San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi [A Woman, a Gun, and a Noodle Shop] is a 2009 Chinese remake of the Coen Brothers 1984 film Blood Simple by director Yimou Zhang (or Zhang Yimou, I have never really been certain how Chinese names translate to English). It is a darkly farcical tale about a cheating wife and a vengeful husband. On paper, it sounds like a great idea (I like Chinese films, I like the Coen Brothers, I like noodle shops) but the final product seems to lack that ja ne sais quoi factor. I am still uncertain where the movie went wrong but it did fail to meet the lofty expectations I had put forth.
Despite failing to impress me personally, San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi had a number of redeeming qualities that make it a worthwhile film. Yimou Zhang also happens to be the same person who directed Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and The Curse of the Golden Flower (the only movies of his that I have watched) and even without knowing his name, within the first ten minutes you can see his touch showing through. Each character is elaborately dressed in a different brilliantly colored outfit that clash starkly against the barren set. This effect is done with greater success in his other movies which usually feature characters flying around swinging katanas at each other but does not go unnoticed in this film. To be perfectly honest I could watch people dressed like that wander around the screen for 90 minutes doing just about anything and still be satisfied. Zhang (or Yimou, I think he goes both ways) also has a number of outstanding shots in the film, one of the first scenes when they are artfully spinning dough (or something) does a great job of capturing your attention early on and impressing you with the mundane, which is a Coen Brothers staple. The film does an outstanding job cinematicgraphicly, cinematographyafficly, I mean it does an outstanding job with the cinnamon photography, the fucking way the film looks, god. And finally, San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi is enjoyable because as someone who has viewed all of the Coen Brothers work (brag) over the years, it is nice to see someone elses take on their film. Having just seen Blood Simple for the first time last year, most of the scenes were fresh in my memory and it was interesting to see how the different directors unfolded the similar actions. This of course would only be a perk to someone who gives a shit about this sort of thing, so if you saw Drive Angry 3D or Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son this weekend, don’t go renting San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi. That is about all I have to say on the positive side of things.
First off, I think the Coen Brothers are stupendous, some of the best directors of our time, they are a big part of why I enjoy watching film, they are the antithesis of Friedberg and Seltzer (which is the highest complement I can give a director) and even on my best day or my best best day I couldn’t come up with a facsimile of their worst rough draft. That being said…I am not a huge fan of Blood Simple. The Coen Brothers have two types of movies (in my opinion) True Grit-A Serious Man-No Country for Old Men-The Big Lebowski-Fargo and then everything else, Blood Simple being in the latter category. So Zhang decided to do a remake of one of their lesser (I don’t mean bad) movies (albeit their first) and that is strike one. Not 100% sure how many strikes there are in baseball but I will keep track of them anyway. The story is complex enough that if you have not watched Blood Simple it would be fairly suspenseful, there isn’t anything wrong with the writing it just does not have the same quality as their top ranked movies. Secondly, the best part of a Coen Brothers film is the dialog. They are very meticulous in their writing and invent some of the most amazing exchanges between characters I have ever witnessed. Unfortunately most of the entertainment is lost in translation, and the feeling just isn’t the same. It is one of the reasons why foreign comedies are hard to watch, the comedic timing is off or hard to find. Finally, a lot about a movie can be decided by expectations in my experience. I thought Notting Hill was pretty good because I was expecting a bowl of shit and I was not blown away by Inglourious Basterds because Pulp Fiction is one of my all time favorites. I was expecting to be impressed with San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi but was instead only entertained. It is a solid movie but not outstanding. So I give it:
57,372,885,813 out of 95,621,476,355 stars
It is to be noted that I said nothing about the acting abilities of anyone in this film. That would be because I am a poor judge of good acting in American cinema, so I am almost completely lost when it comes to foreign film. I saw faces on the screen saying words I didn’t understand and they looked believable to me so A+…or was I doing stars? Come to think of it how many strikes did I give out? Son of a bitch.