Musings on Bong Joon-ho’s sci-fi thriller Snowpiercer & How I hope we get to see the director’s cut for US release

I saw the beautiful International poster of Snowpiercer today, a film I’ve been looking forward to for some time. The film’s been breaking all kinds of box records in Asia, especially in South Korea, Bong Joon-ho‘s native country. Unfortunately for most of us in the West, we probably won’t get to see it until next year… and which version of that film we’d end up seeing is still unknown.

Anyway, before I get to that, here’s the poster and latest International trailer:

SnowpiercerIntlPoster

In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.

I’m so stoked for this film as I’m intrigued by the premise and early look of the film. Plus, just look at the cast: Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Chris Evans, Alison Pill, as well as some Korean actors Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung. Chan-wook Park, who directed Stoker, is one of the eight producers in the film. The story is actually based on a French graphic novel Le Transperceneige.

Per THR, Snowpiercer was sold to 167 countries, the most territories a Korean title was sold to prior to its release. The Weinstein Co. (TWC) had acquired the US rights of the film. Now, those who keep up with film news probably have read news about über mogul Harvey Weinstein‘s desire to cut 20 minutes of the film to make it more ‘marketable’ for English speaking territories. This is what Twitch.com reported about a month ago on the matter on the reason for the cuts:

According to film critic and programmer Tony Rayns “TWC people have told Bong that their aim is to make sure the film ‘will be understood by audiences in Iowa … and Oklahoma.'”

Oh, and voice overs will reportedly be added to the opening and closing of the film for the US version too [face palm]. Of course, cutting International films for Western release is nothing new, we’ve seen Asian films like John Woo’s Red Cliff and recently, Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (check out Steven’s review of both cuts) being edited down for US release. I get it that with Red Cliff, the original film is about four hours long, so the cuts might have been warranted, but in regards to Snowpiercer, cutting 20 minutes from a 126-min film AND adding VO is so unnecessary. If the reason is to make it ‘less dark’ and turning it into a mainstream apocalyptic action movie, that’s just disheartening and insulting!

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Recent Updates from director Bong Joon-ho

JoonhoBongWell, as of late August, the director himself said the cuts would be minor. He’s been promoting the film all over the world and this is what he said during one of the press conference (per Bleeding Cool):

I came here after editing for the American version. I’ve never produced a new version for overseas premieres, and this is the first time I’m making a new version. 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.

Heh, of course I’d rather the studio would just leave it alone and let the audience see the director’s cut as it’s intended. I really don’t get the notion of tailoring a film for certain audience. I mean, I’m from Indonesia who watch 99% Western movies. I don’t expect ANY film to be tailored to my cultural background, that is just absurd. Besides, it’s not like the premise is really THAT difficult to understand, if anything doomsday is a universal theme, as is class system and the struggle for survival.

Tilda Swinton, an actress whose work I respect, makes her views known about this editing hoopla at the Deauville American Film Festival in France (per The Playlist): “There’s no question that all English speaking audiences deserve to see director Bong’s cut, and we hope very much that we will all see it,”

Asked about the film’s effect, she replied, “Maybe an effect of the film, it just occurred to me, is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. … That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Nice! Thanks you miss Swinton! She’s almost unrecognizable in the trailer, which further proves what a versatile actress she is.

I REALLY hope we’ll get to see the original director’s cut of this. I’d LOVE to see it this year too. So Harvey, would you just release it this Winter, pretty please?


Anyway, what are your thoughts about this film and the whole editing scenario?