was deep into atonality and the hall positively reverberated with deep reflective moodiness. The great climax to the concert was the final scheduled item, Thought of Embracement, so full of energy, so much talent and such inspiration, especially from the now exuberant LJ on guitar. But with all the musicians playing together in perfect harmony and showing off their considerable talents in this reflective composition which reached a final emotional pinnacle and ended a great evening’s entertainment. LJ showed us that he is a most gifted and talented composer and musician. Let us all hope we see and hear much more of him and his ensemble in the near future.


Violin Recital at Payap

Jean-Pierre Kirkland
Under the rather curious title of 1st Violin First Concert, the Saisuree Hall at Payap University on Saturday December 6 was once again host to a challenging yet interesting recital. The lead violinist, Krit Mekara now employed as violin teacher at Payap University after graduating at Master’s level from Mahidol University earlier this year, was joined by Namfon Srisomboon, violin teacher at the Santi School of Music. They were accompanied by Santi Saengthong himself, the co-founder of the school. The program was rich and varied, ranging from early Mendelssohn through Massenet and Bartok to Gershwin in the first half, and then devoted in the second half to a rare and very welcome performance of the youthful and highly melodic Concertone in C for 2 Violins K.190 by Mozart, written when the composer was only 17 in May 1773 on his return to Salzburg after his second visit to Italy.
Throughout the performance, both violinists concentrated well on ensuring that the various styles of the differing composers were brought to the fore. In the Mendelssohn with its Schubertian accompaniment delightfully played by Santi, the melodies soared expressively from Krit’s violin, especially with the second subject of the adagio which was performed with deep feeling and resolution. Namfon then treated us to a beautifully expressive performance of the renowned Meditation from Massenet’s Thais before launching into a series of short enjoyable Romany style folk dances by Bela Bartok. The high-pitched and at times almost screeching nature of the melody was charmingly portrayed in the third of the dances, while Namfon played the challenging final allegro with verve and passion. Both violinists coped admirably with the sharp contrasts in Gershwin’s It Ain’t Necessarily So from Porgy and Bess, delivering an engaging rendition from its dreamy lyricism to the contrasting harsher tonalities.
The highlight of the evening was the Mozart – this tuneful and at times reflective piece being played with panache and elegance so befitting the young Mozart trying to please a then quite indifferent Archbishop in Salzburg. All three players tackled the melodies and contrasting darker moments with sensitivity and feeling; the dialogue between the two violins was exquisite at times, especially in the andante, with graceful accompaniment from Santi. The audience filling three quarters of the hall gave the performers an enthusiastic reception which prompted a satisfying encore by Bartok for the two violins and brought the recital to a fitting close.


European Film Festival: The Remaining Films

Mark Gernpy
Based on reviews, here’s what you can expect from the remaining films not covered last week:
Monkeys in Winter – Tue Dec. 16 (today) at 7:30 pm, and Sat Dec. 20 at 12 pm:
Portrays the destinies, anxieties, and internal conflicts of three Bulgarian women whose lives revolve around motherhood and children.  Their stories unfold during the last forty years of Bulgaria’s most recent social and political history, which is organically interwoven with the women’s personal dramas.  In a captivating and challenging way, motherhood becomes the driving force in the lives of these women and the cause of intentional or unintentional murders and deaths.  But there are sparkly beads of black humor throughout that relieve the gloom.
Ulzhan
Thu Dec. 18 at 6 pm, and Sun Dec. 21 at 2 pm:
A troubled man from the West abandons his car and sets out on foot – leaving behind his phone, giving away his money and passport – and tries to lose himself in the endless wilderness and barren deserts of central Asia, as the only way of killing the pain he feels inside.  Even in Kazakhstan however, that proves more difficult than he imagined.  Ulzhan provides plenty of exoticism, mysticism, cultural and lifestyle issues, and an underlying political undercurrent, with stunning vistas.  A beautifully crafted film, and with a relevant statement about current global issues.
Northern Light
Thu Dec. 18 at 8 pm:
Focuses on a man who has difficulties communicating with his son after the death of his wife and daughter.  It is a story of few words and many pictures, a minimalist tale that tries – and succeeds – in visualizing the destructive power of a lack of communication.  Even when the son finally decides to speak up, he does so through music and images rather than words.
Arabian Nights
Fri Dec. 19 at 6 pm:
A Luxembourg man’s obsession with an Algerian woman leads to tragedy in this tightly structured film whose underlying theme deals with Westerners’ misconceptions of the Arab world.  This compelling drama is first-rate, boasting fine performances and production values.  The gorgeous photography supports the storyline with two distinct looks – everyday realism in Luxembourg and a more allegorical feel for the stark Algerian desert.
One Day in August –
Sat Dec. 20 at 4:30 pm:
Three couples escape Athens’ summer heat but hit personal problems instead in this quilt of virtually separate vignettes linked by a fourth strand – a sexually confused young man, lovingly lensed in a state of permanent half-nakedness, who breaks into the couples’ empty apartments in Athens and goes through his own kind of crisis as he makes free with their belongings.
Control
Sat Dec. 20 at 6:45 pm:
A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of the late 1970s post-punk band Joy Division, whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.  One of the most perceptive of rock music biopics, it’s been made by two people who knew him very well: his wife Deborah, a teenager when they married; and a photographer, also director of the film, whose early photos helped establish Curtis’ image as young, handsome and sorrowful. Generally favorable reviews.
The Ball
Sun Dec. 21 at 4 pm:
A flamboyant star role for Italian singer Laura Morante as a ditzy single mother and chanteuse in this cute and slender feature – only 80 minutes including credits and onstage song interludes.  Having walked out on her latest boyfriend – at 4 am, drowsy child in tow – nightclub singer Monica (Morante) again plunges her pint-sized 12-year-old son into domestic chaos.  He decides the only way to secure their future is by engineering a permanent boyfriend for mom.
Empties
Sun Dec. 21 at 8:15 pm:
Well on its way to becoming the most successful Czech film ever, it’s the third in a trilogy of metaphorical works about maturation that began with “The Elementary School” (childhood) and continued with the mellow and Oscar-winning international smash hit “Kolya” (middle age).  This third collaboration between director Jan Sverak and his writer-actor dad, Zdenek, was delayed over some father-son disagreements on the lead character’s direction.  Not hard to understand why: Self-centered and manipulative, he is largely unsympathetic — at least to non-Czech viewers.  He’s a Czech lit teacher and natural contrarian who, exasperated by the unruliness of his students, quits his job.  This leaves him stuck at home in modern day Prague with his wife, a linguist who has tolerated Josef’s past indiscretions and general curmudgeonliness at the expense of a reservoir of resentment.  Theirs is a universal love-hate relationship: at the end of the day their affection, though grudging, is present.