Pierced By Harvey Scissorhands – Will We Get To See An Uncut Snowpiercer After All? Only If We’re Lucky

snowpiercer_poster_1I haven’t written much about Jong Boon-Ho’s Snowpiercer, because I’ve been waiting to see how all of the off-screen, behind-the-scenes machinations played out.

Okay, here’s the short version of the story so far: Snowpiercer is the latest film from acclaimed Korean director Bong Joon-Ho who previously helmed, among other things, genre favorites The Host and Mother. It’s based on a French graphic novel (Le Transperceneige), and Wikipedia gives us this plot summary:

The film is set in a future where a runaway experiment to stop global warming has caused an ice age that killed nearly all life on Earth. The only survivors are the inhabitants of the ‘Snowpiercer’, a massive train that travels around the planet and is powered by a perpetual-motion engine. Over time a class system evolves on the train, with the elites inhabiting the front of the train and poor inhabiting the back of the train. Tired of their poor living conditions, the riders in the back revolt, attempting to seize control of the engine, which the elites in the front consider sacred.

snowpiercer_tilda-swintonAfter reading the graphic novel, director Bong snapped up the rights to adapt it for film, and began work on it in 2012. On the basis of the script and a sample reel, Harvey Weinstein bought the U.S. distribution rights. However, a section of the contract between Weinstein and Bong apparently included a provision that the finished film had to come in with a running time under two hours and thirty minutes. When Bong’s final cut turned out to be 125 minutes long, Weinstein declared the contract broken, and prepared to make his own cuts to the film in order to make it meet his desired running time.

Yes, this is the same tactic that Weinstein used to re-cut Wong Kar-wai‘s The Grandmaster, chopping it from its original, highly-praised Chinese version, which ran 130 minutes, and turning it into a still-enjoyable but from all reports very different and much less involving movie which was finally released in the U.S. with a running time of 108 minutes. Yes, that’s a full 22 minutes of film that American audiences simply didn’t get to see. And, of course, such drastic cutting also meant not only that entire sections of the film were lost, but that others had to be reshuffled, and that much of what remained lost a lot of the texture and context of the original.  Is it any wonder that what remained seemed rather underwhelming, especially in light of the praise that was being heaped on the original?

snowpiercer-le-transperceneige-10988678kixgd_1713Now one might think that given both the critical and audience backlash that met Weinstein’s version of The Grandmaaster – which was also reflected in its less-than-hoped-for reception at the box office – Weinstein might forgive the extra five minutes, or perhaps make only minor cuts to Snowpiercer, having learned his lesson. This is especially true when one considers that the film stars such box office friendly names as Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, and Ed Harris, and that, again, the film was being met with wide acclaim in parts of the world where it was being released uncut. But no. Initial reports were that Weinstein’s plans were to again excise a full 20 minutes from the film before releasing it to American audiences.

Apparently Harvey just doesn’t think that we are wiling to engage a truly involving -and from all reports quite excellent – film that runs over two hours. This despite all of the recent evidence to the contrary, such as The Master (143 minutes), The Hobbit (169 minutes for the first film, 161 for the second), and The Wolf of Wall Street (179 minutes!) just to name three recent examples.

Okay, so that brings us pretty well up to date until last week, when Deadline began reporting that Weinstein and Bong had been in negotiations and had finally come to an agreement that Snowpiercer would actually receive an uncut American release.

And that’s good news, right?

Well, yes and no.

Snowpiercer-First-ImageYou see, the bad news is that this uncut American version will only play in a limited number of cities. How limited? Well, no one seems to know just yet. Most likely we’re only talking about places like New York, Los Angeles, and maybe Chicago. Actually, Deadline is calling this a “platform release”, which implies the possibility that if the movie performs well in those cities, then it might make it to other, smaller venues, but there’s no guarantee at all that that will happen.

What it really most likely means is that most of us will be stuck waiting and hoping that there will be a home video release of the director’s cut of the film. Of course, that has yet to occur for The Grandmaster which, according to the official press release, will be released on Blu-ray in March, but with only the 108 minute version.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and (hopefully) see.

Here’s the Snowpiercer trailer:

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