Zhang Yimou, director of operatic spectacles such as Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, and the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a dazzling stylist with a painterly command of color and an eye for panoramic compositions.
For reasons known only to himself, in A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, China's greatest living director chose to remake the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple, their bare-bones Texas noir of 1984, and to set it in feudal China. The result is akin to using a frayed shoestring to make a silk purse.
In truth, it's more rethink than remake. If I had to guess what drew Yimou to the Coens' movie, itself a gloss on people behaving badly, it would be its prototypical characters caught in a prototypical situation. The principals - a wealthy husband, his beautiful and faithless wife, her feckless boyfriend, and the detective who hunts down the lovers - are figures as universal as they are timeless. As are the safe full of money, the forbidding lock, and the gun, sold by a Persian merchant, that fires endless bullets but does not always kill.