In my (one sided) conversation with Harvey Weinstein about potential and potentially large cuts being made to South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer—a record-breaking smash hit in South Korea—I concluded by pointing out that in going after a film that was already being well received internationally and was on many cinephile’s must see lists, Weinstein was turning what should have been a conversation between him and Bong into an international Weinstein vs. Everyone melee. I wondered if the pressure from around the world, beginning with Trevor Ryan, a film festival programmer, and ending with irate fans on the internet, would be enough to back Harvey off the ledge.
Over the weekend, THR reported that Bong himself dispelled the rumors, saying that he and Weinstein were still talking about the film and working to come to an agreement about the North American release, which is being handled by Weinstein. Just to refresh: ole Harvey thinks people in Iowa are too dumb to get it, and so wants to cut about 20 minutes—or all of the interesting character bits—out of the film, stripping it down to a generic revolution-themed action movie. But as Snowpiercer is little over two hours long and is actually a clearly executed dystopian concept that echoes current issues of the 1%/99% variety, it’s not that hard to get. It’s definitely darker than anything you’d expect to see Captain America in at this point, but it’s not THAT dark. The film community revolted, though, because as mentioned both above and in my original post, people have already seen and reviewed the movie, and they overwhelmingly like it.
So was this all a ploy by Weinstein to drum up interest in his movie, in what’s shaping up to be a highly competitive and over-crowded award season? Outside of technical considerations, Snowpiercer doesn’t stand a chance at Oscar—and even those tecchie categories are a big “if”—nor do I think Weinstein intends to sell it that way, but this fall/winter is going to be crazy busy (you thought summer was packed? Hahahaha), and Snowpiercer could easily get lost in the shuffle. It’s the kind of move I wouldn’t put past Weinstein, and perhaps that was part of it, but I think he fully intended/intends to edit the movie for US audiences and the backlash has, at least in some part, forced him to back down.
This doesn’t mean Snowpiercer won’t still be altered. Bong didn’t say Weinstein gave up on the idea, he said they’re still talking about it. Weinstein already edited Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster, with Wong sitting shotgun for the edits, and it didn’t ruin or even maim the movie. Weinstein isn’t an idiot and he usually knows what he’s about and in The Grandmaster’s case, he did have an overlong movie that could lose some navel-gazing and make a tighter film. Snowpiercer, though, isn’t too long or too introspective. It’s actually pretty short after a summer where almost every goddamn movie clocked in at two hours, twenty minutes-plus, and it’s already tight and fast paced. There is no way to cut it that won’t end up negatively affecting the plot, which is why it should be left alone.
There are two conclusions to The Snowpiercer Saga that I would accept. 1) Weinstein cuts it but makes the director’s cut available on demand simultaneously with its theatrical release, or 2) he doesn’t cut it and he releases it in January, where it won’t face so much competition and the lure of “dirt-smudged Chris Evans in an action movie set on a train” is enough of a selling point. I’ll accept a January funeral if it means getting Bong’s version of the film out to audiences.