Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Min-sik Choi, Sung-kee Ahn, Ho-jeong Yu, Yeo-jin Kim, Ye-jin Son
Director: Kwon-taek Im
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Kino International Release Date: 02/03/2004 Run time: 116 minutes
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E. Karasik | Washington, DC United States | 04/24/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the fascinating and exquisitely filmed story of a Korean painter struggling with his cultural, political, and artistic identity during tumultuous political upheavals of late 19th Century Korea. Being a painter myself, I have seen dozens of films about artists, most of which were unsatisfying because they failed to depict enough of the artwork or the painting process. This film masterfully and generously accomplishes both, and the cinematography beautifully captures lush, gorgeous images of nature throughout the film. I enjoyed everything about this film -- the acting was excellent, the sets were lovely, it was erotic but tasteful, the dialogue about art was intelligent, and visually it was a feast. The first DVD I've wanted to own."
Can I put My Seed in your Furrow?
Daitokuji31 | Black Glass | 01/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Directed by the man who is considered by many to be the father of South Korean cinema, Painted Fire, Chihwaeson, is the filmic biography of Jang Seung-up, professional name Ohwon, who despite his humble beginnings and the war torn times in which he lived became one of Korea's most respected artists.
His artistic talent discovered at a very young age, Seung-ub was both snubbed by other Korean artists, who not only tended to be well read in the Confucian classics, but also were of high class, because he was "unlearned" in the ways of art. However, with his photographic memory and ability to reproduce, and some ways improve, the works of Korean and Chinese masters, Seung-ub quickly rose in the ranks and was asked to produce paintings for nobles and even the king's family.
Seung-ub, played by the incomparable Choi Min-sik, however, cannot escape his plebian roots. Already tormented by the thought that his work is nothing but copies of the masters, Seung-ub drinks himself into stupors daily and sleeps around with numerous kisaengs, courtesans, who he is not hesitant to beat if he feels them to be disloyal. However, despite these vices, Seung-ub is able to surpass his "betters" and create art that fuels the soul of the Korean people while they withstand the inner fighting of the Conservatives and the Revisionists, the former supported by China and the latter supported by Japan both of which had eyes on the Korean peninsula.
Having been immersed in the violent, flamboyant world of Chan Park-wook, the violent but silent films of Kim-Ki-duk, and several fluffy romantic comedy films, Im Kwon-taek's film was quite a different experience for me. Set in 19th century Korea, Im is able to display the beauty of traditional Korean dress and architecture, but unlike the vibrancy displayed in The Duelist, the setting is quite subdued and one can sense the feeling of helplessness people feel when confronted with deep conflicts within the environs of their own county. Revolutionists being marched off to be executed by Chinese soldiers, Korean soldiers gunning down peasants, one can see why the fantasy-laden artwork struck a chord with the Korean populace because it transported them away from their reality.
A somewhat disjointed film because of the way it jumps around between scenes and periods within Seung-ub's life, Painted Fire, however, is still an enjoyable and quiet film that tells the history of not only a great artist, but the country in which he lived.
A Masterpiece Of Storytelling And Cinematography
Ernest Jagger | Culver City, California | 08/26/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who have seen actor Min-sik Choi in the film "OLDBOY," I would highly recommend this beautiful work of drama and cinematography from Korea. I liked everything about "Painted Fire" [CHIHWAESON] when I first viewed it a few years ago. The story is about the life of one of the most celebrated and gifted artists in Korean history. Coming from humble and poor origins, the artist Jang Seung-ub (Min-sik Choi) had to go to great lengths to prove how good he was as an artist. He was living in a time period when only the 'learned' were considered talented. Since he comes from a poor and humble background, he is not taken seriously. That is, however, until other artisans see just how great his artwork is. He is talented, and his skills cannot be ignored.
But it is his own failings that he must conquer. He is self-destructive by nature, with a low self-esteem that has been rooted in his own origins. And yet his talent as an artist cannot be overlooked, no matter what his shortcomings may be. The fact that much of his artwork, as well as the beautiful paintings that he painted in true life were depicted in the film, only enhanced the film in my opinion. His gift of having a photographic memory to detail helped him to not only remember the paintings of the masters, but he actually improved upon their techniques. There are so many beautiful, and yet sad moments in the film, you want to just jump into the screen and make Jang Seung-ub come to his senses. However, as the viewer you come to realize that Jang Seung-ub is only living for the moment. There is no past, and the future is uncertain. He must live for the present--as the moment is all he has.
