'Simple' remake more funny than bloody

Next decade could be 'glorious,' Zhang says of Chinese films

HONG KONG -- Zhang Yimou says his first movie in three years has shades of comedian Stephen Chow's outlandish humor and marks the first time the "Raise the Red Lantern" director shot in digital format.

In his first interview about his remake of Joel and Ethan Coen's 1984 film "Blood Simple," Zhang told Chinese portal Sina.com his adaptation is a comedy that morphs into a thriller.

"The audience is watching the movie happily, laughing out loud, then it slowly changes, but the transition has to be funny. That's very hard to do. I think I did a decent job. This is the first time I tried to bridge the two styles," Zhang said.

The interview transcript was posted Wednesday on Sina.com.

The remake, due out in China on Dec. 11, is being closely watched because it's Zhang's first film in three years and his first since designing the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics last year. Zhang, whose credits also include "To Live," "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," last shot the imperial court drama "Curse of the Golden Flower," which was released in 2006.

"Blood Simple" is about a Texas bar owner who hires a private detective to kill his wife and her lover. The movie won the Grand Jury Prize for best film at the United States Film Festival — the predecessor to the Sundance Film Festival — helping the Coen brothers launch their career.

Zhang's adaptation, called "San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi" in Chinese, revolves around the owner of a Chinese noodle shop whose plan to kill his cheating wife and her lover spins out of control. The film's English title hasn't been announced.

Zhang said his new film has shades of Chow's signature nonsensical humor, but doesn't go as far as the Hong Kong comedian known for "Shaolin Soccer" and "Kung Fu Hustle."

"There are some parts where we go crazy like Stephen Chow, but we don't go as crazy," he said.

Shooting in digital format for the first time, Zhang said he was more prone to letting his actors experiment because he didn't have to conserve film.

Zhang was unapologetic about his shift from art-house cinema to commercial movies — a move that has prompted criticism — saying China's booming film market needs diversity.

"We can't attack directors for making commercial movies. We can't only promote those artistic works. We can't be pious," he said. "The next 10 years are key. If China has strong movies in different genres, these 10 years will be glorious."
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