lilijl. steer (flirt/j. CHIHWASEON (15) 117min 0.0

The extraordinarily prolific lm Kwon-taek shared the best director prize in Cannes last year along with Paul Punch Drunk Love Thomas Anderson for this vibrant biopic of the 19th century Korean painter Jang Seung-ub.

The film's episodic structure whisks us through the ups and downs of Jang's turbulent life, beginning with an incident when, as a young orphan, he's rescued by a noble patron Kim Byung-moon (Ahn Sung-kl), who spots the boy’s artistic potential. Jang (memorably incarnated by the actor Choi Min-sik) proceeds to study at various schools under a succession of masters, learning the principles of classical Chinese painting, before developing his own personal style (he doesn’t bother with accompanying poems or signatures). His career blossoms, yet he remains an outsider of the establishment. Uncouth and of low birth. he’s a wanderer who indulges in both women and alcohol, claiming at one point that ‘without a drink and a woman. I can’t hold a brush', and elsewhere declaring that ‘I can‘t work without an erection’. Not interested in material success, he turns down commissions from foreign dignitaries, and mutilates work that doesn’t meet his own exacting standards.

Admittedly with the backdrop of such historical events as the anti-Catholic persecution of 1866 (cue the beheading of a few missionaries) and the peasants’ revolt of 1894, it's hard to keep up with all the narrative developments in Chihwaseon as various courtesans and mentors appear and disappear at a prodigious rate. The film’s accessibility may partly be explained by the way it reinforces western notions of a wayward, troubled artist. Through the figure of Jang, lm Kwon-taek is

able to suggest a sense of an underground society struggling to forge its own identity against the aggressive influences of both China and Japan.

And fittingly, given that Jang believed in art for art’s sake, the film is a work of considerable beauty in its own right. There are some sublime


’. W‘A

Drunk on women and poetry

shots, captured by cinematographer Jung ll- sung, of the Korean countryside, and there are the remarkable brush-stroke recreations of Jang' 5 paintings of flowers, birds and trees, which eloquently express the man's virtuoso talents. (Tom Dawson)

I Film/louse. Edinburgh from Fri 4 Jul til Tue 70 Jul

HOMAGE LA COMUNIDAD (tbc) 106min 00

It ain’t Hitch - it’s just cock

The opening tracking shot that comes to rest on a corpse being nibbled by a black cat (after a Saul Bass- style credit sequence) announces La Comun/dad (Common Wealth) as homage to Hitchcock. As the st0ry of a dead man‘s hidden fortune and murderOuS greed among the eccentric inhabitants of a crumbling Madrid apartment building takes shape. it

becomes clear which of Hitch's films writer-director Alex de la lglesia is referencing Family Plot. a late addition to the canon of the by then waning master of suspense.

YOu might argue that it is better to work from a lesser Hitchcock film than an uncontested classic than to

leave yourself open to ridiCiile.

Nevertheless. lgleSia misses the boat completely by offsetting suspense. intrigue and gristly set-pieces (one unfortunate is cut in two by a faulty elevator) not With the

gallows humour of Hitchcock.

but with dumb farce (a married couple are caught with their pants down in someone else's apartment. Ha bloody ha).

Worse. lglesia throws in lame parodies of other, non- Hitchcock films. During the climactic rooftop chase sequence an elderly woman leaps from one building to another a la Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix. Such nonsense aSides are particularly irritating when IgIeSia bungles his reference to Vertigo. Ever adolescent Mel Brooks did far better with his Hitch riff High Anxiety. (Miles Fielder)

I Film/louse, Ed/nburgh from Fri 4 Jul.

THRILLER DARK BLUE (15) 118 min 0.0.

The American bent copper mOVie has Virtually become a genre of its own over the last quarter century. Beginning With Serp/co. images of systemic police corruption are often interwoven With psychological character studies. as in The Bad L/eutenant. But yOu get the impreSSion that James Ellroy's stories. epitomised in LA Confidential, are less about indiVidual psychologies than political systems. His are worlds of pure corruption on a Chandleresque level. but Without even an indiVidual such Marlowe to redeem us.

LA in 1992. and the city awaits the Outcome of the Rodney King trial. ln an atmosphere of raCial tenSion. two detectives, Perry (Kurt Russell) and Keough (Scott Speedman) are sent oft to investigate a multiple murder and robbery at a Korean grocery. They uncover layers of conuption that implicate all and sundry. including their Superior. Van Meter (Brendan Gleeson). His LAPD rival. the religious zealot Holland (Ving Rhamesl scents blood. but has secrets of his Own. Keough's relationship With a black fellow officer. Beth (Michael Michelle), exacerbates the bigotry of Russell. a Virtual hired gun who IS Willing to use blackmail, intimidation and Violence in pursun of his ends.

There is a certain element of genre ‘film by numbers' in Rob Shelton's production. particularly in such character deVices as Perny's dysfunctional marriage. Also. some of the dialogue is cliched. yet Dark Blue exhibits such intelligence in its pacmg that what emerges after a laboriOLis first half is a genuinely compelling climax in the midst of the LA riots. A strong performance from Russell as a man With an Unshakeable faith in the ultimate corruptiOn of the human spirit is a standout. Not a flawless film. but a very watchable affair. (Steve Cramer)

I Selected release from 4 Jul

Unshakeable faith in ultimate corruption

3—1 7 Jul 27/131118 LIST 31