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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Snob"

2020/01/18

Woo-jeong (played by Yoo Da-in) is an artist who skirts a fine line between appropriating other artists, being influenced by them, and just stealing their work outright. For the most part Woo-jeong is never confronted on this behavior- she rather incredibly gets away with it for most of "The Snob" to the point it took me way too long to tell whether she was actually a fraud or not. Which weirdly enough is part of the point here, as "The Snob" is Woo-jeong's argument that art can't be stolen and also that it's OK to just make stuff up to sell a book.

It's not clear to me that the writer/director team of Lee Sang-cheol and Shin A-ga have any actual experience in art. But given that they definitely have experience in independent movies, it's easy to see where they get their ideas about artistic politics. Everything is a convoluted and not particularly interesting scam to the characters in "The Snob" which is the main reason why Woo-jeong gets away with her plagiarism for as long as she does.

For the sake of reference, Woo-jeong's old friend So-yeong (played by Ok Ja-yeon), has spent a really long time overseas, has had major mental problems and substance abuse issues, and tends to either pick fights or flirt inappropriately in turn. So-yeong is more of a stereotypical artist, who may or may not be talented, but is almost entirely reliant on other people to notice her since she can't network. Woo-jeong is successful because she's good at telling a story, sticking to her guns, and keeping her cool.

Avoiding getting angry is indeed Woo-jeong's main objective talent, as she very slowly and subtly bends men to her will by being passively desirable. So masterful is Woo-jeong's sense of passive-aggression that men don't even get mad at her when they've uncovered her shenanigans. Bizarrely enough, the men in "The Snob" are themselves so passive that they're only moved to action in the climax by the excuse of being able to disguise their obvious personal frustrations as professional pot-shots.

There's a very artful technique to the calculated hypocrisy on display in this movie. The man who at first glance appears to be the chief villain after committing an act of violence against our heroine very quickly disappears as his motivation was straightforward and easily resolved. Woo-jeong and the equally untalented people she pals around with constantly stew around in their own juices, constantly trying to scheme their way out of an apology or admitting that they're capable of poor judgment.

The main factor keeping me from pitying Woo-jeong or any of the characters in "The Snob" is that they're all plainly incapable of sincerely reflecting on their actions. They've all defined the horrible mess of the climax as being a part of their own personal master plan, somehow. Their gross arrogance allows them to overcome deficits in genuine talent or effort. In a way that's kind of an art. Woo-jeong inevitably wins in the end mainly because she's the only character capable of transmuting this kind of petty destructive thinking into a coherent bridge-burning narrative.

Review by William Schwartz

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"The Snob" is directed by Lee Sang-cheol, Shin A-ga, and features Yoo Da-in, Shim Hee-sub, Song Jae-rim, Ok Ja-yeon, Yoo Jae-myung, Kim Joo-ryung. Release date in Korea: 2019/12/12.

 

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