31 May 2009

The Decade List: Chi-hwa-seon (2002)

Chi-hwa-seon [Painted Fire] - dir. Im Kwon-taek

Like the antithesis of all the loathsome biopics coming out of the US (and elsewhere), Im Kwon-taek's depiction of the life of painter Jang Seung-up (Choi Min-sik) proved that films about artists can be artful on their own. It's not that it hadn't been done before (like Pialat's Van Gogh), but it felt like it had been a really long time since one as good as Chi-hwa-seon came around. With the help of Park Seon-deok's exquisite, elliptical editing, Im illustrated Jang's life outside of the expected biopic mold, a surprising feat for a subject whose turbulent life as a doubting alcoholic sounds quite similar to all the other artists whose lives have been turned into films. The French title Ivre de femmes et de peinture [Drunk on Women and Painting] is a more accurate title than the US subtitle Painted Fire (or the British one, which is called Drunk on Women and Poetry for some reason).

With: Choi Min-sik, Ahn Sung-kee, Yu Ho-jeong, Kim Yeo-jin, Son Ye-jin
Screenplay: Im Kwon-taek, Kim Yong-ok, Min Byung-sam
Cinematography: Jung Il-sung
Music: Kim Young-dong
Country of Origin: South Korea
US Distributor: Kino

Premiere: 10 May 2002 (South Korea)
US Premiere: 28 September 2002 (New York Film Festival)

Awards: Best Director (Cannes Film Festival)

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