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Movie Review: Chi-wae-seon (Painted Fire)

Story: Ah! - The creative process -- that mystical, magical, always fascinating quest. South Korean director Im Kwon-Taek (with his nearly 100th film) lovingly delivers this biopic about Korea's (neither North nor South) renowned 19th century artist, Jang Ohwan Seung-Ub. Who? Yes, from our very western eyes we are introduced to an extraordinary artist who lived in a tumultuous time and managed to stay true to his vision and passion despite class, conflict and the ever present inner demons of the artist (think Jackson Pollock, replete with all the booze, women and tirades).

It is an uneven film but is at its best when depicting the artist's works in progress. The physical act of creating these works is a joy to watch. Apparently during this time the creation of a painting was similar to performance art in today's world. Crowds would gather to watch Ohwan create his masterpieces -- and like today, everyone has an opinion.

Director Im Kwon-Taek shared the prize with PT Anderson (Punch Drunk Love) for Best Director at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Unless you are a student of Eastern history, some of the film's historical references will be confusing despite the explanatory passages. But, if you are an artist, love art or are interested in the creation of art -- this film is for you. Everyone else should stay home.

Acting: Choi Min-Sik was terrific as Ohwan.

Predilection: I love films about artists (this should not come as a surprise).

Critters: Lots and lots of birds.

Food: Oh my. Lots of Korean food, most of which I had no idea what I was looking at -- but I was very hungry when I left the theater. I did recognize chicken, rice and Kim chi (which was used for hue in a painting made by the artist during one of the scenes when he is painting outdoors).

Visual Art: Do I have to go into detail? Needless to say it was a visual, delectable feast for the eyes.

Blatant Product Placement: None.

Soundtrack: I don't remember any music. Isn't that odd?

Opening Titles: Simple black and white titles.

Theater Audience: This is one of my very favorite tiny theaters in NY. I always meet and chat with interesting people before and after the film. I was not disappointed today.

Predictability Level: I had no idea what was going to happen.

Oscar Worthy: No.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick. Who am I to challenge genius?

Big Screen or Rental: Chances of this film coming your way are minimal but I also loved this director's Chunhyang (you can access my review of this in the 2001 Lobo archives). I would imagine that some of his other 98 films are winners as well.

Length: 110 minutes.