One day, probably, North American fans will get to see Bong Joon-ho’s post-apocalyptic adventure Snowpiercer on the big screen. At least we hope. What version of the film we’ll see, however, remains to be seen. There’s been a seemingly endless back and forth between the Mother director and The Weinstein Company, who owns the domestic rights, about edits to the film. Over the course of this story, reports have moved from Bong being basically cool with the proposed cuts to him being “furious” and almost despondent over the situation. If this weren’t one of our most anticipated upcoming movies, this story would be too tedious to mention again, but the latest news has adds a little clarity to the situation, and lets you know that the process is still going on. What this means for a potential release date, we have no idea, but it doesn’t appear to be getting any closer.
TWC wants to cut up to 20-minutes of story and character from Snowpiercer. They’re okay with the dark, violent, R-rated nature of the material, and the cuts are intended quicken up the tempo rather than clean up the content. This is a point that I take issue with, because I’m a huge fan of the way Bong paces his films. Perhaps slimming the film down to resemble a more traditional action movie will put a few extra butts in seats, but I feel like the bulk of the audience for grim, dystopian Korean cinema is going to be down with a methodical, deliberate pace.
Talking with Twitch, Bong shed some light on what actually is going on:
Some aspects are a little bit exaggerated. Some people misunderstood that there already exists a North American version with 20 minutes cut out. But that kind of version doesn’t exist. Officially the negotiation is still going on, and I’m trying my best to keep my own version and also the CJ people (the Korean investors/distributors) are trying to confirm the release date, the marketing plan and many other things they are still negotiating and the funny thing is once there did exist a 20-minute cut-out version, a Weinstein version of Snowpiercer.
Back in July this edited version of the film actually screened in New Jersey. When Los Angeles audiences saw Bong’s original cut, the response was much more positive than with what Bong calls the “Weinstein version.” This gives me hope that we may still see Bong’s vision in theaters. Opening around the world, Snowpiercer, the story of last vestiges of humanity surviving in a frozen wasteland on a perpetually moving train, has gathered fantastic reviews and smashed box office records in Korea.
For his part, Bong is being realistic about the process, and though he is involved in the decision-making, he says he’s not a “young, innocent film school student” screaming about how no one can lay a finger on his masterpiece. He does say, “I really hope to protect and keep my vision. The unique tone and mood of the movie and I don’t want to destroy the details of the characters. So it’s still going on.”
Some have speculated that a recent encounter between Bong and Quentin Tarantino at the Busan film festival was a covert negotiation tactic by Harvey Weinstein, a well-known friend of the Django Unchained director, but Bong dispels those rumors. Apparently the two filmmakers, mutual fans of each other’s work, spent a few days drinking, watching One Armed Swordsman, and generally having a good old blast. And I have to admit, that sounds like a damn fine way to spend a few days.