Reviews of Recent Independent, Foreign, & Documentary Films in Theaters and DVD/Home Video


Directed by: Im Kwon Taek.
Produced by: Tae Won Lee.
Written by: Im Kwon Taek, Yong Ok Kim & Byung Sam Min.
Director of Photography: Il Sung Jung.
Edited by: Seon Deok Park.
Music by: Young Dong Kim.
Released by: Kino.
Country of Origin: South Korea. 117 min. Not Rated.
With: Min Sik Choi.
DVD Features: A Chi-hwa-seon slide show. Two photo galleries: Behind the Scenes, The Art of Chi-hwa-seon. Trailer.

Set in exotic 19th century Korea, Chi-hwa-seon vividly portrays the legendary Korean painter Jang Seung-up, or "Ohwon" as he was called. Set during the invasion of Japan and China, Ohwon is a child beggar with amazing artistic talent. Only when a noble patron saves him from bully beatings is his gift recognized. To show his gratitude, Ohwon takes a scrap piece of paper and draws the patron a portrayal of daily life - the introduction of a prodigy. The patron leads Ohwon to an environment where he can further polish his skills. Through his drawings, Ohwon, not surprisingly, soon gains acclaim and fame. In the midst of political revolt, he himself is politically innocent and ignorant, which, as a blessing in disguise, enables him to create art comforting to the people of his devastated country. However, despite his success and celebrity, Ohwon gradually senses an emptiness in himself and in his art. Constantly suffering inner turmoil, he isolates himself from society and lives the life of a caveman, ever so cruelly digging into his inner soul for higher potential. Sadly he is never complete. He quietly vanishes from the world and becomes a legend. This deliberately-paced depiction of Ohwon's life is without doubt inspiring, heartrending, and eye-opening. Like Ohwon's paintings, the direction by Im Kwon Taek is powerful, beautifully photographed, and sensational.

DVD Extras: Most interesting is the display of the actual art of Jang Seung-up, who was first recognized for his meticulous reproductions of East Asian masterpieces. Jang Seung-up's art is exhibited next to the original masterpiece, and the two are astonishingly almost unidentifiable. Followed are several of his original paintings, a rare view of his genuine art that also appeared in the film. The theatrical trailer, however, is strangely focused on the sensationally erotic elements of the film. Hazuki Aikawa, journalist, director of the documentary Yancha
March 18, 2004



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