By Cathy Rose A. Garcia
If you ask Oscar-nominated director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu why he chose the 14 films being shown at the ongoing cinema program at the shape-shifting Prada Transformer in Seoul, he would say that they have deeply affected and influenced him.
``Why these films? I don't know. I just made a list that felt right for me. These are films that have been affecting me in different levels. … Some were really intellectual and really excited my mind. Some affected me physically and others very spiritually,'' Inarritu said in a press conference Friday.
Inarritu, who directed ``Amores Perros,'' ``21 Grams'' and ``Babel,'' worked with former New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell to choose the films for the ``Flesh, Mind and Spirit'' cinema program at the Prada Transformer.
In an interview with The Korea Times, Mitchell admitted it was extremely difficult to whittle down the list to 14. Ultimately, they decided on films that are not just influential and groundbreaking, but also their favorites.
``We decided on films we thought would make the biggest impact and also films that weren't screened as often as they should be, films that people have talked about but not really seen,'' Mitchell said.
The line-up of films include Alain Resnais' ``Last Year at Marienbad'' (1961), Karl Dreyer's ``Ordet'' (1955), Werner Herzog's ``Aguirre, the Wrath of God'' (1972) and Charles Burnett's ``Killer of Sheep'' (1977).
``It was Elvis who discovered all these films were about families. Those are themes that I have been exploring in my own films, unconsciously. There are three things that unite this program: families, which are the seed of all great dramas, huge emotion … and, humanity,'' Inarritu said.
Inarritu lamented the fact that most people these days are only interested in films that provide escapism, and major studios are pushing for superhero films. He related how he went to watch ``Secret Sunshine'' in Barcelona a few weeks ago, only to find an empty theater on a Sunday night.
``I love it. Performances are amazing. All of that was fabulous, but I went out very sad, confronting a scary future for filmmakers like me that make films that relate to human experience, but (that) people don't seem to understand or connect or are afraid of being challenged by. That's a great justification for world distributors, who say people just want superheroes. That's a dangerous zone,'' he said.
The blockbuster "kimchi" Western film ``The Good, the Bad, the Weird,'' directed by Kim Ji-woon, is the only Korean film being shown at the festival.
Mitchell is a big fan of Kim's ``A Bittersweet Life,'' which he described as a cross between Wong Kar-wai's ``In the Mood for Love'' and the Kevin Costner-starred ``The Bodyguard.''
``It gets to be at the heart of what a Korean film is, which is really an elemental match up of things that wouldn't make sense outside Korea, but it's done here. You go, of course, why didn't I think of that. … There's a kind of restlessness of artistic ambition in Korean filmmaking that I find to be really exciting, and I thought `The Good, the Bad, the Weird,' represented that,'' Mitchell said.
Inarritu also expressed admiration for Korean filmmakers and their bravery, imagination, power and how they capture extraordinary, intense human experiences in films.
``The way they play with different genres, from horror to sci-fi to reality, and the poetic language. Those things fascinate me and you have to have a lot of guts and freedom and make cinema with a pelvis. That's what I love about it,'' Inarritu said.
The stylish cinema auditorium at the Rem Koolhaas-designed Prada Transformer provides a unique place for these diverse films to be shown. The Transformer was rotated to create a new rectangular floor plan for the cinema, replacing the hexagon floor plan for the previous exhibition ``Waist Down ― Skirts by Miuccia Prada.''
``You can see on one wall where the floor was in the last installation and you can see where the floor is going to be for the next one. If we're lucky, movies fall in the continuum. There's a connection. It's circular. If you see the movies, it reminds you of what's come before, and if it's powerful, you can see a piece of it in a future movie. All these movies have had that kind of influence,'' Mitchell said.
All the films will be shown three times a day for free through July 9 in their original language with Korean and English subtitles. Advance reservation is required. For the schedule of films, visit www.pradatransformer.co.kr.