A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop

A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP. StarringHonglei Sun,  Xiao Shen-Yang, Ni Yan and Dahong Ni. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Rated M (Violence). 90 minutes.

In this era of international remakes of films, were a competition to be held to suggest the least likely combination, a sure winner would be celebrated Chines director, Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, The Road Home, Hero) re-making a Coen Brothers film.  But, Zhang going back to the Coens' first film, Blood Simple, here it is.

After a series of stages in an illustrious and colourful career, a highlight being the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, Zhang Yimou can do what he likes.  He has obviously decided to amuse himself and amuse his audience.  At the time that Blood Simple was released in 1985, Zhang Yimou was a cinematographer with an eye for beauty, colour and composition.  His first series of films was a fine evocation of Chinese domestic history.  In the late 1990s, he directed more quiet and simple masterpieces, Not One Less and The Road Home.  Whether influenced by the awards and acclaim for Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he embarked on a new phase with spectacular and exquisitely designed epics, Hero, House of a Thousand Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower.

In the meantime, the Coens have shown an extraordinary versatility in subject, style and genres and have won many awards.  These careers highlight the range of cinema, Chinese and American, in a quarter of a century.

Zhang has taken the basic plot of Blood Simple and transferred it to an exotic and exotically-landscaped China. At times, it is farcical – the hero is a klutz and accident prone.  He and the noodle shop servant offer clumsy comedy, except for a wonderful display of pasta-twirling.  The boss and his wife are melodramatic.  The local police chief is cross-eyed.

However, the corrupt and conniving officer is played straight and gives the bizarre proceedings more gravitas than they deserve and provides effective suspense and drama for the Chinesisation of the Coens.

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

Sony Pictures.

Release November 4 2010.

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