Brief Encounters

Painted Fire, Grey Gardens, and Pie in the Sky.

CHI-HWA-SEON (PAINTED FIRE)

Runs Fri., May 2-Thurs., May 8 at Varsity

It's high time Americans got an eyeful of Im Kwon-Taek (Chunhyang), who's directed about 100 films and shared a 2002 Cannes Best Director award with Paul Thomas Anderson. The Korean titan's latest has the usual problem of foreign films (historical settings rife with incomprehensible political strife), plus the usual problems of films about artists (the near-impossibility of peering inside the artistic process, the shapelessness of most artists' life stories, and the fact that so many of the best are intolerable assholes). Yet Im's lyrical eye makes it well worth enduring the sozzled 19th-century genius "Ohwon" Jang Seung-Ub (played with irascible abandon by Choi Min-Sik). His life is noisy: A guttersnipe rescued by patrons stunned by his talent, Jang winds up wowing aristocratic collectors and the emperor himself. He defies everybody, brattily rips up his masterpieces, and blows every won he earns on booze and broads. ("I can't paint without an erection," he kvetches.) Maybe his bad-boy behavior is a ruse: When anyone can be purgedCatholics beheaded, conservatives and reformers battling with Chinese and Japanese connivancethe best policy is to be an apolitical hedonist. Im beautifully depicts Jang's brushwork and his inspiration from nature. I've never seen a more awesome flock of birds wheeling in the sky, nor a better rendition of same on paper. The sex scenes are remarkably sexy, despite the fact that the females aren't really characters (and Jang is so plotzed and shallow he'd fuck mud). Chi-hwa-seon is far superior to Pollock, but for all the poetically intense cinematography, it would be more accurately represented if they'd translated the title literally: Drunk Painting Master. (NR) TIM APPELO GREY GARDENS AND PIE IN THE SKY: THE BRIGID BERLIN STORY

Run Fri., May 2-Sun., May 11 at Little Theatre

In an act of brilliant, if irreverent, Mother's Day-related programming, this pair of documentaries represents perhaps the darkest and most disturbing portraits of mother-daughter relationships ever filmed. Gardens (1975) is the ghastly story of promise, wealth, and good breeding gone very bad. Gone, in fact, completely to the birds and the rodentswhich fill the nearly-condemned home of Mrs. Edith Bouvier (Jackie O's aunt) and her daughter, Edie. "Big Edie" became the scorn of high society by slowly losing her marbles and allowing her 28-room East Hampton mansion to deteriorate and fall apart. Her daughter, once an actress and socialite, loses her grip on reality entirelybut, weirdly, not her good looks. In Pie (2000), another well-born socialite pissed off her mother but good by running away and joining the circusAndy Warhol's circus. Famous for being the only fat chick at the Factory, Berlin was as ballsy and innovative as anyone in that scene (amphetamines fueled her considerable energy). Today, her Key lime pie habit keeps her Manhattan bakers and shrinks in good business. Whether or not you and Mom are on speaking terms this year, this double whammy should not be missed. (NR) LAURA CASSIDY info@seattleweekly.com

 
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