Saturday, March 2, 2024


THE STORY – In the 1970s, Director Kim wants to re-shoot the end of his movie at all costs in order to please the critics and finally achieve the masterpiece of his career.

THE CAST – Song Kang-ho, Im Soo-jung, Oh Jung-se, Jeon Yeo-been & Krystal Jung

THE TEAM – Kim Jee-woon (Director) & Shin Yeon-schick (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 135 Minutes

In the past few years, movies like the Oscar-winning “Parasite,” “Decision to Leave,” and “Burning” proved to North American audiences South Korea is home to a vibrant filmmaking industry, one that seems to be rising to international fame with each new production every year. “Cobweb,” directed by Kim Jee-woon (“I Saw The Devil”), is just the latest example of a film that reflects on the very concept of filmmaking and, more specifically, on the Korean filmmaking industry. Starring in “Cobweb,” Song Kang-ho came back to Cannes for the second year in a row after winning the Best Actor award in 2022 for his performance in “Broker.” This year, the Cannes audience got to view him in a new role as his latest performances finds him in the shoes of a crazed movie director pushing his crew and himself to craft a cinematic masterpiece. Is “Cobweb” itself one, though?

Set in South Korea in the 1970s, “Cobweb” starts with director Kim (Song Kang-ho), obsessed with making a masterpiece that will please the relentless critics who dislike his movies and squash the doubt he has about his filmmaking abilities. The film director seems to have recurrent dreams that inspire him to completely change the story and ending of his upcoming movie. Despite the film being already shot, director Kim knows he needs to re-shoot some scenes, particularly the final ones, if he genuinely wants to make his masterwork. He manages to obtain two more days to re-shoot, thanks to Shin Mi-do (Jeon Yeo-been), the niece of director Kim’s former mentor, who is inspired by his new vision for the movie. As such, director Kim is ready to do the impossible: re-shoot the whole film in just two days. In order to do so, he will have to get around the strict censorship rules of the time and call to set the entire crew and cast, including the male protagonist of the film Kang Ho-se (Oh Jung-se), and a new actress who rose to fame thanks to director Kim, Han Yu-rim (Krystal Jung).

Evidently, “Cobweb” is a film about the very essence of filmmaking. This is immediately made clear through the movie’s plot and visual storytelling. In fact, “Cobweb” constantly jumps from the actual film’s story, where director Kim desperately tries to re-shoot his movie and the film he is working on. The distinction between the two is clearly marked visually: director Kim’s “Cobweb” is all in black and white, thus marking a striking difference with the colorful reality of the film studio. Interestingly, “Cobweb” is perhaps more of a commentary on the figure of the director himself: how far is he willing to go to achieve greatness? And – it seems necessary to ask – is making the best movie of your career really worth sacrificing everything else? To Director Kim, the answer is clearly yes.

However, what makes “Cobweb” particularly interesting among an array of films about filmmaking, as many prominent directors seem to feel compelled to share their take on their love for the craft, is its context. “Cobweb” is certainly made more interesting because of its particular setting; a lot of films on filmmaking focus on Hollywood and the global north. Instead, “Cobweb” offers a fresh perspective on this perhaps sometimes overused plotline by reflecting on the South Korean film industry in the 1970s. First and foremost, this allows for a fascinating analysis of censorship. Not only does “Cobweb” show how harmful censorship can be to a director’s creativity, but it also demonstrates how pointless it is. Director Kim and the crew working with him manage to convince the minister in charge of censorship that the exact version of the script he initially disapproved of is actually an anti-Communist film, which very much delights him, and he has no problem believing.

Moreover, “Cobweb” depicts the reality of the film industry in South Korea at the time, poignantly shown in the first version of director Kim’s movie. At the time, most films were low-quality apolitical melodramas where female characters often ended up being forced to sacrifice everything for love. Undoubtedly, many directors would have liked to do what director Kim does and rebel against the censorship rules to shoot freely and create much more exciting and better movies, as the final version of director Kim’s “Cobweb” turns out to be. As such, the film hints at the future of the South Korean film industry after the 1970s, when censorship rules were relaxed and directors could finally address social issues again in their stories.

As underlined by the director Kim Jee-woon, the 1970s scenario shares some similarities with the current film industry, mainly because even today, after the pandemic, directors find themselves fighting for their vision while being confronted with the reality of a period of economic crisis. In fact, it is essential to underline that this does not mean that “Cobweb” is unintelligible for non-Korean audiences. The struggles director Kim has to face when filming his movie is something many can relate to, no matter what context they may operate in. The themes of innovation and legacy are both questions anyone who pursues a creative endeavor has certainly pondered over, thus making director Kim a very relatable character.

What is most striking in a film like “Cobweb” is its characters. There is no character in the film that is without faults. More than their virtues, the film showcases each character’s weaknesses and negative traits, thus making them all feel authentic. At times, the film’s real protagonist is the ensemble cast and crew that come together to re-shoot director Kim’s movie. Just as how each of them is vital for making the film in the story, each character seems indispensable to the actual film we see on screen. The focus on the characters and their intertwining plots with each other explains the visual emphasis on close-ups, which reveals an interest in profoundly examining all of our main characters and every detail of their facial expressions as the story unfolds before our eyes.

However, it is worth pointing out that this causes some issues with the film’s structure. The constant jumping between the reality where the movie is being filmed and the black-and-white final result may seem attractive initially. Still, it can quickly become overused and too confusing to follow. Of course, the multiple plotlines that tie all the characters together, both in the film’s plot and in that of the film within the film, do not help. This only creates more confusion as the audience tries to understand the new version of director Kim’s film while keeping up with the relationships between the actors on set, which tend to mirror those in the director’s film.

It is safe to say “Cobweb” may be a bit too complicated and overwhelming for its own good, just like the actual cobweb prominently featured in one of the film’s ending scenes. It can feel overlong at over two hours for such an exhausting dive into expressive madness. But it remains a fascinating film that can spark a reflection on the reality of shooting a film in South Korea in the 1970s, which some audience members may not be familiar with. The intertwining plot lines of each character are lightened up by the recurring humorous moments and definitely make for an amusing, chaotic watch.


THE GOOD - Offers an interesting reflection on the filmmaking industry in South Korea in the 1970s. The actors are all believable and convincing in their double roles in "Cobweb" and the film within the film.

THE BAD - It keeps moving between its plot and the plot of the movie director Kim is shooting within the film, which leads to losing the audience's full attention and undermining each storyline's payoff by the film's end.



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<b>THE GOOD - </b>Offers an interesting reflection on the filmmaking industry in South Korea in the 1970s. The actors are all believable and convincing in their double roles in "Cobweb" and the film within the film.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>It keeps moving between its plot and the plot of the movie director Kim is shooting within the film, which leads to losing the audience's full attention and undermining each storyline's payoff by the film's end.<br><br> <b>THE OSCARS - </b>None <br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"COBWEB"