International version of Snowpiercer to be cut by 20 minutes
Already out in Korea, Bong Joon-ho's sci-fi film Snowpiercer will be cut by 20 minutes for its international release...
The director of such films as The Host and Mother, director Bong Joon-ho's gathering a reputation that is gradually approaching his friend and fellow countryman Park Chan-wook. His latest movie, Snowpiercer, has already received glowing reviews, and has, since its release in South Korea a few days ago, begun breaking local box-office records.
Joon-ho's first film to feature western actors (including Chris Evans, Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton) and a mostly English-language script, Snowpiercer's a sci-fi thriller set aboard a perpetually moving train. As the locomotive thunders through the icy wastes left by an environmental catastrophe, a class war breaks out among its passengers, who've long since become divided into separate classes - the rich living in opulent carriages at the front, the poor crammed into the squalid cars at the back.
When The Weinstein Company bought the rights to distribute Snowpiercer internationally, the news could have been taken either of two ways: with relief that it would be appearing in the west at all, and concern that the infamously scissor-happy company might alter the film for English-speaking audiences.
Whether at the first company he founded with his brother Bob in 1979, Miramax, or the self-titled Weinstein Company, set up in 2005, producer and executive Harvey Weinstein has often been criticised for editing the films he acquires. Director Wayne Kramer's drama Crossing Over had around 20 minutes cut out of it before its release in 2009, something the filmmaker partly blames for its dismal 16 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It's now been revealed that Snowpiercer will undergo a similar amount of modification before release, with Twitch Film reporting that Harvey Weinstein plans to trim 20 minutes from its 126-minute duration.
Writer Tony Rayns - who appeared on The Host's DVD commentary track - has said that the cuts will be made in order to make the film "understood by audiences in Iowa [...] and Oklahoma".
"Leaving aside the issue of what Weinstein thinks of its audience," Rayns added, "it seems to say [...] that the rest of the English-speaking world has to be dragged down to the presumed level of American mid-west hicks."
This has rightly led to concerns that any trace of nuance or social commentary is being quietly excised from Joon-ho's film, leaving behind a more straightforward - and far less interesting - action thriller in its wake. Then there's the disturbing news that a voice-over will be added to the front and back of the movie, presumably to make sure audiences are keeping up with the plot.
If it comes to pass, this is more than a disappointing state of affairs - it's a brutal mishandling of a potentially wonderful film from one of the finest directors currently working.
Sadly, director reputation hasn't always stayed Weinstein's hand in the past; back in the late 90s, he planned to make changes to Hayao Miyazaki's fantasy epic, Princess Mononoke.
In response, Studio Ghibli president Toshio Suzuki sent Weinstein a samurai sword along with the message, "No cuts".
"I did go to New York to meet this man, this Harvey Weinstein, and I was bombarded with this aggressive attack, all these demands for cuts," Miyazaki said in a 2005 interview with The Guardian, before adding, with a smile: "I defeated him."
Let's hope an emphatic online response will have a similar effect, and prompt The Weinstein Company to release an unexpurgated version of Snowpiercer to western cinemas.
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