The crazy and quirky ‘Cobweb’ is a movie within a movie, a period black comedy about the movie of the same title as it is being reshot by its director Kim Yeol (played by Song Kang-ho of ‘Parasite’ and ‘Snowpiercer’ fame). Kim Yeol is a director known for his “trashy dramas” and who is driven to redo the ending of his film to turn it into a masterpiece. Known as an apprentice to great filmmaker, Director Shin, critics and other industry insiders feel that Director Shin wrote the screenplay of Kim Yeol’s debut feature, which is why it is so good, and this has plagued Kim Yeol’s career ever since. Even on his continued insistence that his debut film was written by him, his works after his debut has been less than stellar. Plagued by dreams, he has returned to the studio and called back his cast and crew to re-shoot a few scenes.
Except Kim Yeol’s producer doesn’t want him to reshoot the film. Set in South Korea in the 70s, they would need to submit the script to the censorship board for approval (to ensure there wasn’t any anti-government rhetoric in the story) while many of his actors are also busy with other projects, most notably the starlet Han Yu-rim (played with delicious fervor by Krystal Jung). But after the niece of the producer, Shin Mi-do (played by a surprisingly plucky Jeon Yeo-been of ‘Vincenzo’) reads the new script and takes it upon herself to push through with the reshoots, ‘Cobweb’ then takes a turn to the crazy world of filmmaking.
Alternating between the movie that is being shot – the multi-genre and almost campy black and white suspense drama ‘Cobweb’ – and the making of that movie, the film becomes a hilarious presentation of the crazy world of filmmaking. It’s a satire about the industry poking fun at the crazy antics on the set that includes everything from the intrigue between actors, the means of playing circles around the censors, the battle between producers and actors and producers and directors, and everything that Mi-do and Yeol must do to keep the cameras rolling. Everything including locking everyone in the studio.
While the movie being shot is very old school in tone and feel. It plays out like a campy old movie with exaggerated acting and overly dramatic music and set ups, it becomes an interesting counterpoint to the lives of the people within the studios and it becomes a showcase of the intricate web of personalities that intersect in the making of a movie.
The literal spider and cobwebs in the film come in much later in the movie and in the most unconventional and hilarious way. It comes completely left and center and becomes the final punchline to a very long and crazy joke about the world of making movies. What does come out is that no matter how crazy the world of it gets, the movie keeps going, they never stop. The passion of making movies, of making a name for yourself, of putting out a work is really highlighted in this film. It’s as if Kim Yeol is the spider making a cobweb and everybody else is just trapped in the weave, unable to get out.
Or maybe the spider is moviemaking and even Kim Yeol is stuck in the spider’s web as more truths about his past and his relationship with Director Shin is revealed in a fiery moment that is absolutely awe-inspiring (it shows off an incredible one-shot take involving fire). Director Kim Jae-woon first shows us how the scene is done and then shows us the finished shot within the film itself and ‘Cobwebs’ just lays out this incredible movie-making moment for us to marvel at.
With great performances across the board, most especially from Krystal Jung and Jeon Yeo-been, ‘Cobweb’ is a madcap comedy about the joys and craziness that it takes to making movies. It is definitely a love letter to the medium but also an exploration and rumination of what an artist fears the most – grappling with the ideas of their own capacities and talents. ‘Cobweb’ isn’t particularly deep or profound on the onset, but it is very, very enjoyable.