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Painted Fire (2002) More at IMDbPro »Chihwaseon (original title)

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Painted Fire -- Chihwaseon(2002)


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Release Date:
10 May 2002 (South Korea) See more »
The Life of Painter Jang Seung-up
In a time of political and social unrest in nineteenth-century Korea, an uncouth, self-taught painter explores his natural talent amidst the repressive world around him. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
3 wins & 4 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
For the artist, the fire dictates all. See more (19 total) »


  (in credits order)

Min-sik Choi ... Jang Seung-up

Sung-kee Ahn ... Kim Byung-Moon
Ho-jeong Yu ... Mae-hyang

Yeo-jin Kim ... Jin-jong

Ye-jin Son ... So-woon
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

Jin-seo Yoon

Directed by
Kwon-taek Im 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Kwon-taek Im 
Yong-ok Kim 
Byung-sam Min 

Produced by
Woo-Suk Kang .... executive producer
Michael Kim .... executive producer
Ji-seung Lee .... associate producer
Tae-won Lee .... producer
Original Music by
Young-dong Kim 
Cinematography by
Il-sung Jung 
Film Editing by
Sun-duk Park  (as Seon-deok Park)
Art Direction by
Byung-do Joo 
Costume Design by
Ki-chul Kim 
Hye-ran Lee 
Sound Department
Choong-Hwan Lee .... sound
Visual Effects by
Jong Ik Kang .... visual effects supervisor

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Chihwaseon" - South Korea (original title)
"Strokes of Fire" - International (English title)
See more »
120 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Australia:MA (TV rating) | Canada:G (Quebec) | France:U | Hong Kong:III | Japan:R-18 | Mexico:B15 | Singapore:R(A) | Singapore:PG (cut) | South Korea:18 | South Korea:12 (cut) | Switzerland:12 (canton of Geneva) | Switzerland:12 (canton of Vaud) | UK:15 | USA:Unrated

Did You Know?

Chosen by "Telerama" (France) as one of the 10 best pictures of 2002 (#10)See more »


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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful.
For the artist, the fire dictates all., 7 May 2003
Author: scerevisiaety1 from Saint Louis, MO

Chi-hwa-seong (Painted Fire) recounts the life of Korean painter Jang Seong-ub amidst the changing political landscape of late 19th century Korea.

However, the themes of this film center around the process of artistic creation through the fire of desire of the artist and the expectations and demands of their audience and society.

Jang seong-ub is played masterfully as a complex character who changes from the innocent excitement of youth to a hardened alcoholic tortured soul. This characterization mirrors the young eager artist that finds it more and more difficult to invoke the spirit of artistic creation within himself without letting the creative fire out via drink, erections, and desire.

Although this character development proceeds overall gradually through the film, the emotional complexity of Jang is still played in a constantly oscillating manner building to the films' finale. Interestingly, the montage of the film parallels this constantly changing and seemingly wild emotion or fire of the artist as scenes seamlessly transition from one time and location to another without any conventional 'cues' to the audience that such a scene change will occur. For example, many scenes would change seemingly in mid conversation picking up at another point and location.

The visual scenery of the film is presented beautifully and also oscillates from stark (and perhaps bleak) black and white scenery to more colorful and alive environments that again parallel the paintings of Jang either in simple black ink on white paper or with color added. Rainbows of color enter the film at points as the artist observes nature and especially women that then become reflected in his paintings.

The theme of an artist's individual desire to create versus the expectations and demands of society arises in the film through various points including class distinction, the domination of government over the artist, the accepted norms of the artistic elite, and the base desires of the common masses. Instead of creating his own completely original works, Jang finds himself mostly recreating masterpieces of other artists throughout East Asia. The question thus arises if recreation itself deserves artistic merit.

I wish that I was more familiar with the political events of the period to firmly grasp how they tied into the story - but beyond any comparison to the current role of Korean government in artistic expression and/or censorship I cannot comment.

Overall an extremely well acted film and the cinematography is often breathtaking. A great film to see and then ponder over.

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