Alex Prager loves movies. When we asked the Los Angeles-based artist to hand-pick ten films that have inspired her throughout her ten year career, she prefaced her list as being incomplete. “Too many great films,” she wrote. Prager, who ping-pongs between still photography and film, and whose work has been featured everywhere from the MoMA to Vogue, achieved career nirvana in 2011 when the New York Times Magazine commissioned her to direct Touch of Evil, a sinister series of the year’s biggest movie stars recreating iconic cinematic villains. (It won Prager an Emmy the following year.) The project was a choreographed plunge into the depth of the human psyche, much like Prager’s latest work, Face in the Crowd, opening November 23 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington DC. It will be Prager’s first US solo museum show, and will feature 40 carefully staged photographs of massive crowd scenes–hundreds of strangers whose lives accidentally collide in a public space–that Prager photographed from improbable angles. She’ll tie those together with a short film (also titled Face in the Crowd) starring Elizabeth Banks. Here, the artist does her best to whittle down ten movies that inspired her, from all-time classics to experimental gems.
Wizard of Oz
Probably my all time greatest influence. The saturated colors, surreal quality of the light and the characters, the music, the attention to every little detail. This is a great film in every way.
Night of the Hunter
I was so struck by this film the first time I stumbled upon it. It’s so beautiful. The set design, lighting and music create this unreal, beautiful and creepy world.
Songs from the Second Floor
Roy Andersson is obsessed with the same kind of characters I’m obsessed with. I love the effortless awkwardness he puts in his world, as well as the incredible set design. It’s all built. None of it is real. Also, he has a great sense of humor, especially when looking at something that would otherwise be depressing.
The Red Shoes
I love the storyline in this film. The woman has to choose between her career and her lover so instead she chooses death. The shoes are sort of hypnotizing her into madness. I love the ballet and the stage design for the performances. The color red is probably used better here than in any other film (except maybe the red shoes in Wizard of Oz).
The first time I saw this film I was most impacted by the simple fact that anything goes in movies. His characters are so unique and interesting. And the style is just so good. You’re thrown into this amazing circus of a world.
Un Chien Andalou
I love the surreal quality of this film. It’s totally weird and beautiful. Everything about it is inspiring and poetic.
Wings of Desire
I will always imagine Berlin to be like this. The way its shown in rich sepia and color is so beautiful. The casting of the characters is perfect and I love the poetic storyline.
A Woman Under the Influence
I was really into the way this film is so character and story based. The acting is incredible. It’s very realistic and I love the dialogue, but the fact that it was shot in the ’70s gives it that amazing look.
I was really struck by how artfully this was shot. It made me consider new ways I could use my camera. Also his casting is so good. I love the oddness to his leading men.
Meshes of the Afternoon
When I first saw this it made me want to be as free as possible with my films. I love the courage to try new things and find something beautiful in the unexpected.