You crazy for this one, Yimou! A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop review

A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop – Starring Yan Ni, Shen-Yang Xiao and Ni Dahong. Directed by Zhang Yimou. Rated M. Originally published December 13, 2010. By Simon Miraudo.

Zhang Yimou’s A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is exactly the kind of remake we should celebrate. It riffs deliriously on the source material (here, Joel and Ethan Coen’s debut feature Blood Simple), with almost no regard for the original’s tone or performances. It is, for all intents and purposes, a brand new film that merely shares its plot with another. Earlier this year, Let Me In stringently adhered to the brilliant Swedish film Let the Right One In; it was such a slavish adaptation that for all its positives ended up being a little boring. Although the final act of A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop succumbs to a similar mode of tribute, the first hour is an odd, zany, pantomimic take on one of the Coens finest films. And when you think about it, all of the Coen brothers’ movies deserve their own pantomime (Look out! Anton Chigurh is behind you! Be-hind you!).

For the uninitiated, the plot of Blood Simple (and now A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop) is classic Shakespearean tragedy – the kind that could easily be avoided if characters merely told one another what is really going on – and thus perfect material for a transatlantic translation. The wife (Yan Ni) of a noodle shop owner (Ni Dahong) is having an affair with their restaurant’s timid chef (Shen-Yang Xiao). When the wife purchases a gun from a travelling Persian salesman, her suspicious husband and her lover both presume an assassination is in the cards. The husband hires a local cop (Sun Honglei) to dispatch of the lovebirds, and so instigates a series of outrageous events too complex to recount here. I can reveal that these actions ultimately destroy all of their lives (classic Coen brothers).

Whereas Blood Simple was hyper-ironic and drenched in darkness, A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop is a sumptuous, saturated, slap-stick comedy. There are a number of unspeakably gorgeous vistas to behold (as well as a noodle-making sequence that might be one of the most insane cooking scenes in film history). I wish it had remained tonally consistent throughout; the finale asks us to feel threatened for characters lives, and saddened by their deaths, which is a tall order after all the madness that preceded it.

It hardly needs to be said that Blood Simple remains the best version of this tale. The zaniness of Yimou’s version becomes a little annoying, and when it’s jettisoned in the film’s blood-soaked finale, the transition is a little jarring. Still, it’s a good effort, and any filmmaker about to embark on a remake should consider the director’s boldness (Seriously, remaking Blood Simple?! You crazy for this one, Yimou!). It’s a fine companion piece to the Coens’ classic, even if it never – in any way – surpasses it.

3/5

Check out Simon’s other reviews here.

A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop arrives on DVD May 5, 2011.

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