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Movie Review: A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP Following up his Beijing Olympics opening ceremony megaproduction, Zhang Yimou remakes the Coen Brothers' Blood Simple by dressing it up in flamboyant silk and translating it into Mandarin. The honky-tonk of the Coens' Southwestern noir becomes a noodle-shop compound on the edge of a painted Western China desert, some time in the feudal era. Owner Wang (Ni Dahong) cruelly harasses his younger wife (Yan Ni), pushing her into the arms of an effete assistant (Xiao Shen-Yang). Wild cards include a snooping detective (Sun Hunglei) specializing in adultery, and an unheard-of innovation imported by a whirling-dervish merchant: a pistol. Woman, gun and shop in play, Yimou engineers a set piece that lasts all through one very active night, with a shrinking cast double-crossing each other while crisscrossing the compound courtyard on tiptoe. There's little dialogue in this stealthy sequence but a sound track of great precision. This sustained scene is well-made but not worth making — like the film as a whole, despite its rare stand-alone pleasures, such as a choreographed noodle preparation, where a small wad of dough is juggled and spun out into parachute width. Those with a higher tolerance for bumptious jestering — from a yipping and mincing Xiao, or Cheng Ye as a bucktoothed jelly-belly — may, however, cry Masterpiece. They are instructed to seek out the longer Chinese cut, which apparently packs in more such interminable shtick, broad as the Yangtze. (Landmark, Playhouse, Town Center)