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Painted Fire (2002)

Chihwaseon (original title)
3:05 | Trailer
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.


Kwon-taek Im
6 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Credited cast:
Choi Min-sik ... Jang Seung-up
Sung-Ki Ahn ... Kim Byung-Moon (as Sung-kee Ahn)
Ho-jeong Yu ... Mae-hyang
Kim Yeo-Jin ... Jin-jong
Son Ye-jin ... So-woon
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Jang-soo Bae Jang-soo Bae ... Kyunghyang newspaper cultural reporter
Tae-hee Kim Tae-hee Kim
Jin-Seo Yoon


The struggles of an artist. Jang Seung-up (1843-1897), also called Owon, focusing on the years 1882 to 1897, when Korea was in political upheaval, caught between China and Japan, the conservative dynasty dying, and peasant revolt at hand. Jang, born poor, has genius; a merchant, Kim, becomes his patron, finding him a teacher. Jang must convince others that a commoner can have talent, then move beyond his ability to copy old masters and find his own style. He's bedeviled by a temper and alcohol, arguments with patrons as he seeks commissions, and relationships with kisaeng, particularly Mae-hyang, that start and stop. It's the life of a restless spirit producing great art. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Life of Painter Jang Seung-up


Unrated | See all certifications »

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

User Reviews

Here is The Greatest Film ever made about the Life of A Painter
15 May 2002 | by hideoneSee all my reviews

Wow, What a wonderful film-making! Mr. Im has done it, again!

His last work, ChunHayang (2000) was a great film, but this one is even greater. Selected as an official feature film in the Canne Festival for the second time in a two-year row, this 66 years old director is getting better and better at what he is making of with a Korean culture.

Simply, Chihwaseon is about a great Korean painter, '(Ohwon) JANG, Seung-Up' who was considered as a prodigy in the late Nineteenth century. The basic story of this film tells the life of Jang, Seung-up, and the historical background of his time. He was an orphan, but in his teens, he was picked up by a noble man, called, Kim, Byung-Moon. This Mr.Kim becomes a mentor of Jang as well as life-long friendship, and continues to support his great talent that he knew in the first place. With Jang's great effort and natural talent, his fame grows faster and faster as the strength of his country, Korea falls down.

Jang's personality portrayed in the film is very complicated, and one of the best actors in Korea, Choi, Min-sik goes deep inside of Jang's soul. Suffering eyes reveal the struggle of a great artist's life. He is very serious sometimes, but all of sudden, he changes to a wild maniac. He drinks like an alcoholic, and sleeps with courtesans anytime. Even, he said in the movie, "without an alcohol and a woman, I can't draw. (An alcohol and women are my only inspirations)" In the peak of the fame, to develope his own style, he travels all around the country, and never gives up his pride as an artist for the authority or money. I don't want to give out every details, but I think you surely did get some ideas about the film.

The most amazing thing about this film is a cinematography. It is just so breath-taking how they captured every beauty of landscapes. Yes, each scene is like a work of Jang's painting. And the script is perfect, too. It mainly deals a deeper meaning of what makes a true artist. For example, Kim advices to Jang in the movie that 'before one holds a paintbrush, one has to set an aim in life'. This is very moving and inspiring line, and there are many more.

Go See this Film if you are going to be in the Canne Festival.

Chihwasun will be the greatest film ever made that deals with the life of a painter in film history.

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South Korea


Korean | Japanese

Release Date:

10 May 2002 (South Korea) See more »

Also Known As:

Painted Fire See more »

Filming Locations:

South Korea


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$8,196, 16 February 2003

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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