The internet, myself included, threw a collective hissy fit recently when it was reported that that the Weinstein Company was going to cut 20 minutes worth of story and character from the American version of Bong Joon-ho’s upcoming English language debut, Snowpiercer. The post-apocalyptic thriller has been breaking box office records in Bong’s native Korea, and garnering glowing reviews from damn near everyone who has seen the film. Was our communal outrage an overreaction? Probably. Well, someone finally caught up with the director himself and asked him what he thinks of the proposed changes. In typical fashion, Bong gives a diplomatic answer, calling the cuts soft, and indicating that he is heavily involved in the process.
In Denmark, where Snowpiercer premieres this week, Bong told MSN that he just came from working on the American version. This is the first time he’s been compelled to make different cuts of a film for various overseas markets—much of the world will get his version, while North America and parts of Europe will see an edited form of the film. When asked about his feelings on the situation, Bong replied, “Weinstein is actually being pretty soft toward editing, probably because it’s noticed how critics have praised the film and know how angry movie fans get over new edits. They even asked me which parts I want to include in the film.”
He probably has a point about the worldwide critical reaction restraining Harvey Weinstein’s notoriously snippy hands some. You don’t look particularly good when you demand ham-fisted edits to a movie when people have been throwing around words like “masterpiece.” That just kind of makes you look like an asshole. If nothing else, at least it sounds like there is collaboration and cooperation between Bong and the Weinstein Company. In an ideal world that means that what we’ll eventually see hit US shores will be as close as possible to his intended vision. Is it perfect? No, but it’s as good as we can hope for at this point.
The biggest reasons why this has become such an issue, why so many people are outraged over these proposed cuts, are twofold. First, we’re sick to death of seeing beautiful international pictures hacked to bits before we get a chance to see them on the big screen. This happened just this month with Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. And with the continual shrinking of the global marketplace, it isn’t like before when we didn’t have anything to compare it to. Now it’s much easier to obtain the original versions and as a result we know what we’re missing and that we’re getting inferior versions. I know people who’ve seen multiple cuts of The Grandmaster, and say the US release pales in comparison.
This is where you probably tell me to shut the hell up, that I should stop whining and if I have access to the real cut, then what’s the problem. Maybe I should count my blessings, but this always feels like a slap in the face as a film fan, and brings me to my second point. The way the cuts were announced was super shitty. Weinstein came right out and said American audiences wouldn’t understand film. He pretty much called us all stupid right to our faces. That’s nice. Despite the fact that Snowpiercer is primarily in English, and stars mostly American and British actors, we’re apparently still too dense to appreciate anything that isn’t spoon fed to us.
All ranting aside, I’m glad to hear that Bong is involved in the process of slimming his film down. This news gives me at least a little faith that what we’ll finally see will resemble what he intends.
Based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer is the story of a futuristic world where attempts to reverse global warming have kicked off a new ice age. Through these frozen wastes, a train full of the last survivors of humanity circles in an endless loop. Within the moving metal tube, a rigid class system develops, creating tension between rich and poor, tension that eventually boils over into full-blown revolt. A fantastic international cast is headlined by Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, but also includes John Hurt, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer, Allison Pill, Song Kang-ho, Ewan Bremner, Jamie Bell, and Ko Ah-sung. There’s no word on a US release date, but with the edits still in progress, it’s looking less and less likely that we’ll see Snowpiercer in 2013.