Painted Fire is grouped under Filmfest D.C.’s New South Korean Cinema category, but it isn’t new at all: The movie is nine years old, and its director, Im Kwon-taek, is a long-celebrated mainstay of his country’s cinema who has made exactly 100 films. Painted Fire certainly chews on South Korean scenery, though, sweeping from pillow-like mountain ranges to mud-caked farmland to the frenzied marketplaces of Seoul in the 19th century. Its subject is Owon (Choi Min-sik), a famous Korean painter who rose from poverty to the imperial court and disappeared in 1897 at age 54. He’s given the rock-star treatment here, boozing and whoring and throwing tantrums throughout much of the film’s 117 minutes. What’s most remarkable, then, is how boring Im’s movie is: Owon neither charts an appreciable narrative nor does much to generate pathos, instead repeating a drink-fuck-paint pattern until the film’s final minutes, when he divines existential truth by staring into a kiln. There’s some confusing history—mostly involving Chinese and Japanese imperialists—that intersects with Owon’s life insofar as it occasionally shuffles his patrons. At least Painted Fire’s enfant terrible has some choice quotes, the most spit-take-worthy being: “How can I paint without an erection?”
At 8:45 p.m. at Regal Cinemas Gallery place; also on Saturday, April 16 at 8:45 p.m. at E Street Cinema.