Photo courtesy of Sundance Film Festival.
Anyone who followed Word & Film’s Sundance coverage is familiar with “Submarine,” director Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s rapturously original comic novel about the directly proportional relationship between family dysfunction and teenage ardor. We would even go so far as to say that in our fifteen years of covering the festival, “Submarine” — with its twisted, giddy humor, infectious British invasion/indie rock soundtrack, and delicate balance of sincerity and irony — ranks among our top three most sublime Sundance experiences.
So there should be little surprise at the white-hot outrage we felt upon reading Harvey Weinstein’s comments about re-editing “Submarine” in Bryan Burrough’s voluminous piece on the Miramax mogul’s resurgence in this month’s Vanity Fair. This is the definitive, all-access-pass version of the ubiquitous Harvey 3.0 narrative (complete with the same title), in which Burrough lays out the blow-by-blow of Harvey’s journey from the brink of bankruptcy in 2008 to his decision to refocus himself on filmmaking to his rebound with “The King’s Speech,” which is poised for an Oscar sweep that could net him another Best Picture trophy.
However, the usually publicity-savvy Weinstein was perhaps caught up in the fever of his born-again mogul moment. He let his guard down significantly and allowed Burrough to tail him at a test screening of “Submarine” that didn’t play as well for the crowd of recruited New Yorkers as it did with film festival audiences. No big surprise there. But, in the piece, Burrough has Harvey second-guessing the film’s commercial appeal and vowing to re-cut it. “We’ll take out some of the dialogue like we did in ‘My Left Foot,’” Weinstein said after the screening. “Anyway, there’s a problem with this film. This is the process. I’ll fix it.”
Apparently, not only is Harvey back, but Harvey Scissorhands is back as well. In a film with a storytelling aesthetic as distinct and effective as “Submarine,” altering the film to please the lowest common denominator could be a disaster. This is the rare film worth preserving in the state the filmmaker intended. If we could, we’d go all civil disobedient and throw ourselves between Weinstein and the film to prevent him from cutting it to ribbons. We hate to be alarmist, but it’s hard to take this threat lightly after his meddling left Billy Bob Thornton’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy‘s “All the Pretty Horses” in tatters. The experience was so traumatic for Thornton — who was coming off the success of “Slingblade” and considered one of Hollywood’s most promising auteurs — that he didn’t direct another film since 2001′s “Daddy and Them.” He only recently started inching his way back behind the camera with an adaptation of Trapped, Robert Murray and Roger Brucker’s nonfiction book about Floyd Collins, the Kentucky spelunker who sparked a media frenzy when he was trapped in a cavern for thirteen days.
Hopefully Harvey’s long-term memory will kick in and call off the torpedoes aimed at “Submarine.”