Noodling on a cinematic theme

By Liu Wei (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-12-15 09:03
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A Simple Noodle Story is the first film Zhang Yimou has made since the spectacular Opening Ceremony for the Beijing Olympics.

Here are some key facts about the film that premiered on Friday.

Blood Simple

A Simple Noodle Story is adapted from the Coen brothers' 1984 film Blood Simple. Zhang likes all the Coen brothers' movies, but his original idea was to remake No Country for Old Men, a 2007 Academy Award-winning crime thriller. The film was so new the copyright negotiations would have taken too long, so Zhang picked Blood Simple instead.

The storyline is almost the same. Both stories can be summarized in terms of how three bullets are used after an extramarital affair is discovered.

Zhang shifts the action from a bar in a Texas town to a noodle shop in West China. The most significant change in the plot is how the second bullet is used. He adds two supporting characters as bus boys, who create some of the funniest scenes.

In sharp contrast with Blood Simple's inexorable visual and narrative style, the first half of Noodle is hilarious slapstick, but it successfully shifts to a stunning thriller for the rest.


The folk duets have a strong Northeast China flavor, with ballads, dancing and gags.

Some of the er'renzhuan actors added risque jokes, while others have worked hard to clean up the comic art form's image by removing these dirty jokes and creating so-called "green er'renzhuan", or "clean er'renzhuan".

Zhang casts three er'renzhuan performers among the six main characters. Their biggest function is to make the film's first half hilarious.

Zhang wanted to make a pure thriller at first, but his producer Zhang Weiping, suggested he use Xiao Shenyang, who came to national attention at the CCTV Spring Festival Gala.

Zhang accepted the suggestion, because he thought it would be a good idea to make the film a happy one, to match the holiday season feel. He also cast famed comedian Zhao Benshan, a former er'rezhuan actor who performs an eye-catching cameo.


As in most of Zhang's films, color is another leading character. This time Zhang's palette breaks the basic rules of chromatology.

The heroine, the noodle shop owner's wife, wears an "idiot dress" - as the costume designer Wang Qiuping calls it. All the colors are in stark contrast with each other.

Her secret lover, the sissy Xiao Shenyang, has a matching willow green bag and lemon yellow scarf. The shop owner wears a purple coat with yellow, blue and green flowers on it.

As if the colors of the costumes are not enough, Zhang set the film in Zhangye, Gansu province. The hills there are ocher, red, and cream.

The subversive colors convey the message: This is a funny and absurd tale, so do not take it too seriously.


The film, although a remake of the Coen brothers' work, is still a typical Zhang Yimou story. Behind the boisterous er'renzhuan and the chilling crime is Zhang's concern over strong and courageous women.

The heroine reminds Zhang's fans of his previous women characters - a lively young woman married to an old husband who abuses her.

The scene in which the noodle shop owner scalds his wife with a tobacco pipe while complaining of her infertility will be familiar to Zhang's fans from the 1990 Academy-nominated Ju Dou, and the 2006 costume epic Curse of the Golden Flower.

The heroine's way of fighting back by falling in love with someone of her own age and running away from the marriage, is similar to Jiu Er in Red Sorghum, Ju Dou in Ju Dou and the queen in Curse of the Golden Flower.

In Noodle, women have the best roles, are kind, smart and strong-willed.

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