To be a director is to be a madman of sorts. It’s a rare artist that has the will and belief required to pull together so many forces to create a movie, let alone a good or even great one. In other words, it’s a space only occupied, perhaps, by the delusional or self-involved.
“Cobweb,” directed by Kim Jee-woon, mines the comically absurd reality that is filmmaking, at times with bouncy cinematic verve, at others somewhat aimlessly and a little too indulgently.
In the film, set in early-1970s South Korea, a director, Kim (Song Kang-ho), desperately struggling to prove he isn’t a sham, has come up with a new ending to fix his current film that he insists will transform it into a subversive masterpiece. Working surreptitiously around his studio’s president and the government censorship agency, he reconvenes his cast and crew, boards them up in a sound stage, and gets to work on his opus. Personalities clash and antics ensue, as the movie set becomes as much of a soap opera as the movie they’re making, whose scenes are cut into “Cobweb” throughout.
Even if “Cobweb” often feels like it’s a film that is telling itself its own industry insider joke — poking fun at the competing, wounded egos of directors, actors and studio brass — Kim Jee-woon captures it all with a sleekly choreographed charm that keeps us along for the ride. Until it doesn’t. Toward the second half, the film becomes overlong, losing its narrative thread and including too many scenes of the movie being made. Eventually we feel a little trapped in the sound stage ourselves, as “Cobweb” falls victim, ironically, to its own punchline — becoming a movie that is too obsessed with itself.
Not rated. In Korean, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes. Rent or buy on most major platforms.