First it broke Chinese box office records; then, it was chopped up and disseminated on television by pirates. Now, Chen Kaige's The Promise has been shortened and retitled by its US distributor, The Weinstein Company. Here's how it breaks down: the 121 minute version, still called The Promise, will serve as China's official entry for the foreign-language Academy Award. Then there's Master of the Crimson Armor, which opens in New York and Los Angeles this Friday for a one-week awards qualifying run; this essentially the same film, except it's 24 minutes shorter – and, it's been nominated for a Golden Globe. Harvey Weinstein, who earned himself the nickname Harvey Scissorhands back in the mid-90s for requiring his directors to make harsh, unwanted cuts, decided that in its original incarnation, The Promise was too slow to play in Peoria. "Harvey looked at the movie and conveyed certain concerns about how it would play with Western audiences," said Ernest "Etchie" Stroh, Armor's sales rep. "I had almost identical feelings and took these to Kaige."

Interestingly, Stroh says the cuts were performed by Kaige himself, and under the opposite of duress. "There is an explicit clause that says Chen Kaige has final cut. This is definitely his movie. Weinstein Co. came with problems and offered solutions." And Chen backs up that version of events. "Western audiences may not have the same patience as Asians. What we have now looks more of an action movie, but I think the soul of the movie is still there. Harvey sent people to help with things like the subtitles, and I participated all the way."
CATEGORIES Cinematical