Philip Lorca diCorcia
I discovered Philip Lorca diCorcia when I was working at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, before I started directing. Since then, his work has been a huge source of inspiration.
Treading the path of “How to stage reality,” diCorcia’s work does exactly that. Although his work is so alive and cinematic, there is almost a banality in the pictures; “Documentary photography in a fictional world.” I often ask myself when I am filming; “What is truth? What is fiction? I strive to find the perfect balance between cinematic emotion, the characters, and the narrative. In diCorcia’s work, every frame proves how a set up can create the narrative. There is a slight psychological tension in his images that gives way for audience interpretation.
Lee Chang Dong / Oasis.
I am a huge fan of East Asian cinema. I really love Lee Chang Dong, a director from South Korea. He is a master when it comes to portraying characters. He is the man behind The Beauty and The Ugliness of Human Nature. I think his last film Burning is a great movie. However, one of his films in particular is a true masterpiece for me; Oasis. A young couple is having a relationship against their families wishes, the harsh reality of a discriminating society. Both the man and woman are disabled. Their story is incredibly poignant as they are faced with extreme challenges, physically and emotionally, while unable to communicate through speech.
The entire film is so beautiful, it feels so true and pure. At points, it’s hard to watch as it feels that every second is unfiltered emotion. There is a shock turning point in the plot, I won’t share any spoilers but your heart really skips a beat. At the moment, one realizes why film as media is so powerful and why staging is so important in order to access real and true emotion. Without the staging, the film would have only been observational. It’s a breathtaking piece of work and a real lesson about directing. Lee Chang Dong's work is so inspiring for a director working on emotions and storytelling like myself.
Anish Kapoor is an artist who creates giant, larger-than-life art. His work is phenomenal. In my career, I have received scripts where there wasn't a specific story or idea, where the aim is to simply make the work spectacular. It’s not about the narrative, it's more about a sensation. As much as I love narrative, I love this approach too. Anish Kapoor is a true inspiration as he never misses the organic connection that this type of abstract film needs. The scale of Kapoor’s art creates his own sense, his own emotional connection with the audience. It is more of a poetic approach. I keep in mind his exhibitions whenever I work on something without much narrative, in order to find how the audience is going to connect with this piece and not only watch a series of well-edited, great shots. The emotional connection is paramount for me.
Kapoor often works with an amazing red colour in his art. His inspiration for this colour was that this is the hue he sees when he presses very hard on his eyes when they are closed. The colour of blood and body. I love this fact.
The Wire / David Simon
The Wire has a reputation of the greatest drama of all time. Sixty episodes over five seasons. Even though the show isn't recent, it’s timeless and incredibly impressive. The Wire has an almost documentary approach. There is basically no plot. It’s more like a chronicle. The premise is very observational which is sometimes the right approach for me when it comes to filming. I feel that The Wire does not have an equivalent in either movies or TV.
The casting is so important because to how much the work relies on the characters and the relatable relationships between them. The show sometimes relied on the chemistry between actors more than the story. The script writing is impressive, weaving the characters storylines together without an obvious structural plot. It is excellence at every level; acting, writing, and directing. There is no obvious side to be on, no true heroes or villains. The characters with the most noble intentions end up corrupted. It’s about human nature.
Barrack Obama is one of the biggest fans of the show, and at one point he invited David Simon to the White House. They discussed how to approach drug criminality in the US, because the show had been so precise and documented the topic in such an accurate and faithful manner.