Screened as part of NZIFF 2003
Korean director Im Kwon-taek (Chunhyang, Sopyonje) recounts the life and rollicking hard times of one of his country’s most celebrated painters, Jang Seung-ub, known as Ohwon. Born into poverty, Ohwon painted his way to the heights of 19th century Korean society while indulging a voracious appetite for liquor and women. Imbued with its subject’s lust for life, Chihwaseon revels in tableaux of nature’s abundance – and spectacular period recreation.
“This is a portrait of the artist in the bourgeois outcast vein… but set in a triumphantly major key. Jang, played with a pleasing mixture of unkempt swagger and puppy-dog charm by Choi Min-sik, is a naturally gifted painter who is barely on speaking terms with society… Im’s film has a fairly conventional structure, encompassing adolescent apprenticeship, glorious middle age, and obscure old age, against a background of political upheaval and the search for a perfect woman. But the director revitalizes the biopic form by keeping everything fast, supple, pliant. Just like one of the artist’s paintings, Chihwaseon is a dynamic swirl of forms observed with a passionate eye.” — Kent Jones, Film Comment
“Mr Im’s own aesthetic command is evident in the movie’s wealth of beautiful, perfectly framed images of nature – shots so full of passion and perception that they could almost be paintings themselves.” — A.O. Scott, NY Times