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Che-hwa-seon (Drunk on Women & Poetry) - Preview

Preview by: Jack Foley

Che-hwa-seon (Drunk on Women & Poetry) is the critically-acclaimed new film by Im Kwon Taek, which took the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival 2002.

The film is based on the life of the great painter JANG Seung-up.


During the 1850s, KIM Byung-moon saves young Seung-up from being beaten by a group of drifters. Seung-up draws KIM a picture to explain the reason behind the attempted beating.

KIM looks carefully at Seung-up's rough yet extraordinary talent, and takes him under his wing. Years later, KIM encourages Seung-up to pursue the life of a true artist and gives him a pen name, Oh-won.

Seung-up meets Mae-hyang, a daughter of a declined Yangban (nobility) who attracts him deeply. However, they are forced to part when Mae-hyang runs away to escape persecution.

Seung-up rueing his lost love, also leaves the city and wanders the Country in pursuit of the truth of art. Nobody can hold on to him.

Only through pleasure can he find the inspiration to paint, and so his life becomes embroiled with alcohol and women. While mocking the world, and with a liquor bottle in hand, he confirms the power of his brush stroke through his paintings of the Korean landscape.

As fame builds up, he yearns to change and stretch beyond his limits. Then one day, he experiences all his body's energy flowing into the paintbrush.

Seung-up, having discovered the state he has strived to attain, turns his back on the world and fades away...

A brief Q&A with director, Im Kwon Taek:

Q: JANG Seung-up is known as an oddity. He rejected the king's request, and he lived as his moods directed him. However, these stories are what future generations have made up. When you did research on JANG Seung-up, which was the most important event that you found hard to understand?

A: I think JANG Seung-up being summoned to the palace was true if you look at the hanging scrolls like 'Dae-ryoung Hwa-won', which still exist today.
But the part I couldn't accept the most was the fact that JANG Seung-up suddenly became a genius and could only paint if he was dead-drunk.
That kind of skill is hard to conceive no matter how drunk you are. (laughs) This part is a story that people passed on to each other until now, and need to find a way to understand it.

Q: By what reason, that is, could this film be a sort of similar autobiography of your life?

A: Well, not exactly an autobiography.... But I don't know why I felt this way this time around. JANG Seung-up was an orphan and wandered around to find himself later in a painter's world, in which he created his own world.
I guess me coming into the film world and finding myself through my works is a bit similar to JANG Seung-up's life. That may also be the reason why I found the courage to take on this film.

Q: Do you have any advice to give for directors making their debut now?

A: Well, since they're all making good films...(laughs) Simply put, if they're understanding the characters' psychological developments, then keep following them till the end and don't mind anything else. You have to make it easy for the audience to watch your film. It should always be from angles we see in everyday life. So the director and cinematographer should always have discussions and try hard to find necessary compositions from them. A composition that's just nice has no meaning. Never forget that the best way to making a film is always by talking with people.

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