Four reviews of dystopian sci-fi entry “Snowpiercer” popped up recently. Three were the result of a CJ Entertainment press screening in Seoul for “The Host” director Bong Joon-ho’s first English-language movie on the eve of its August 1 opening in South Korea. It was a huge hit this past weekend, grossing more than $21 million. The fourth was arranged for New York-based Variety critic Scott Foundas, the only North American reviewer to have seen the film, which has not played any festivals thus far. The reviews were raves.
But that doesn’t mean that Harvey Weinstein won’t tinker with it before releasing it to the territories he controls, which are most of the English-speaking world (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa). Australia’s Inside Film trade reporter Don Groves reports that Weinstein is tangling with Bong over the final cut of his post-apocalyptic thriller, which is now 126 minutes long, “demanding Bong slash the running time by 20 minutes for the version to be released in TWC’s territories.”
According to Asia festival programmer Tony Rayns, who attended the Seoul premiere, “Bong told him that the cuts would eliminate much of the character detail, which would make the film seem more like an action movie. Weinstein is also adding opening and closing voice-overs.” Rayns told Grove:
“TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.’…Leaving aside the issue of what Weinstein thinks of its audience, it seems to say the least anomalous that the rest of the English-speaking world has to be dragged down to the presumed level of American mid-west hicks.”
“Snowpiercer,” which is set in a futuristic Ice Age where Earth’s survivors are imprisoned on a train going nowhere, with passengers segregated by class in different cars, is currently without a TWC stateside release date. The movie features a sprawling cast headed by Tilda Swinton, Marvel star Chris Evans, Korean megastar Song Kang-ho, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer.
Variety calls the film “visually stunning and richly satisfying,” while Twitch writes that the film’s stars “delight and horrify [the viewer] in surprising ways.” Check out the trailer below.
While Rayns and Grove go after Weinstein for his “Harvey Scissorhands” reputation, earned over decades of trimming films like Wong Kar Wai’s “The Grandmaster” to make them more accessible to audiences, David Lowery for one took his suggestions to heart and tweaked his final edit of “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” after Sundance. In that case, however, Weinstein worked in friendly collaboration with a filmmaker–he had foreign rights but no say over the final cut. If world class director Bong (with many hits behind him) is resisting Weinstein’s trims, though, that is another matter.
Hopefully “Snowpiercer”‘s rave reviews and appeal to Korean audiences will factor in Weinstein’s plans. Why not place the Korean cut in a North American festival like Toronto, Telluride, or New York, and see how it plays? Let the audience decide.