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Zhang Yimou's redo of Coen Bros.' 'Blood Simple' on DVD

With the Coen Bros.' remake of "True Grit' up for ten Oscars and their revamping of "Gambit" reported to be in the works, Sony Pictures Classic has released Zhang Yimou's remake of a Coen Bros. movie this week on DVD and Blu-ray.

The postman rings thrice in Yimou's "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop."

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Yimou (who made the great "House of Flying Daggers") transfers "Blood Simple" — the Coen Bros.' merry-sadist variation on James M. Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice" — from 1985 Texas to an equally arid but wildly multihued landscape in feudal China.

Cain's book is a lowdown masterpiece. The movies are trash with flash. But oh, what flash!

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The film that established the Coens as our reigning cinematic smart-alecks (before they became the master craftsmen of "No Country for Old Men" and "True Grit"), "Blood Simple" told a simple story of a woman, a gun and a saloon. Frances McDormand played the wife of a sleazy bar-owner (Dan Hedaya) who becomes murderously jealous when she falls into an affair with a bartender. M. Emmet Walsh stole the film as an amoral private eye — a plugged-nickel philosopher and connoisseur of sleaze — whose cheerful, oozing malevolence inspired kicky melodrama. It's mostly Cain on steroids. People think of "Blood Simple" as a classic because of its jolting bloody-funhouse finale. Fate pushes the button for the bad and befuddled alike.

"Blood Simple" starts slow, finishes strong. "A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop" does just the opposite.Yimou brings elating scale and oddball humor to the story, which he resets in a noodle shop that reaps a fortune in the middle of nowhere. Yimou substitutes noodle shop for bar, then mixes ingredients in a Chinese-menu fashion (one from Column A, two from Column B).

He breaks loose in exhilarating images. Imperial mounted police gallop in blue armor — with rippling blue flags — through a striated gold-to-scarlet desert. Two noodle chefs operate like tag-team pizza makers, sending circles of dough flying and expanding in midair. Yimou errs by turning Walsh's drawling private eye into a tight-lipped crooked cop. But in their mixtures of crass and class, his movie and the Coens' are like two snow peas in a pod.

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