Tuesday, February 15, 2011

House of 1000 Remakes: "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop"

I’m cheating a bit here because I said this series would be about horror remakes. The Coen Brothers haven’t made a horror movie yet, though their debut film, the twisted little caper Blood Simple, certainly has horror elements. Rumor has it their next film might be a horror movie. According to Ethan, “We’re working on a couple of scripts now, one of which it would be fair to call a full-on horror movie. Frances McDormand is the monster.” Take from that what you will.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou is a huge Coen Brothers fan, and I was stoked when he announced his intentions to remake Blood Simple. Zhang is responsible for some of the most beautiful films in world cinema over the last decade. Hero, House of Flying Daggers, The Curse of the Golden Flower – these movies are why God invented Blu-ray. He also gave us the spectacular opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the one that made Eric Cartman and Stephen Colbert so fearful of the Chinese.

Zhang’s new Blood Simple remake, A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, is a notable oddity at best. The director claims the Coen Brothers wrote to him to say they enjoyed it, and I think they were being entirely too nice. It’s arguably his worst movie.

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop tells the same basic story as Blood Simple, but it’s been transplanted from Texas to a small desert town in China. Even though the plot involves shocking domestic violence, Zhang directs in slapstick style. This makes for some jarring tone problems. The characters look and act like they belong in a wacky comedy, but Blood Simple is no O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Zhang’s choices have a tendency to sap the story of its inherent drama. Take the famous live burial from the original, quite possibly the most horrifying scene the Coens have ever directed. In the new film, the husband is shot dead before his grave is completely filled in with dirt. Where’s the fun in that?

My advice is to stick with Blood Simple. Zhang is a master director, and I’m sure he’ll knock The 13 Women of Nanjing (starring soon-to-be Oscar winner Christian Bale) out of the park. It's not like he’s the only great filmmaker who’s failed to live up to the original. The original Ladykillers is way better than the Coen Brothers’ Ladykillers.

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