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Columnist
Judge at Elgin film festival might look familiar
By Dann Gire | Daily Herald Staff

An adulterous wife (Ni Yan) defends herself in "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop," a Chinese remake of "Blood Simple."

 

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Published: 9/16/2010 12:28 PM

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I'll be the judge of that

If you're coming to the Elgin Short Film Festival on Saturday night, look me up. I'll be there with WGN's Dean Richards and other VIPs as judges of the second annual festival shorts, to be shown starting at 7 p.m. at the Hemmens Cultural Center, 45 Symphony Way, Elgin.

Movie tickets cost $5; the gala costs $20. Go to hemmens.org/filmfest2010 for details.

'Manster' mash?

An all-day marathon of creature features will be launched upon us on Saturday at the Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

Starting at noon will be 1961's "The Phantom Planet," followed by "King Kong vs. Godzilla" (KK wins!), "The House of Dracula," the 1923 silent classic "Hunchback of Notre Dame," indie horror director Sam Raimi's first studio movie "Darkman" and the crazy 1959 opus "The Manster."

Kids tickets cost $5; adults $8. Go to portagetheater.org or call (773) 875-7582.

Reel Life review: 'A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop

Ardent fans of the Coen brothers' 1985 debut film "Blood Simple" might ooh and aah over how Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou has reinvented the neo-noir thriller as a campy crime drama set in the deserts of ancient China.

But Yimou's bouncy brand of slapsticky humor doesn't mesh with the noirish elements of adultery, treachery, corruption, murder and burying people alive for profit.

"Blood Simple" (one of the best calling-card movies ever created by emerging filmmakers) starred John Getz and Frances McDormand as an adulterous couple wanted dead by her slimy, saloonkeeper husband Dan Hedaya, who hires a seedy detective (the great M. Emmet Walsh) to bump them off.

Yimou's adulterous wife (Yan Ni) has been canoobulating with a complete dolt, a nincompoop cook (Xiao, that's all, just Xiao) employed at her hubby's noodle shop.

In this version, the hubby (Ni Dahong) bribes a stoical Chinese police deputy (Sun Honglei) to knock off the irritating couple, although he should have started with the comic relief wait staff: a tubby, bucktoothed Cheng Li and an addled Mao Mao.

Their dimwitted antics and an engaging sequence in which the cook uses martial-arts flash to prep the noodle dough suggests that "Noodle Shop" will be a lighthearted reinvention of "Blood Simple."

Nope. The comedy drops away, replaced by a benign sense of menace, followed by a parade of awe-inspiring, color-saturated, wide-angle vistas of the Chinese desert and the heavens above.

Yimou, director of "Hero" and "House of the Flying Daggers," loves scenes dripping with visual opulence, a far throw from the traditional dark palette of classic noir.

Interesting, but it's no "Blood Simple."

"A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop" opens today at the Pipers Alley in Chicago and the Renaissance Place in Highland Park. Rated R for sexual situations and violence. 95 minutes. Two and 1/2 stars