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Cobweb movie review & film summary (2024)

“Cobweb” takes place almost entirely on a soundstage for a Korean horror film being shot in the 1970s by a troubled director named, of course, Kim (the amazing Song Kang-ho of “Parasite” fame, along with so many others). Kim is making what needs to be his masterpiece—he calls it that more than once—a black-and-white feature about stormy nights, betrayals, stabbings, and spiders. But he’s been struggling with the ending. When he rewrites to what he thinks is perfection, he struggles to get it approved by the Korean censors but decides to go forward anyway, leading to a series of almost slapstick scenes in which the cast and crew have to hide what they’re really doing from the authorities trying to shut the production down. 

Meanwhile, the actors don’t understand their new roles, and have more than their share of interpersonal drama behind the scenes to add to the tension and humor. The studio boss (Jang Young-nam) is being kept out of the loop; the leading man Ho-se (Oh Jung-se) can’t stop cheating on his wife; the young star Yu-rim (Jung Soo-jung) is hiding a pregnancy—it’s all a recipe for what they call “creative differences” in the industry.

One notable problem with “Cobweb” is that the film within the film looks like the better watch. Give me a Kim Jee-woon black-and-white joint that features giant spider webs, canted angles lit by lightning, and multiple murders. Sadly, that’s only a small part of this “Cobweb,” which is more about the webs a creator weaves when trying to make a feature film, and how easy it is for people to get caught up in a vision gone awry. Echoes of “Ed Wood,” “Birdman,” and other films about the chaos of movie sets feel intentional, but there’s a spark missing here, and a surprising lack of substance to it all. Is Kim poking fun at his art? Noting how silly it can be to make something so serious? Or is his intent more to reveal how complex his passion can be? 

It doesn’t feel like any of those questions were really asked. Instead, Kim seems to be reaching for farce, something like a Noel Coward play with Korean flair. It all looks incredible under the lens of DP Kim Ji-yong (“Decision to Leave”), but it keeps falling flat as the tone seems to evade Kim. There’s a slack nature to the film that almost feels like it has to be an intentional experiment from a filmmaker who has been so precise and intricate with his work in the past. It’s as if Kim is testing himself to see if he could make a self-indulgent, unsubstantial lark of a comedy. He can. Sorta. Now let’s get back to the good stuff.

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