Hardly a day goes by without some griping about Harvey Weinstein. Fresh from the recent news reports/public relations brouhaha stirred from the title dispute between the The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros. over The Butler (ahem, Lee Daniels‘ The Butler) comes a new controversy. This one comes over a rumored decision to trim twenty minutes from Joon-ho Bong’s latest feature, Snowpiercer. Weinstein has been infamous in the past for demanding edits and changes to films he takes charge of, so this is hardly a new development, nor should it be considered brash behavior from the public relations stirrer and king of Academy Award campaigning– whether fairly or not, the moniker ‘Harvey Scissorhands’ has been around quite a while. However, it’s worth noting that he’s taken considerable measures in the hopes of broadening larger appeal to many of his films that come from Asia– past instances where Weinstein has insisted on changes to Asian cinema he’s acquired include 1999’s Princess Mononoke, 2004’s Hero and this years The Grandmaster, Wong Kar Wei’s latest film, which comes out in the United States on August 23rd.
A controversy, or perhaps just another public relations diversion conceived by the wizard, makes the assertion that Weinstein may be trying to dumb down Snowpiercer for a better shot at mass consumption in the U.S. Asian festival programmer Tony Rahns spoke at the Seoul premiere of the film saying, “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.” Rahns reportedly commented that Bong was approached about removing certain character details and finessing the story into more of an action film, with the addition of opening and closing voice overs in an appeal to make the film more widely accessible.
The film, a dystopic science fiction movie based on a series of French comics, is Bong’s English-language debut, and stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Allison Pill, Ed Harris, Octavia Spencer and Jamie Bell. The film is set in a future where most of mankind is killed off after a failed global warming experiment with themes of class warfare aboard a train called the Snowpiercer. Already an enormous hit in South Korea, where it’s currently breaking box office records, surpassing previous marks set by Hollywood imports Transformers: Dark of the Moon and this summer’s Iron Man 3. Snowpiercer, the most expensive Korean film ever made, stands as a potential breakout for the filmmaker, already a critics and cineast favorite due to films like The Host (2006) and Mother (2009.) Meanwhile, Variety’s Scott Foundas, one of the very few mainstream North American film critics to have viewed the film in it’s intended state, gave the film an unqualified rave, calling it “an enormously ambitious, visually stunning and richly satisfying futuristic epic from the gifted Korean genre director Bong Joon-ho.” A U.S. release is planned for later this year, but no specific date has been confirmed as of yet.