13 films mark Seoul Art Cinema’s birthdayThe world is rich with things to enjoy. In an advanced capitalist society, however, it’s hard to appreciate the wider spectrum of films that aren’t able to turn a profit despite being acclaimed. The local movie scene is no exception, having suffered from a chronically unbalanced diet of Hollywood fare or, more recently, big-budget Korean productions.
This situation led to the birth, in 1991, of the Film Institute of Seoul, an effort by a group of cinephiles to nurture their own arts cinema scene. By the time Cinematheque Seoul, a group with similar ambitions, was founded in 1998, many cities around the country had their own movie fan clubs. Such groups formed the wellspring for screenings of films that had little likelihood of being shown widely in Korea.
In January 2002, numerous small groups, with backing from the Korean Film Council and Korean Film Archive, decided to unite as the Korean Association of Cinematheque. A few months later, the association realized its longtime aim: opening a theater that exclusively screens art cinema.
Seoul Art Cinema was thus born in May 2002, and celebrated its 2d anniversary yesterday. The theater, near Insa-dong in central Seoul, bills itself as a shelter for art films of the world, arranged mostly as retrospectives of master directors or screenings under specific themes.
To toast its anniversary, Seoul Art Cinema is offering a special screening of 13 movies, a roundup of world film history from the 1930s to the 1990s. The screenings, which started yesterday, continue to next Wednesday.
Three American movies made the list. They are “Monkey Business” (1952), a comedy by Howard Hawks starring Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe; “The Band Wagon” (1953), a drama by Vincente Minnelli, and “Point Blank” (1967), John Boorman’s masterpiece of film noir.
Two French films being shown, “JLG/JLG ― Autoportrait de Decembre” (Self-portrait in December) by Jean-Luc Godard and “A Nos Amours” (To Our Loves), a coming-of-age film by Maurice Pialat, are subtitled in both English and Korean. Mr. Godard’s self-portrait has drawn much acclaim for its avant-garde way of coordinating image and sound.
However, a number of films are being screened without English subtitles, including “Les Parapluies de Cherbourg” (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, 1964) by Jacques Demy. Starring a young Catherine Deneuve, the film comes with a plaintive, beautiful original soundtrack.
Rene Clement’s “Plein Soleil” (Purple Noon, 1960) is another must-see, starring the iconic French actor Alain Delon as an attractive yet dangerous young man whose ambition leads to murder. Hollywood star Matt Damon portrayed the same role in “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” a 1999 remake of the French film.
“La Double Vie de Veronique” (The Double Life of Veronique), an enchanting tale about two strangers in France and in Poland who happen to have the same name, comes courtesy of the Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski.
For some Asian flavor, see Shohei Imamura’s “Vengeance Is Mine,” a realistic depiction of a true serial murder case.
The Cinematheque Association’s ultimate goal is to archive a thorough collection of both worldwide and local film history, something that cannot be done overnight.
Tonight at 8:30, a special forum titled “Cinematheque, Our Beautiful Solicitude” is scheduled, featuring an in-depth discussion on the past, present and future of cinema in Korea.
by Chun Su-jin
Tickets are 6,000 won ($5) for each screening. Seoul Art Cinema is best reached from Anguk station, subway line No. 3, exit 1. Walk about 10 minutes to reach Art Sonje Center, whose basement holds Seoul Art Cinema. For more information, call (02) 720-9782 or visit the Web site at www.cinematheque.seoul.kr.