For all the marquee prominence in the title of Chinese director Zhang Yimou's A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop, (slated for release on Sept. 3rd) we only see a kitchen staff shift into high gear once. In the scene, Wang — the villainous owner of a restaurant located in a bleak, dusty stretch of desert in Northern China — dispatches his timid cook, Li, to prepare gargantuan bowls of soup for a bunch of hungry police.
To make the noodles, Li and his two helpers begin spinning a sheet of satiny white dough overhead, flipping it to one another with breathtaking precision. As it grows in size and translucence their virtuosity starts to resemble a cross between a martial arts exercise and a fluttering rhythmic gymnastics routine. In this black comedy that combines eye-poppingly bright costumes and over the top Chinese opera line deliveries — and is being sold as an intentional remake of the Coen Brothers' low-budget classic Blood Simple – the noodle prep sequence could be just another crazy, exaggerated moment among many.
But Zhang, who directed epic films like Raise The Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers and masterminded the famously opulent and synchronistically jaw-dropping opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, makes it all feel comic and balletic in equal measure, like something out of a Buster Keaton short. After Li hand cuts the dough into thick strips and tosses it into the broth, you'll be silently calculating in your head how long it will take to drive to the noodle masters at JTYH in Rosemead for Pavlovian relief.
And for readers who have seen Blood Simple as many times as we have, here's an anecdote that will perhaps necessitate a side trip after the one to JTYH: after seeing a preview of Yimou's movie, we happened by Lou Amdur's wine bar, LOU, only to have Frances McDormand (in town for her role as a National Intelligence Director in Transformers 3) come over and introduce herself to everyone at our table.
JTYH Restaurant: 9425 Valley Blvd, Rosemead; (626) 442-8999.