As the viewer you see his ups and downs, and you cannot but help empathize with him. This is a truly beautiful, and yet sad film as well. As for the cinematography, it is exceptional. Moreover, I really like the way the director and cinematographers depicted the time period. It feels as if you have been transported to the past. And the use of color in the film is breathtaking. This film was hardly marketed here in the USA, which is a shame. And actor Min-sik Choi gave an incredibly terrific acting job in the film. Too many great Asian films fall below the radar in this country, and this is one of them. This film ranks right up on the top 5 Korean dramas that I have ever seen. It is a magnificent film that comes highly, highly recommended. It belongs in your cinema library. At least rent it. Highest recommendation. [Stars: 5+]"
A Solid film about Sociality and Art...
Woopak | Where Dark Asian Knights Dwell | 11/23/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Chihwaseon (aka. Painted Fire, Strokes of Fire) is an engaging biopic on the life of renowned Korean painter; Jang Seung-Ub. Directed by Im Kwan-Taek with lush award-winning cinematography by Jung Il-Sung, Chihwaseon uses the history and beauty of Korea as its backdrop. I am in a very disadvantaged position, since I do not have a strong knowledge of Korean History; I cannot tell whether this film is accurate to its roots and can only comment on how well the film has been made.
Jang Seung-Ub (Choi Min-Sik, Oldboy) is the quintessential painter of the Chosun Dynasty who was born in 1843 and disappeared without a trace (into the stuff of legend) in 1897. Jang lived a peculiar carefree life; he is an alcoholic and is a womanizer, but is an ingenious painter. He became a center for a lot of people's criticisms and lived during a drastic change in Korean history was occurring, he truly struggled to overcome the limits of his artistry. In his final stages of his life, he decides to leave everything behind and finally becomes a free man.
Although not as famous as other Korean painters, experts continue to hold his work in high regard.
When I first watched "Chihwaseon", I was awe-struck with the direction by Im, the beautiful cinematography by Jung, the excellent performance by Choi Min-Sik as the lead. So, I asked myself, what else is there to know about Jang Seung-Ub, other than he is a renowned painter during the Chosun period and that loves drinking and women? Well, I had to pay special attention to the subtle details, as this is a Korean film, this may be once again a character study or period study.
The beauty of "Chihwaseon" lies not only with its direction and superb visual execution; it lies on its proceedings. I've read that art experts of the Chosun period in Korea were called in to reproduce Jang's works, his authentic paintings were used for the film. To properly replicate Jang Seung-Ub's exquisite brush strokes, Choi Min-Sik went through an intensive training to give life to one of Korea's most cherished painters.
There is a very human characteristic present in the proceedings. However, I commend the director that instead on focusing his expression mostly on Jang Seung-Ub, he avoids the usual clichés inherent in other films about artists. The film is more about social status and how society expects a certain structure; it explores an artist who in all the political changes, manages to stand firm with his devotion to his art. The film also has a strong expression of romanticism that it felt like it wanted to create something of Jang's character. Noble men and leaders seek to influence Jang's paintings and he considers this an invasion of the true essence of art. Jang apparently wandered around in pursuit of the truth of art, he confirms his skills while painting with a wine bottle in one hand and as his fame grew, he challenges his own limits. Interestingly, he finds the state he has striven to attain in the form of a plain and misshapen bowl.
Sadly, without knowledge of Korean history, I gained little from the references to the Chinese and Japanese struggles to a weakened Korea.
Aside from Kwan-Taek Im's direction and Jung's cinematography, the film draws its strength from its stellar cast. Choi Min-Sik once again gives an excellent portrayal and bears his soul for the audience. Jang is portrayed as a loner and usually expresses his contempt for those who seek to deaden the essence of art; Choi effectively brings his character to life, his fights with noble men and outbursts atop rooftops expresses pure agitation. He is joined by an excellent supporting cast: Ahn Sung-Ki plays Jang's mentor and actresses Kim Yeo-jin, Sun Yeh-jin and Yoo Ho-Jung play his various love interests. There is mild sexuality and nudity in the proceedings but will not turn off viewers since they are beautifully shot.
"Chihwaseon" may not be Im's best work but it is a very strong film about the life of Jang Seung-Ub. It does seduce the viewer with its very lush camera work and while some sequences felt a bit hurried, it would be unfair to expect a film to fully portray the life of a man in 2 hours. Im's other works have the unique ability to get under your skin, and while it would be unfair to impose such an approach with "Chihwaseon", Im definitely made this film with care and patience and has an uncanny ability to allure with its charms by execution.
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! [4 ½ stars]
Dedicated to fellow amazon reviewer Ernest Jagger.
A True Amazon friend, who has inspired and touched me with his reviews....