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Chi Hwa Seon (Painted Fire) (2002)
Rating:
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Sung-kee Ahn, Ho-jeong Yu, Yeo-jin Kim, Ye-jin Son
Director: Im Kwon Taek
Category: Avant Garde, Foreign, Documentary
Studio: Kino Video
Subtitles:
English
Length:
116 mins

 
 

 

Winner of the Cannes Fillm Festival's Best Director award, Chihwaseon is a vivid portrait of the turbulent life and times of Korea's greatest artist. As remarkably embodied by Choi Min-sik, the temperatmental, passionate brush master Jang-Seung-up paints with a martial artist's fervor while indulging a rock star's single-minded lust for life. Amidst the tumult and destruction of ninteenth century Korea, "Ohwon," as he comes to be called, fights to escape both the rigid artistic boundaries and the social fetters that would deny his low-born, unschooled genius.

Saved from a street gang's fists by a wealthy patron, Ohwon's raw talent, as demonstrated in a sketch thanking his rescuer, opens the door to a world that would otherwise be forbidden to the dirt-poor outsider. As Ohwon's artistic abilities develop to near supernatural perfection, his carnal appetites grow into self-immolation. But whether imprisoned in a gilded cage as a reluctant Court Artist or painting Kama Sutra pillow book porno for booze money, Ohwon's personal dissolution and political innocence yield artworks that one awestruck admirer says "eminate divine strength as if ghosts were dancing around them."

While Ohwon's brush tugs at paper inside the quiety of Seoul's most privileged homes, out on the street the flames of revolution are fanned by the Japanese and Chinese generals who would claim Korea for their own. In Chihwaseon, direcetor Im Kwon Taek portrays both the near apocalyptic upheaval of turn of the century Korea and the intimate interior battle between Ohwon's creative and libidinous desires with "the very elegance and mastery of the painter himself." (The Washington Post)