Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

The Illusion of Escape

In her new documentary Protagonist, Jessica Yu explores the inner lives of four men whose righteous quests led to fanaticism.

Stories that others tell us about ourselves can be seductive in their certainty -- they provide distraction, delicious and damning, from the burden of figuring out our own. Jessica Yu's curious documentary Protagonist is an exploration of extremism, but its stylistic framework provides a more puzzling and provocative question: What is the power of language and narrative in shaping the self? Originally commissioned by the Carr Foundation to direct a documentary on the Greek playwright Euripides, Yu decided to bring the tragedian's themes to contemporary light. Over the course of eight months, Yu and her producers sought out individuals whose lives seemed to follow the trajectory of Euripides' tragic extremists -- heroes whose righteous quests led to fanaticism. Yu means for her viewers to have a meta-ponder -- she just about bonks us on the head with intertitles suggesting different themes: Character. Catharsis. Resolution. Protagonist draws on the fascinating stories of four men: a...

Bergman's Twilight Room of the Soul

Like the dark spaces between frames on a filmstrip, Ingmar Bergman took us to the unlit gaps in our own emotions.

Legendary Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman is seen in Stockholm, Sweden, in this file photo dated 1957. Bergman died last Sunday. He was 89 years old. (AP Photo / Scanpix, File)
Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul. A little twitch in our optic nerve, a shock effect: twenty-four illuminated frames in a second, darkness in between, the optic nerve incapable of registering darkness. At the editing table, when I run the trip of film through, frame by frame, I still feel that dizzy sense of magic of my childhood: in the darkness of the wardrobe, I slowly wind one frame after another, see almost imperceptible changes, wind faster -- a movement. -- Ingmar Bergman, Laterna Magica (1987); The Magic Lantern: An Autobiography as translated by Joan Tate (1988) - - - Swedish director Ingmar Bergman died Monday, as did Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, and their obituaries were as much eulogies for the revered directors as laments for the state of cinema today. I'll pile on, with the old-farty, secretly satisfied grumpiness that is the critic'...

Manufacturing Art

A new film about an artist who documents Chinese factories explores the toxic interdependence between developed and developing nations.

Rendered in exquisite calligraphic brushwork and soaring white space, many later-era Chinese landscape paintings depict both the artist's interior terrain and the visible world. Artist Edward Burtynsky's photographs of industrial wastelands work the same way, even though their disturbing beauty inverts the pristine ideal by drawing on mountains of rubble and polluted rivers. The subject of a new documentary by Jennifer Baichwal, Manufactured Landscapes , Burtynsky takes the art form that graces hotel walls and doctors' offices and gives it bite – the pastoral, poisoned. Landscapes is set almost entirely in China -- "the world's factory," as Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang termed the country recently, in response to a report that China is now the largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world. "The developed countries move a lot of manufacturing industry into China," said Qin. "A lot of the things you wear, you use, you eat are produced in China. On the one hand, you shall...

Shuttering the Sites

Like its Chinese counterpart, the new military government of Thailand promotes more investment -- and radically less free speech.

As Thai web surfers might tell you, living under a military government is no fun. Since April, Thai Internet users looking to YouTube for their favorite lip-sync performances, stupid-human tricks, or political-protest videos have been getting a real eyeful. Not the glorious heap of trash and treasure that the video-sharing site usually offers, but the "green screen" that the country's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) puts up when it blocks a site. Underneath a large logo of an eye, the Web site reads: "We're sorry, this website is inappropriate … If you have any feedback or wish to report any other inappropriate sites, please click on the eye above." The naughty content that sparked the Ministry's ire was a video that covered a picture of widely revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej's face with graffiti and with images of feet, which Thais consider an impure part of the body. "It's a serious case of lèse-majesté," said MICT Minister Sitthichai...

Pro Con

Oceans Thirteen manages to avoid threequel-itis by conning movie-goers with its charm.

With the preposterous, superfluous, and highly entertaining Ocean's Thirteen, Steven Soderbergh delivers a master-class on the summer sequel -- keep it slick, make fun of yourself, and don't spit in the audience's eye. Yoo hoo, Sam Raimi ? Should have taken some cues from Soderbergh. Ocean's Thirteen is the third film to lavish attention on a rainbow coalition of robbers. The first was an energetic remake of a 1960 Rat Pack film and for all its polish, it had the feel of an impromptu romp. Unfortunately, Ocean's Twelve tipped the balance of the first -- its insubstantiality, its borderline smugness -- into self-satisfaction. Case in point: a farcical subplot in which Julia Roberts (as head gangster Danny Ocean's wife) impersonated... Julia Roberts. Luckily, Thirteen has recovered the first's slouchy insouciance, along with its sense of humor. The first thing Thirteen does right is mock its threequel-itis. Plot as hyperbole? Winking self-referentiality? A bloated cast of characters?...