Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop

(China, 2009)

Wow! This is not quite on the level of Gus Van Sant’s infamous shot-for-shot remake of Psycho (for one thing, I mostly liked this one), but it’s close. The famous director Zhang Yimou, who has done a lot of good movies and who put together the gigantic Opening Ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, decided to remake Blood Simple, and set it in Medieval China in an incredible candy-striped desert. The man has the visual and design sense of Terry Gilliam, it is wonderful to look at. He makes only a few minor changes to the plot, but he totally re-imagines the sensibility of the movie, turning large parts of it into slapstick. If you recall, in the original Abby (Frances McDormand) was married to Julian (Dan Hedaya), and having an affair with Ray (John Getz). Julian can’t handle this, and hires super-sleazy P.I. Loren Visser (M. Emmett Walsh) to kill them both. Julian, Ray, and Loren then proceed to do spectacularly dumb things (becoming “blood simple”) because none of them ever have the full picture of what’s really going on. In the end, only Abby is alive, and even she doesn’t know who it is she has just killed.

There is much to like here, including a fantastic scene where they are making noodles the Chinese way, starting with a circle of dough the size of a pizza and twirling it like pizza makers do, except that when they’re done you could erect a small tent with it. The sleazy P.I. is replaced with a policeman, but these cops aren’t what you’re used to, they look like Darth Vader, and the corrupt one is almost silent, a powerful presence. The things I didn’t like were the over-emoting, particularly in the part of Ray. He’s a wimp, a coward, a man literally afraid of his own shadow. When he’s upset he hyperventilates and cries out and just generally wets his bright silk pantaloons. And the last sequence, where Abby blows the assassin away, is not handled nearly as vividly as the Coen Brothers did. But overall we had a good time, at least partly because of the audacity of the whole thing.

Usually it’s Americans remaking foreign films. It’s fun to see it going in the other directions. Which got me to thinking. It’s totally common for musicians to “cover” songs by other writers. It’s a lot rarer for films to be remade, but it happens. Wouldn’t it be fun if a bunch of directors got together and decided to make the same story, but from their own cultural perspective? Why not use Blood Simple? We could get a Swedish version (The Girl with the Idiot Tattoo), an Indian, Bollywood musical version (Slumdog Simpletons), a British version (Tinker, Tailor, Killer, Moron), an Italian version (The Good, the Bad, and the Stupid), a French version (The Discreet Charm of the Not-Too-Bright), a German version (Das Dummikopfs), an Australian version (Mad Max: Beyond Blockheaded), a Japanese version (Godzilla vs. the Nitwits), a Mexican version (Los Estúpidos Sangrientosa), a Canadian version ( … ah, I can’t think of a title, but it should be set in the frozen far north, in a village of Quonset huts, and be in the Inuit language).

That was fun. Anyone have any other ideas?