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Renowned Korean director Im Kwon-Taek (Chunhyang) tells the story of legendary iconoclastic Chosun Dynasty artist Oh-won (Choi Min-Sik). With little reliable documentation of the artist's life, the director (along with co-writer Kim Young-Oak) used dramatic license to fill in the details of the man's life. Born a peasant named Jang Seung-ub in 1843, the artist used his talents to escape a life of poverty. A wealthy nobleman, Kim Byung-Moon (Ahn Sung-Ki), recognizes Jang's talent, and takes him in at an early age. Master Kim recommends Jang to a respected art teacher, and his career… More
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 83%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"It is quietly observant, with a detached eye for the telling moment, and the visual compositions are often exquisite."
‑ Desson Thomson, Washington Post
"The movie's attention to anthropological and historical detail means things are slow to come alive. But once they do, the nature of Jang's psychic torture is palpable and unmistakable."
‑ Wesley Morris, Boston Globe
"In spite of these few moments of wonder, and even the dense, moving thematic content, the film ultimately doesn't leave a lasting taste."
‑ Par Parekh, Film Journal International
"For all its beauty and artistic ambition, the film remained stubbornly remote and soulless to me."
‑ Donald Munro, Fresno Bee
"The problem is, painting isn't a spectator sport, as the interminable scenes of Jang at work continually confirm."
‑ Neil Smith,
"[Chihwaseon] rushes through the life of its subject in nimble leaps and bounds, concentrating on the livelier and more spectacular parts and avoiding the dull historical and biographical stretches."
‑ Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"A vividly entertaining portrait."
‑ Manohla Dargis, Los Angeles Times
"[A]n elegant, painterly film..."
‑ MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher
"This Korean drama is a credible portrait of its main character, the revered 19th-century artist Oh Mon Jang Seung-up, and it looks beautiful enough to be a work of art itself."
‑ Jeff Vice, Deseret News, Salt Lake City
"A fascinating, consummately crafted and ultimately moving study of a man who conforms surprisingly closely to western archetypes of the artist as rebel and hedonist."
‑ Geoffrey Macnab, Sight and Sound
"Another masterpiece from one of the world's more neglected great directors, a master artist who here reveals the soul of another."
‑ Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune
"The film's sexy romanticism and its tragic sense of Korean history will thrill even those who have never set foot in an art gallery."
‑ Ella Taylor, L.A. Weekly
"The sturdy and goateed Choi Min-sik gives an extraordinary performance as the mercurial Ohwon whose moods fluctuate from sadness to rage, anguish, and depression."
‑ Judith Egerton, Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)
"Director Im Kwon-Taek steeps this film with reverence for Korean lore and history."
‑ Sean Means, Salt Lake Tribune
"It's one of the best films of an artist's life you'll ever see."
‑ Shawn Levy, Oregonian
More reviews for Chihwaseon on Rotten Tomatoes