Chinese filmmakers have something of an odd legacy when it comes to paying their respects to the many millions of movies their fellow artists have made the world over. If you think its impossible to mash two vastly different, more-popular international movies such as Three Men And A Baby and Taxi Driver together, then you probably haven’t seen very many Hong Kong movies.
And, though I realize there’s a big difference between Chinese and Hong Kong-made flicks, both forces have always had a bad reputation for their seemingly blatant disregard for other people’s copyrights or ideas. There was many a night I wasted as a teenage boy sitting in front of the boob tube, watching some sort of Chinese-made jaw-dropper when suddenly the sounds of John Williams or Goblin (lifted with great neglect from Star Wars or Suspiria) started infiltrating the soundtrack — much to my bewilderment.
Of course, it’s not always the film industry itself that gets its inspiration from international cinema: let’s not forget that whole Chinese Air Force video incident.
Now then, if an auteur chooses to “re-imagine” the work of another and actually credit their sources, things generally go a lot smoother. Take, for example, Yimou Zhang’s wild 2009 film, San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi — or, as it’s known in the U.S., A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop. Now you wouldn’t know it from the U.S. title alone (or even it’s more direct translation, A Simple Noodle Story), but this period piece — which itself is a bit of an odd (but welcomed) departure from Yimou Zhang’s regular line-up of moving pictures (such as Hero with Jet Li and House Of The Flying Daggers) — is based on the Coen Bros. debut feature, Blood Simple.
But, whereas Joel and Ethan Coen’s original movie was more of a serious work, Yimou Zhang’s A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop employs more of a comedic tone. If you’ve seen Blood Simple before, you’ll be slightly familiar with the basic story here — but there are enough changes in the tale to make even the most skeptic of Coen Groupies give this one a whirl. We begin a young woman (Ni Yan), the wife of an older, reclusive (not to mention abusive) noodle shop owner named Wang (Dahong Ni) purchasing a newfangled handgun contraption from a traveling Persian salesman.
While he’s there, the Persian fellow (what, an occidental actor in a Chinese flick? Sacrilege!) also demonstrates a cannon for the woman and her staff; a display that brings about the local military, to wit one officer — Zhang (the stone-faced and oh-so-incredible Honglei Sun) — stays in the area at his commander’s behest to investigate the apparent adultery going on between the woman and one of her staff (funnyman Xiao Shen-Yang).
Discovering the awful truth about his wife and employee, Wang asks Zhang to murder the unfaithful couple…and that’s when things start to go horribly awry.
Sony Pictures Classics brings this delightfully comic and somewhat loose adaptation of Blood Simple to DVD (it’s also available on Blu-ray) in a lush 2.40:1 widescreen presentation with anamorphic enhancement. The colors are extremely beautiful here (even for a Standard Definition release), and the movie’s Mandarin 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack delivers quite well.
Oddly enough, the DVD does not contain an English-dubbed language track, but does boast Spanish and Portuguese 5.1 DD audio options (!). Nevertheless, those of you who have a hard time “reading” movies instead of “watching” them shan’t find yourselves too terribly perplexed, as A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop has a number of moments wherein not a single line of dialogue is uttered. The moments that do have dialogue are well-scripted (or well-translated as the case may very well be: I don’t speak Mandarin) and the optional English subtitles are big bright and yellow — so you can’t ‘em. Additional subtitles are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
While the Special Features side of this release only consists of one other item aside from a Theatrical Trailer, it is nevertheless a very substantial item. Included on this DVD is “Creating A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop,” a two-hour-long collection of nineteen featurettes behind the making of the film. If you really love the movie, here’s your chance to learn more about it. If you’re impartial to the movie’s charms, however, you won’t lose any sleep at night if you skip it. Several other trailers for other Sony release are also included with this release.
In short, I suppose if a Japanese filmmaker like Akira Kurosawa can re-imagine Shakespeare, then there’s no reason that Yimou Zhang can’t remake a Coen Bros. film. A Woman, A Gun And A Noodle Shop comes recommended.