Monday, September 28, 2015

Ask Me a Question: Snowpiercer

On Friday night we ventured out to Beverly Hills for The Korean Film Council's free VIP screening series celebrating four filmmakers being invited to join The Academy. I used to work and live in the area and never realized there's three theaters on Wilshire not far from one another. The Laemmle Music Hall has a great marquee, calming ambiance and shows art house flicks during the week. They had already screened Nameless Gangster: Rules of the Time earlier and now it was time for Bong Joon-ho's gonzo, post-apocalyptic, class war on a train flick Snowpiercer. The film made headlines as co-producer and financier Harvey Weinstein wanted to cut 20 minutes of character scenes to make the film more palatable to audiences in Iowa and Oklahoma. After online backlash, Weinstein agreed to release the 2 hour director's cut but only on a limited scale. After beating out the likes of 3's Iron Man and Transformers in Joon-ho's native South Korea, the $40 million budgeted Snowpiercer would garner $82 million outside the states while only drawing $4 million in American theaters on a few hundred screens. On Demand it grossed an additional $6 million in it's first few months. I caught it on Netflix one early Sunday morning and dug the flick, thinking it got screwed over at award time along with Nightcrawler and Interstellar while that piece of shit Whiplash collected the accolades.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it, in the future, it gets real cold outside and a rich and a brilliant designer has created an Ark of sorts, a train that circles the frozen tundra of Earth, the inhabitants being the last survivors. As they boarded the train, stowaways, coach and first class are treated as such in this new order. Those in the tail are overcrowded, dirty, starving and near their breaking point. Young Curtis (Chris Evans) has formulated his rebellion and leads his army through the train, car by car, discovering how the other half lives. It's a violent, funny, ridiculous, disgusting and engrossing 2 hours based on a French comic book with a Korean sensibility. The entire film was shot in Prague on beautifully crafted sets and the stellar supporting cast includes Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell and Octavia Spencer. Chris Evans really anchors the film as the quiet and sensitive yet strong and calculating Curtis, reminding us that he's more than just Captain America. Seeing it on the big screen really highlighted the impressive set design of the different cars along with the griminess of the tail and the bloody incidents between the rebellion and security forces.

Local screenwriter (not on the film) and professor Shane Danielsen introduced and closed the film with some light trivia and strong personal opinion on the state of cinema. Some highlights included Bong Joon-ho pitching The Host as the Loch Ness Monster in Seoul, which became a massive hit. Snow was a huge international production that took a French comic, western writer, a Korean director and shot in the English language in a bid for international success that never quite came due to it's Korean (somber) ending and lack of belief from the Weinstein's. It's fair to say the film isn't as family friendly as Avengers but if you've seen it, you know it wasn't supposed to be. Thanks to The Korean Film Council for putting on the event and for the cookies, even though we all know babies taste best.

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