Category Archives: Cinema culture

10 underappreciated American neo-noirs of the early 1970s

The domestic blowback of the Vietnam War. The sleaze and corruption of Watergate. The incipient rollback of the counterculture and many gains of the 1960s. Economic recession. The upheaval and uncertainty in the 1970s may have been tough on America’s collective psyche, but it resulted in some incredibly good crime cinema, particularly prior to Jaws in 1975, which helped to usher in the culture of the cinematic blockbuster.

And while I will happily admit to being a due paying member of the First-half-of-the-1970s-was-a-great-period-of-American-crime-cinema-fan-club, it does strike me that we tend to focus on the same handful of films from this period over and over. Yes, The French Connection and Shaft (1971), The Godfather (1972), The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Long Goodbye (1973), and Chinatown (1974), are all masterful neo noirs that in some way enlarged the culture’s notion of what crime cinema could be.

But the wellspring of American neo noir on the screen in the first half of the decade runs very deep, and it pays major viewing dividends to explore it more widely. My latest piece for the US site CrimeReads looks at ten underappreciated neo noirs from the first half of the seventies that are worth your time. You can read the piece in full on the CrimeReads site via this link.Read more

Book review: Thailand’s Movie Theatres – Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape

I can’t remember when I first stumbled across Philip Jablon’s wonderful website chronicling the decline of the stand-alone movie theatre in Thailand, The Southeast Asia Movie Theatre Project. I think it was soon after I arrived back in Melbourne after a year in Cambodia, during which I spent my own fair share of time tracking down and photographing crumbling Khmer movie theatres (I also nearly broke my neck photographing the inside of an abandoned cinema in the Lao capital, Vientiane, but that’s another story).

My efforts, however, pale in comparison to Jablon’s painstaking work. His book, Thailand’s Movie Theatres: Relics, Ruins and the Romance of Escape, which emerged from his website, is a detailed, perceptive, beautifully rendered examination not only of the rise and fall of Thailand’s stand-alone cinema industry, but of a once powerful part of the country’s public culture which has now almost completely disappeared. As Jablon writes, ‘In Thailand, the standalone movie theatre represents a form of public entertainment that has all but slipped through the cracks of memory into the abyss of time.’

The first stand-alone cinema was established in Thailand in 1905. They proliferated rapidly, with the country boasting as many as 700 at the industry’s peak. Often established by local entrepreneurs, these movie theatres were usually a dynamic part of their community and deeply enmeshed in their economic and social life.… Read more