Cobweb is a meta movie from genre busting Korean director Kim Jee Woon (The Good, The Bad and The Weird, I Saw The Devil)
1970s Seoul and famed director Kim Yeol (Song Kang Ho – Parasite, Broker) is plagued by dreams about his latest movie Cobweb. Harassed by critics who call his earlier work trashy, he becomes convinced the dreams are telling him to reshoot the ending – and in doing so create a true masterpiece. But directing something great is not a simple business.
With Cobweb already long wrapped he must convince his studio, his cast and the government censorship board to let him rewrite and reshoot the ending – and to say that none of them like the idea is an understatement. With only his producer Mido on side, Kim must wrangle a bickering cast, furious financier and suspicious local police officer in order to get the movie made.
Cobweb is sort of a perfect film for a festival, a movie about movie making debuting for the most fanatical of movie fans. From 8½ to Sunset Boulevard and more recent festival favourites Mank and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood we love to see the process behind the camera, and Cobweb being a movie about the making of a fictional movie doesn’t make it any less of a fun package. Speaking of his film Kim Jee Woon said “I hope this film, about filmmaking itself, can help other directors and those in the industry find their passion again.” And his passion for the torment and triumphs of movie making is evident in every frame.
Beautifully captured in atmospheric black and white the film within the film itself is a mad combo of classic Hitchcock and shlocky b-movie, full of impeccably crafted sets, impossibly bouffant hair and a sprinkling of retractable prop knives and sugar glass. The climactic scenes in which director Kim and the crew choreograph a long continuous shot is enormously entertaining, the audience getting a bird’s eye view as actors crawl in and out of frame, stunt people que up effects and walls are moved in and out of the sound stage all in the name of not cutting. It feels like a proper bit of movie magic.
Much of the off-stage story surrounding the making of Cobweb harkens back to the slapstick humour of Kim Jee Woon’s early works, the dysfunctional movie cast finding themselves entangled in soap opera level love affairs which inevitably blow up in the second half of the film with hilarious effect.
While Cobweb as an entire piece succeeds as a physical comedy and a beautiful thing to look at, it runs a little long with extended dream within a dream sequences and callback scenes adding little to the narrative sure to lose some. The first half of the movie, where we see the fictional director Kim pulling his hair out whilst arguing with everyone about his vision moves far too slowly and would have felt like a slog had we not got to a much stronger second half where we actually see the movie getting shot.
Kim Jee Woon is capable of much more elegant work than this, and there are smarter movie musings on what it takes to make a masterpiece, yet Cobweb is an undeniably fun farce with a satisfying enough laugh to minute ratio. Its cast of zany characters are largely loveable and anchored by another solid performance from long-time collaborator Song. And that brand new ending that director Kim is desperate to reshoot? It’s absolutely mad, even if not a masterpiece.
Cobweb is currently screening as part of the BFI London Film Festival, a general release date has yet to be announced
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