While director Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian sci-fi spectacular “Snowpiercer” is still two months away from its long-delayed U.S. release via Weinstein Co. subsidiary Radius, in France (where it was released last fall) Bong’s film has newly arrived on Blu-ray and standard DVD from distributor Wild Side.
Best of all is a deluxe box set that includes the Blu-ray, DVD, an 80-page coffee-table book about the making of the film and a second book of concept drawings by French illustrator Jean-Marc Rochette. In addition, the Blu-ray contains more than two hours of bonus features, including a making-of documentary, an anime prologue and interviews with stars Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt and Octavia Spencer. All for the low, low price of just €40 (plus shipping) from Amazon France.
Based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige,” the $40 million, English-language “Snowpiercer” opened to strong reviews and boffo box office last August in South Korea, where it went on to gross $60 million. After subsequent openings in China, France and Italy, the pic’s global cume now sits at a tidy $80 million.
But as first reported last summer and more recently detailed at length by the British critic Tony Rayns in the January issue of Sight & Sound magazine, the fate of Bong’s film in the English-speaking world has been hamstrung for most of the past year by violent disagreements between Bong and TWC, which prebought the film during production for North America, the U.K., South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
According to Rayns and other sources, TWC wished to dramatically recut the film for release in its markets, including the removal of 25 minutes from the 125-minute running time and the addition of voiceover narration written by British fantasy author Neil Gaiman.
Bong demurred and news of the dispute soon went public, culminating in a November 2013 incident at the Museum of Modern Art that landed on Page Six of the New York Post. Speaking onstage at a MoMA tribute to Swinton, Bong regaled the A-list society crowd (including David Bowie, Anna Wintour, Karl Lagerfeld and Michael Bloomberg) with tales of his misadventures in the Harvey Weinstein trade. According to the Post, the crowd erupted with laughter at the mention of Weinstein’s name, before the Korean interpreter could even translate Bong’s other remarks.
Now, after all the Sturm und Drang, Radius will distribute Bong’s director’s cut after all, albeit in far more limited fashion that one would expect for a high-end fantasy/sci-fi pic starring none other than Captain America and a cast of Oscar winners and nominees (also including John Hurt and Octavia Spencer). But by waiting so long to unveil “Snowpiercer” Stateside, TWC has made it possible for anyone with a region-free DVD player to simply import the film themselves, and for less than the cost of a family night out at the movies.
Radius releases the film June 27, following its June 11 North American premiere as the opening-night selection of the Los Angeles Film Festival.