Is Harvey Taking His Scissors to Korean Hit 'Snowpiercer'?

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by Anne Thompson
August 6, 2013 12:59 PM
10 Comments
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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. 

Tilda Swinton in "Snowpiercer."

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. 


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10 Comments

  • Zzz | April 6, 2014 6:36 PMReply

    Snowpiercer should have been the best picture of 2013, over 12 Years a Slave and all the other unoriginal nominees.

    As for Weinstien, he's a propagandist, so he'll probably mutilate the movie and dull it down until it doesn't threaten his liberal-loving slants.

  • JoeS | August 8, 2013 2:30 AMReply

    First of all, there is no way this is going to be a big hit movie in the States anyway. THE HOST was widely praised. Was a giant monster flick, and did squat in the USA. This is an arthouse film. Why ##$# with it?

    Just release it. Make what money you can, and then "Re-Imagine" it with Tom Cruise, Amanda Seyfried and whoever else Harvey thinks will appeal to a Midwestern audience....

  • Anne Thompson | August 7, 2013 2:45 PMReply

    Just remember that Tony Rayns is our source here --he's riffing on what TWC has told Bong. Harvey Weinstein isn't dismissing mid-west hicks. That's Rayns' language. We are not quoting Harvey directly. Also, Quentin Tarantino had to recut Django Unchained to get his movie shown in China. Whether he had final cut or not. And what I mean about the festivals is that if the movie plays well and is rapturously received then there's a stronger argument for Harvey Weinstein to leave the movie alone.

  • Andrew | August 7, 2013 12:55 PMReply

    It's crazy to me that Bong Joon Ho would sign over final cut of the movie to international distributors. I thought his purpose in making the movie with Korean financiers was to avoid dealing with the pressures of Hollywood meddling. I resent Anne's suggestion that they play the movie at festivals in order to "let audiences decide". Wtf...? We should have let audiences decide the final cut of 2001: A Space Odyssey while we're at it. Whether Bong Joon Ho might find useful insights from screenings is up to him and him alone. Nobody would dare do this shit to Quentin Tarantino or Paul Thomas Anderson.

  • Chris | August 7, 2013 12:42 PMReply

    Well, Weinstien just lost my box office dollars. As a proud, Well read, Okie, I can safely say, Fuck you Harvey.

  • Flyover | August 7, 2013 8:56 AMReply

    “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.” Seriously? It would seem as though Iowa has a leg up on the Haute couture of the east and west coast. How's that progressive agenda on same sex marriage working out Cali? Iowa has it. Who's the uncultured hicks again?

  • ellid | August 9, 2013 11:38 PM

    Uh, California DOES have same-sex marriage, in case you've been living under a rock since the Supreme Court's ruling in June.

  • mitkid | August 6, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    The Weinstein Company people should spend some time with the "mid-west hicks" who go to art and indie movies. As one who was born and grew up in Nebraska (although I choose to live in Chicago) I've always resented the coastal bias against "flyover" country. There may be fewer indie movie lovers than on the coast but the ones who are there want their movies unadulterated. Hands off Harvey.

  • kristin stewy | August 6, 2013 1:53 PMReply

    America likes Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey, just like Anne Thompsnon. lol

  • tyler4all | August 6, 2013 1:29 PMReply

    "make them more accessible to audiences" sounds a lot like trying to dumb people down. voice-overs? voice-overs are a weak storytelling tool, indicative of a mediocre approach. just let audiences decide. also, its really insulting to assume that people in Iowa and Oklahoma are all dumb. and even if they were all hicks, then who cares? I guarantee you, hicks aren't really interested in this type of movie anyway.

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