The Chinese director said he was a huge fan of the 1985 neo-noir crime film by the Coen brothers about murder and infidelity ever since seeing it at a festival.
Zhang told a news conference after his film San Qiang Pai An Jing Qi (A Woman, A Gun and a Noodle Shop) had an enthusiastic reception at the Berlin Film Festival that Joel and Ethan Coen wrote him to say they enjoyed his entertaining version.
“It certainly was much more restricted 20 years ago,” Zhang said. “As a director you couldn’t do what you wanted. You had to think about what kind of story you could tell. China is opening up.”
He added: “There’s a lot of diversity now, a lot of genres. It’s not like 10 or 20 years ago when Chinese cinema was very, very restricted. Now there are lots of directors with different styles. For me this was an attempt at a new genre. The market for this particular film genre is certainly there.”
Zhang’s film is set in the imperial age in a desert town near Jiayu Pass not far from the Great Wall. An unpleasant middle-aged man named Wang runs a noodle shop with his wife and their staff.
Wang learns his wife is having an affair with a shy cook and arranges to have them both killed.
The hit man ends up shooting Wang after collecting his fee and then becomes entangled in the story, which includes hilarious attempts to dispose of dead bodies.
Blood Simple was set in a Texas town where the bar manager is suspected of having an affair with the wife of his boss.
“The first time I saw Blood Simple I liked it immediately,” Zhang said. “It was a very cool film.”
Zhang said he had never met the Coen brothers but was in touch with them about the remake. He said he was delighted they sent him an email after seeing a copy of his film.
“I got an email from them. I was very, very touched. They’d seen the film and they said they loved the remake. They said it was very amusing. They took the trouble to write and say they loved the way I changed things. I was very pleased by that.”