Saturday, April 02, 2005

IN DEFENSE OF SIN CITY


This is not so much a review (go to Rotten Tomatoes, you can find many of the film, but I recommend these two), as a reaction to much of the hoopla beginning to appear on websites, blogs and forums. Much like Pulp Fiction and Fight Club, Sin City appears to polarize film-goers of all kinds.

It appears that people have hang-ups on
A) Not enough story continuity (i.e. things just don't make sense)
B) Lack of subtext, relevence, maturity
C) Too much violence

I'm not trying to tell people what they should like or dislike, but rather clarify that a meta-film like Sin City succeeds on the level of 'style is substance' by magnifying its source material. That is, the nihilism of film noir, to the point of where images and moods are the story (I mean what does a comic/graphic novel do better? and that is what Sin City is trying to faithfully reproduce). If you check narrative convention at the door and go for the mood of the piece, (redemption through revenge...at any cost) I think Sin City is a true winner: its creativity and energy are nearly limitless and the actors willingness to 'look goofy' for that sake of delivering intentionally hard-boiled dialogue which is 50 years out of date, (and really never existed in the first place except in pulp novels and B-level films) but certainly relevant as post-modern artistic expression) is to be commended. [ed. note: I apologize for the structure of that last run-on sentence!]
Obviously, if you go into a movie called 'Sin City' with puritan expectations of PG-13 bloodless violence and no nudity you are going to be disappointed. My point here is that the extreme violence is a part of the texture of the film, and to remove it would be to destroy the film. It's not real, it's hyper-real.
Lastly, (at the risk of sounding like a snob) people who do not get 'Sin City' probably have no frame of reference coming into the film: they are not familiar with the source material or are not in any way familiar with the film noir of the 1940's and early 1950s. While full knowledge of either graphic novels in general or the noir-genre is not necessary, passing familiarity will greatly enhance the experience. To put it another way, if you are just learning english, it's perhaps not advisable to pick up a James Joyce novel and expect to understand it. (On second thought a better way of saying this is perhaps you won't enjoy watching the Wayan Brothers' "SCARY MOVIE" if you haven't seen SCREAM, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT or those "Whaaaas up!" Budweiser commercials).
For those willing to write this movie off as the worst movie they've ever seen, I suggest you watch some more movies...(Start with Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episodes, and you will see how truly awful films can be).
For what Sin City sets out to accomplish...a no-holds-barred hyper-noir film representation of a graphic novel with cool characters and nihilistic hard-boiled performances from an ensemble of high-profile actors...It gets an A+ in my book and will likely be not only one of the best motion pictures this year, but also be one of the most emulated for the next several years...
This is a leap forward from the well intentioned attempts of Ang Lee's Hulk to emulate the comic-book frame. This is the next level of the comic-book adaptation. Like it or not.

Postscript: I have an itching feeling that Sin City is gender-biasing...That is not to say that all guys will like it and all women hate it, but if you do the math, more guys will like it than gals. The entire films perspective is from the male characters, and fetishizing of violence is the realm of young males. The movie is not about relationships that connect the men to the women, it's about one person (guy) versus society/the-system/the-enemy. It's not surprising that most of those of female persuasion that I've spoken to about the film were not big fans. On a (positive) personal note though, my wife loved it...(and I love her for loving it!)

6 Comments:

Anonymous Erica said...

*grin*

My husband and I both loved it.

1:57 AM  
Blogger grace said...

sin city is the movie of the year, as far as i'm concerned...

robert rodriguez was trying to put the graphic novel on the big screen. and they did a damned fine job.

it was well done...

people don't know anything. i hate them. :P

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Never had a chance to talk to you about it but I knew that you'd love it.

I liked it ... a lot. But, that said, I have always found the dialogue in old movies anoying and this movie is no exception. Personally, at risk of greatly offending the purist, I wish the'd updated the dialogue to something a little more palatable.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that the people who didn't like this are one's who wouldn't read a graphic novel. That's what it was. Yes, I loved it!

The wife

10:10 PM  
Anonymous _ram-jaane said...

1st time i'm visiting .. got the link from a comment on themovieblog.com .. Impressive writing ..

Now to the point .. Sin City!!
Absolutely Awesome - had to wait a long time for each to reach the UK .. but well worth the wait.

I'm a fan of Frank Miller, through Sin City, Preacher & even The Punisher comics. Having him on board was a wise move. They've made just what they set out to & that's an achievement rarely met.

In some ways it reminded me of American Psycho. Those that see what it is trying to portray & how well it does this appreciate it. Many won't! Ah well. Their loss. :)

8:39 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Preacher? I think that was Garth Ennis, but I'd be interested to hear if Frank Miller came in on an issue or two. Both great comic book writers, but with a bit of a different style to them.

Really, though, I think that although his comics certainly borrow a great deal from the film noir genre, a movie watcher would be better prepared if they picked up Dark Knight Returns or Ronin and gave it a read; Frank Miller is a special breed of nihilist, and he has a great fondness for cheesy soliloquy (who can ever forget 60-year-old Batman's musings? Miller's influence has affected Batman in the works of other authors, as well, as you can see in Hush = more soliloquies).

Anyway, I think Sin City is the best thing since sliced bread. Ang Lee totally destroyed the Hulk trying to capture the comic book aesthetic and managed to alienate comic readers and Hollywood fans alike. I think that Rodriguez hit the nail on the head with this one, and he's valiantly carried the comic book banner from start to finish.

10:49 PM  

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