4.06.2005

Putting the Sin back in Cinema

Sin City is one of the most amazing films in recent years. Robert Rodriguez's "translation" of the Frank Miller graphic novels finally does what so few films even attempt: it reinvents the medium.

Sin City perfectly creates what is, essentially, a moving comic book. Moody, expressionist lighting creates stark contrasts between light and dark (read: the division between good and evil). Even the wardrobe is carefully coordinated for each character to allow the raincoats to billow and flare with special glow.

If you've seen a preview, you probably know that Rodriguez is playing with the tension between color and black and white. In a morally ambiguous world such as the one in Sin City, there can be no absolute black, absolute white. Each of the characters is dirty in his or her own way, fucked up and fucked over by the corrupt systems that, ironically, keep them in existence. When color comes in Sin City, you'd better be warned--whether it's in a pair of eyes or the red dress of an ill-fated chanteuse, some shit's going to go down.

Sin City is also a genre-bender in that it blends elements of film noir (the gritty city and its femmes fatales) and the crime film (the underworld and questions of redemption & damnation). It takes visual cues from films as disparate as Dryer's silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Pulp Fiction.

And it is, for the most part, a silent film. Rodriguez smartly capitalizes on the beauty of black and white film, presenting much of the action in close-up shots. The face is never more beautiful than when it is filmed in black and white. Voice-over narration probes into character's thoughts for a nearly uncomfortable amount of time: you do not want to be in these heads, but whever you go in Sin City, there you are.

The cast standouts are easily Jessica Alba, who has facial expressions, and Mickey Rourke. Naturally, former Therapist with a Dream Inside "Dreamboat of the Week" Clive Owen provides drooling sexuality, enough that I nearly had to excuse myself from the theater five or six times. My bf, on the way home, said, "He made me want to rip off all his clothes." Yes. Clive Owen. Yes.

Sin City. Yes.

7 comments:

  1. Oh yeah, a gorgeous film. And funny though I was the only one laughing the theater. As usual.

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  2. I was laughing too--I don't think most Americans like black humor. It's unfortunate.

    Everyone laughed when the guy sat on that swastika throwing star-thing. Because "up the butt" is always good for a few laughs.

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  3. Charles,

    sorry to post about Buffy here, but didn't know where else to go: I am so hooked! Just got to season 3 (?) where Angel returns from the demon dimension and clasps Buffy's calves. I'm cut off from knowing more. But yeah, I've been weeping and laughing. What a cool ride.

    Especially since I've been grading papers the meanwhile.

    Wish I'd met you at AWP,

    Gina

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  4. Sorry to rain on the parade here. On the one hand, the mood could not be beat and the sets were amazing. I adore the mood evoked by black and white film.

    Sin City makes me question turning a graphic novel into a movie. Several aspects don't translate well. Since the characters are shallow, we never develop any caring or deep interest in them. When they die or are injured, I found myself not being connected enough to the character to care.

    Bruce Willis plays the man gripping his heart -- to show he has one -- and his character left me cold as he chose the moral high road in every instance. I found that dull, because I knew what he would do at every turn, and I like surprise.

    The "ladies of the night" in Old Town dressed as S&M queens and carrying guns reminded me of the appeal of comic books to adolescent boys. The man-turned-near-alien, who spouts yellow custard as blood, wasn't ridiculous. Maybe that was supposed to be funny?

    Now that I think about it more, Ghost World was a good graphic novel AND movie, so it is possible to make one.

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  5. Ugh, I hate it when I have a spelling error in a comment. I meant to say the man spouting yellow custard for blood *was* ridiculous.

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  6. I have this constant worry that I actually am an adolescent boy.

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