Arthouse crowd takes on popcorn gang
Director Park Chan-wook declared last week that cinema is “growing worse slowly and steadily as time goes by.” This film director who earned international acclaim with “Oldboy” (2003) was speaking before the press last Wednesday in support of Seoul Art Cinema which specializes in independent films. What consoles Park is the existence of the Seoul Art Cinema under the Korean Association of Cinematheques.
Park, who won several international festival awards for Oldboy, including the grand prize at Cannes, is reputed to be the main supporter of the arthouse cinema. His enthusiasm has become the basis for the launch of festivals under the name “Friends of the Cinematheque,” which show classic films recommended by directors like Park and other film industry people. Park, who is also the leading organizer of the festival, announced that the the third festival will open next Tuesday, and is slated to run through Feb. 3 at the Seoul Art Cinema in Jongno, central Seoul.
“I watch old films in order to make new films,” Park said. “Of course, we can watch the classics as DVDs, but films truly shine when they are shown on huge silver screens.” Choi Dong-hun, director of “The War of Flowers,” a box office success last year under the Korean title “Tajja,” echoed the sentiment at the press conference. Speaking of a time when he took his mother to the Seoul Art Cinema retrospective on the Austrian-born independent filmmaker Billy Wilder, Choi said, “I was surprised to see her shedding tears because she was so happy to see it on screen.” He added that the prints have a certain “life” that can be best appreciated on the big screen.
On recommendations from a dozen directors and actors, the Seoul Art Cinema is presenting 12 films and three retrospectives ― on the French filmmaker Francois Truffaut, the Korean filmmaker, Lee Doo-yong, who saw his zenith in the 1970s and the 1980s, and the New York-based independent filmmaker Abel Ferrara.
The 12 recommendations are not just hard-to-understand arthouse films that’ll make you yawn. They include films like “Annie Hall” (1977) by Woody Allen, recommended by the director Jang Joon-hwan, and “My Own Private Idaho” (1991) starring Keanu Reeves, recommended by the actor Ryu Seung-beom.
There are grim independent classics as well, like “The Conformist” (1970) directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, recommended by Park Chan-wook, and “Time of the Gypsies” (1988) directed by Emir Kusturica, recommended by Soonrye Yim.
Most of the screenings will be followed by talks by the directors or actors who recommended the films.
Kim Sung-wook, the programmer at the Seoul Art Cinema, said Abel Ferrara had agreed to attend the lectures and screenings of his films. Six of the Ferrara films are to be presented during the festival, including the acclaimed “Ms. 45” (1981) about a woman who begins a bloody revenge against men after she’s raped.
Further details of the screening schedule are yet to be announced.
The press conference also focused on the comradeship between arthouse theaters and the construction of a cinematheque in Seoul.
“France and England have this network of cinematheques where cinephiles can escape the popcorn crowds and concentrate on smaller films, Choi, the director, stressed.
Kim of the Seoul Art Cinema said the government needs to support the cinematheque, which is a “long-cherished dream of filmmakers in Korea.”
Kim said that he hadn’t heard back from either the Seoul city government or the central government. “We need a new house for old cinema. I hope that 2008 will be year zero for arthouse films in Korea,” he added.
The Seoul Art Cinema is in Jongno, central Seoul. For more information, call the arthouse theater at (02) 741-9782 or visit the Web site www.cinematheque.seoul.kr.