Painted Fire

"Good"

Painted Fire Review


Painted Fire is a Korean film biography that traces the life of revered painter Jang "Ohwon" Seung-up, who transformed the country's style of art in the 19th century. Except for its limited production values, it bears a resemblance to American film accounts of art superstars such as Vincent Van Gogh (Lust For Life), Jackson Pollock (Pollock), and Frida Kahlo (the recent Frida). It similarly concentrates on the challenges that face major artists on their way to creating forms of expression that defy accepted standards. "Must learning to paint be so painful?" Ohwon asks.

An orphaned beggar at an early age in a highly class-stratified society, Ohwon can barely afford paper and ink to make drawings. But his need to do so leads to his using whatever materials he can scrape up, which in turn leads to early recognition of his above average talent. As depicted here, the local nobility are all art critics as well as collectors, and they are only too ready to take advantage of a new discovery. This attention to his work develops into a patronage for young Ohwon by Kim Byung-moon that provides him a means to pursue his art free from worries about basic necessities.

Ohwon, maturing as a man as well as an artist, becomes widely renowned first for his expert copies of the works of known masters, then as an exponent of readily sold commercial art to order. But even as his fame and dominance in the art market rises, the traditional style of painting becomes more and more inadequate to his aesthetic vision. Instead of simply enjoying success, he sets out to find his "true art." Along that journey, he experiences some rather tormented relationships with women, mostly courtesans (similar to Japanese geishas), and discloses an explosive personality given to destructive outbursts.

During these rants of violence, he destroys the furnishings of his surroundings as well as his work which, though extremely saleable, falls short of his higher vision. Alcohol distracts him from dissatisfaction with his progress, sometimes resulting in a new expression painted while within its grip. Sober, he sometimes discovers something in his stupor-induced images that could help lead him to his goal.

A disciple asks Ohwon why he wants so much to change his art. "People find in my pictures what they expect", he explains. "If I don't change I'll always be their prisoner." Thus, the credo of an artist who struggles throughout his life to produce art beyond the prevailing realism and formality is formed.

Budgetary limitations in making the movie are evident in part by abrupt cuts and somewhat crude storytelling, but writer-director Im Kwon-taek, in this his 95th film, keeps the narrative on its historical track, bumping along in an episodic chain of events. While this jumpiness tends to hold his subject at objective arm's length, scenes of the artist discovering objects and forms in nature are telling instances of an artist's quest, suggesting where the mystery of inspiration comes from.

While there are no performances that rise to memorable, the formality of Korean culture and speech in Kwon-taek's framework seems to diminish the need for acting virtuosity. Lead Choi Min-sik ably develops some sympathy and interest for his struggling artist, but it seems to be accomplished more by the story's constant focus on him than by innate charisma or intimate connection.

Kwon-taek pays attention to his casting of women characters, perhaps taking a lesson on its importance from Chinese directing giants, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) and Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine). Scenes between Ohwon and his ladies reveal aspects of the man beyond brush and ink, like difficulties with commitment and his tendency toward emotional contradiction, and they include a fairly explicit moment of lovemaking.

Despite its limitations, this film from South Korea is worthy of attention. It's not a country known for making films that appeal to widespread tastes, yet this one attempts to say something about the universality of art and the nature of creative expression, matters of concern to art-lovers everywhere. While paying homage to a national hero, the biography flashes often on the artist's revolutionary brush strokes, where we experience the passion behind the legend.

Aka Chi-Hwa-Seon and Chihwaseon .



Painted Fire

Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th May 2002

Distributed by: Kino International

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Fresh: 33 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Jang Seung-up, as Jin-jong, Ye-jin Son as So-woon, as Kim Byung-Moon, Yu Ho-jeong as Mae-hyang

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.