Noy Thrupkaew

Noy Thrupkaew is a Prospect senior correspondent.

Recent Articles

Dancing on Air

A documentary on Philippe Petit, the man who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, leaves the question of what motivates art to the viewer.

Nearly three decades before the World Trade Center towers became sites of real-life tragedy and mythic icons of the war on terrorism, they served as the staging ground for an entirely different act. On August 7, 1974, a tiny figure stepped out into the space between the buildings. He didn't fall, nor did he jump -- although audiences watching James Marsh’s Sundance award-winning documentary Man On Wire may be reminded of the terrible images of those who did during 9/11. Philippe Petit was actually balancing on a wire suspended between the structures, but from the ground, it looked as if he was walking on nothing but air. The diminutive Frenchman capered on his wire for 45 minutes -- dancing, lying down, kneeling and saluting, and traipsing across the void between the buildings no less than eight times before he delivered himself into the arms of the police, who promptly handcuffed the funambulist. Petit responded by balancing a policeman's cap on his nose. He handled the American...

Beverly Ills

I returned from two and a half years of living abroad to discover that Beverly Hills, 90210, my guilty teenage pleasure, was being resurrected. This would be the perfect transition back to American culture, right?

Remember the first day of school? Blundering around lost, filled with a sense of unseen peril, hot dread, and anticipation? For those of us too old or too traumatized to remember, the CW's thrown together a refresher course that will evoke all those emotions -- 90210 . Not that 90210 will have much resemblance to most Americans' high school experience. 90210 , which premiered Sept. 2, is a vulgar little thing -- it tries too hard, changing subplots and personalities like outfits. Part of the problem may be classic pilot-itis, of course, wherein producers trot out their glossy casts and buzziest storylines in the hopes of avoiding a gruesome end. But the pilot also hearkened back to an earlier time -- the dreary first days of the original Beverly Hills, 90210, which ran in the 1990s on the Fox network. I just moved back to the States from several years in Thailand, so hearing that 90210 had risen from the ashes was the perfect welcome home. Any ex-expat has a certain fear of being...

Modern Pressures on a Prized Ecosystem

Claustrophobes beware -- every October or November, millions of Cambodians jam into their capital city, Phnom Penh, for a riotous three-day water festival, clogging the riverside boulevard that runs in front of the royal palace. Although Bon Om Touk is much beloved for providing opportunities to watch boat races, slurp fertilized duck eggs, and indulge in flirtation, the festival celebrates historic Khmer maritime prowess and an even older phenomenon -- the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap Lake. This switch brings streams of fish that provide 60 percent of the country's overall inland catch. The fish are swiftly transformed into everything from porridge to prahoc, an undyingly pungent fermented fish paste that keeps extremely well and serves as the major source of animal protein for the country's rural poor. Although prahoc is forever, its source may not be, say environmentalists and activists increasingly concerned with the explosion of hydropower development on the region's...

The Middle Age of Wong Kar-Wai

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai made his name chronicling romantic alienation with an unmistakable visual style. But his new film, My Blueberry Nights, is atmospherically innocuous and contentedly middle-aged. What happened?

Wong Kar-Wai at the 2006 International Cannes film festival. (AP Photo/Laurent Emmanuel)
Wong Kar-Wai is cursed by the sort of foamingly mad fans who will keep a filmmaker treed for life. As one of this barking group, I'd say that the devotion is inspired by both the Hong Kong director's unmistakable visual language and by his capacity as an expert chronicler of romantic alienation. Couple Wong's obsessive attention to stylistic detail -- aching slow-mo, ravishingly saturated color palettes and costume design, all set to the naked confession of pop songs -- with the immortal rhythms of romance gone wrong, and it's no surprise that Wong's work would inspire the vigilance of a jealous lover: He's mine ! Wong fans have been working up pleasurable, proprietary rage at the director's latest film My Blueberry Nights , also his first English-language feature. But the thing is too slight a confection to merit the fury -- how mad can you get at such deliberate inoffensiveness? It's like trying to burn Norah Jones, Blueberry 's erstwhile star, at the stake. That Wong has cast the...

Finding a Moral Center

Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days is a surprisingly optimistic consideration of individual motivation amidst the alienation of a rotting political system.

The opening of Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days demands much by showing little. A half-full fish tank. Rising smoke. Clutter sprawled on a kitchen table. A hand reaches in, taps ash off the end of a cigarette, withdraws. This strange still life is viewed from a static mid-level position, through a gaze as dispassionate as that of a security camera. In this film, the opening says, it's the background that counts. That first scene seems surprisingly quiet for a work that, after it won the Palme d'Or at last year's Cannes festival, became known as "that Romanian film about abortion" -- a summation that seemed to reflect distaste for both critic favorites of obscure origin and heavy-breathing issue films. What's the next country with a freshly anointed "new wave?" And what daring sociopolitical issue will it tackle? Cynical art-house audiences were flapping their hands in horror. Anyone watching 4 Months , however, will heave a sigh of relief that the film does not mug...

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