Sunday, February 14, 2010

Chinese remake of Coen brothers classic shown in Berlin

BERLIN — A Chinese remake of the Coen brothers' neo-film-noir classic "Blood Simple" got a warm welcome at the Berlin Film Festival Sunday, the second Chinese entry in a top year for Asian cinema.
Veteran film-maker Zhang Yimou entered "A Woman, A Gun and Noodle Shop" in competition in time for the Lunar New Year, saying he had aimed to "enchant the audience" with a Chinese retelling of a timeless story of deception.
Zhang, 58, took home the festival's prestigious Golden Bear top prize in 1988 for "Red Sorghum", the first time an Asian film won in Berlin.
The new picture takes the action far from small town America to the stunning desert landscapes of Gansu province in northwestern China.
There, a wealthy noodle shop owner discovers his much younger wife is cheating on him with his cook.
He hires a policeman to kill the pair but the plot quickly backfires, setting off a farcical chain reaction that leaves a trail of bodies in its wake.
Zhang saw 1984's "Blood Simple" for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival.
"At that time, there wasn't any translation into Chinese so I couldn't understand it and I could only watch the images and try to figure out what was going on," he said, adding it was only years later that he saw it in translation.
The director said Joel and Ethan Coen, the Oscar-winning pair behind "No Country for Old Men" and "Fargo", were enthusiastic about the remake.
"They were kind enough to write me and email and say that they had seen the film and thought it was very very amusing," he told reporters after a well-received press screening.
"They were amazed their film had been turned into a noodle story."
Zhang picks up the rich visual imagery familiar from his films such as "Hero", making his desert story look like a technicolor Western.
A love triangle of a very different sort opened the Berlinale on Thursday.
"Apart Together" by director Wang Quan'an, another previous Golden Bear winner, tells the story of a soldier who fought Mao's Communist forces until repelled to Taiwan in 1949.
Decades later, he is permitted to return to the mainland where he tracks down the love of his life he was forced to abandon. But she has since married a soldier from the People's Liberation Army.
When he asks her to accompany him home to Taiwan, she is torn between her enduring feelings for her former lover and a sense of obligation to her husband.
The festival, Europe's most prestigious after Cannes, is giving special attention to Asian cinema this year.
On Friday, Bollywood heart-throb Shah Rukh Khan unveiled "My Name is Khan", a look at the treatment of Muslims around the world in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Koji Wakamatsu of Japan is due to unveil "Caterpillar" while Japanese master Yoji Yamada, the maker of more than 80 films in his four-decade-long career, will screen his latest picture, "About Her Brother", out of competition as the last of nearly 400 films at the festival.
The Berlinale wraps up February 21

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