It’s been almost three months since we first told you about the battle over the American cut of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer. The Weinstein Company holds the film’s U.S. distribution rights, and wants to cut something like 20 minutes out of the movie, which has already played to positive reviews and very strong box office in its home country of Korea. It’s been alternately reported that Bong is either “furious” or “basically okay” with the Weinstein’s demands, but either way the dispute continues to drag on without resolution. It’s still unclear which version will be released here, or when we’ll see it at all.
The latest update in the ongoing Snowpiercer kerfuffle comes from Twitch, which has a new exclusive interview with Bong Joon-ho, who says the negotiations over the film are “still 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, they had a screening of that version in New Jersey in July. Then CJ did another test screening of my original version in LA with a normal American audience, and with my version the response was much higher than the scores from the Weinstein version.”
Bong adds that the Weinstein’s deletions aren’t necessarily focused on content (“They think of Snowpiercer as an R-rated movie, so the violence and those kinds of matters are not a big issue,”) but pacing. “They want a more speedy tempo,” Bong said with a succinctness that would please even Harvey Weinstein.
Bong also denied rumors that his recent rendezvous with Quentin Tarantino at the Busan Film Festival was all part of a crafty Weinstein negotiating tactic. Mostly, Bong said, the two directors just drank and watched the old Hong Kong action film The One Armed Swordsman, barely discussing the subject of Snowpiercer’s editing. When it did come up, Tarantino reportedly offered one bit of advice. “Next time you are in New York,” he said, “just go meet with Harvey, hang out, have a more casual talk. Harvey really loves your movie, but maybe if it was a bit faster he’d love it more.”
Weinstein could be right. Maybe the movie is too long and too slow. He might sell more a tickets with a zippier, more action-packed film. Then again, how many potential audience members for a dark dystopian allegory from Korea about a train travelling through a post-apocalyptic wasteland are going to consider seeing the film, look at the runtime, and go, “On second thought…”? Probably not that many.