Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop

By - Oct 2nd, 2010 04:00 am

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

In 1985, Ethan and Joel Coen released what turned out to be the first in a long line of well-made films with a very dark and distanced sense of character and humor, and a perfect sense of place. They have done very well for themselves.

Yimou Zhang has also done very well for himself as one of two or three Chinese directors who are known throughout the world. Ordinarily he directs spectacularly beautiful films rich in color and powerful with emotion such as Red Sorghum and Raise the Red Lantern with Gong Li. He has also directed action movie star Jet Li in Hero, and the overpoweringly beautiful House of Flying Daggers, a film so uniquely colored and wonderfully choreographed it takes your breath away while it tells the simplest of stories.

Now, for whatever reason, he has turned his hand to what some consider to be an American cult-classic, Blood Simple, that aforementioned early Coen Brother’s film. He does that genre pretty well too.

Although, since Blood Simple is one of the few Coen Brother’s films that I actually like all the way through, I am not sure if I like what Zhang has done with it. Essentially he has resorted to cartoon humor, heavy-handed slapstick, and vaudeville schtick. The sly blackness and cruelty of the humor at which the Coen Brother’s excel is lost, replaced by something that is just short of a pie in the face.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s funny, but  not in the way the Coen Brother’s are when you laugh and cringe at the same time. Almost the first title of the film states that A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop is derived from Blood Simple, and the plot follows it very closely, so my expectations were that the sense of character and humor, the real standout qualities of the earlier film, were what had attracted Zhang to re-make it.

Or maybe I missed his point.

Maybe by overselling the black humor, turning it into classic Chinese overacted slapstick, he is commenting on something that I have come to view with disregard in subsequent Coen Brother’s films — their superiority, coldness and distance emotionally from their characters and their subject. By pushing the humor over the top he gives it back to the people. Maybe. Or maybe he just liked the story and wanted to stretch his already versatile film making chops.

It is worth looking at to see for yourself.

A Woman, A Gun, and A Noodle Shop is currently playing at the Landmark Downer Theatre.

Categories: Movies

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