In Chihwaseon, director Im Kwon-Taek (Chunhyang) recounts the life of 19th-century Korean painter Jang “Ohwon” Seung-Ub (Choi Min-Sik) with the workmanlike precision one might expect from someone who’s made nearly 100 features in 40 years. For his latest old-man epic, Im shared this year’s Cannes Best Director prize with Paul Thomas Anderson, whose Punch-Drunk Love will also have its U.S. premiere at the New York Film Festival. Ohwon’s drunken rages and fits of creative energy are the film’s major focus, though Im’s dialectic is to point to the symbiotic relationship between the man and his country’s ever-changing political upheavals. While his talents are highly regarded, Ohwon strives to distance himself from the masters he’s accused of copying, and as played by Choi, Ohwon is so uncomfortable within his own flesh, tortured by his constant frustration (both creative and sexual), that he spends the duration of the film fumbling his way toward an elusive transcendence. Im’s humanism is unmistakable but his recollection of Ohwon’s life feels cold at times. The director’s nature shots are ravishing (in one scene, the wilderness seemingly loses its color in response to one of Ohwon’s violent uproars) though he fails to elucidate the complicated relationship between artist and nature that Ohwon’s paintings suggest.
- Kino International
- 117 min
- Im Kwon-taek
- Im Kwon-taek, Kim Yong-ok, Min Byung-sam
- Choi Min-Sik, Ahn Sung-Ki, Yu Ho-Jeong, Kim Yeo-Jin, Son Ye-Jin, Han Myung-Goo, Jung Tae-Woo
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