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July 08, 2014

Snowpiercer

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Bong Joon-ho - 2013
Radius-TWC

If I'm hopping on this train a little later than some, it's because Snowpiercer didn't open in Denver until this past weekend. Especially with the hubbub between Bong and Harvey Weinstein that deleted the release in the U.S., I figured that seeing this film theatrically would give a little bit more support to Bong and his demand for artistic integrity.

Even allowing myself to process the film overnight, I still feel mixed. I can't explain why, but I don't have the enthusiasm for Bong's fantasy films that I have for his crime films. I recognize that The Host and Snowpiercer are good, but I don't share in the enthusiasm generated. Not that this is to dissuade anyone from seeing Snowpiercer if you can theatrically, or in the upcoming weeks when it is available on VOD.

The experience of watching Snowpiercer is similar to being on a train. The film moves slowly at first building up steam, setting up the premise. After a while you realize that everything is hurling forwards and will neither slow down nor stop. Most people are now aware that the film is based on a French graphic novel. I would also consider the comparison to Atlas Shrugged to be apt, albeit from an opposing political bent. As I understand it, it was the scenes that focused on the political philosophy of Snowpiercer that Harvey Weinstein had wanted cut, arguing that such scenes would not be understood by viewers in the landlocked states.

To which I say, "Hooey!". It's an attitude both condescending and false. Even if Snowpiercer might not be embraced by the multiplex crowds, that the film was booked in more theaters than originally planned indicates how badly Harvey Weinstein underestimated interest in Snowpiercer or the existence of an audience outside of New York City that might be educated and worldly but not living in the usual cultural hot spots. Originally slotted for one theater in Denver, Snowpiercer opened on four screens in the metro area.

As for the film, as acknowledged by almost everyone else, Tilda Swinton owns the screen while her character is around, as the buck toothed liaison between the owner of the train and the impoverished passengers who are riding in the back. It is fitting, in view of Bong's career, that the same actress who played the young girl kidnapped by the creature in The Host, takes on the frozen world of Snowpiercer. Ko Ah-sung could well be on her way to becoming one of the more significant young actresses of South Korean cinema.

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Posted by peter at July 8, 2014 07:30 AM