Monday, January 10, 2011
Sin City. B+
In this city it's often raining, people never seem to be dead when you think they are, and nobody is to be trusted. This is pulpy noir, visceral and original in its vision, but as a whole clearly inspired by Dashiell Hammett, Humphrey Bogart, the voiceovers from Double Indemnity, and pretty much every classic noir movie ever made (there's a scene in a sewer that, without facts, can assumably be from The Third Man). The film is said to be directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller, but Rodriguez is actually the brain behind the project. He's the grand initiator, the man who badgered Miller (who was dubious about his work being turned into a movie) until he agreed to fly to Texas and have a look. When he saw what Rodriguez had in mind, he pretty much was on board, as were most of the actors who were essentially sold by the mere idea of the picture. This is an easy movie to write extensively about, because, while there's no philosophical or even moral undertones, it's a bigger movie on the surface than anything ever made. Never has a movie as shallow as Sin City been so intriguing. One might think that watching such a stylized film would make them weary, yet the movie, 100 percent eye candy, is a breeze to sit through because it's nearly all in black and white (unlike The Spirit, which actually hurt the eyes because of all its color). Rodriguez occasionally inserts some red or yellow (mainly women's hair and blood), but other than that this is a colorless film. Sin City isn't a movie devoted to the city itself. It actually ignores it for the most part, as many scenes take place in bars, apartments, or by the water. There are also car scenes on the roadside and two key sequences that take place on a farm. And I liked that aspect of the movie, because many great noirs (see Huston's underrated The Asphalt Jungle) juxtapose city and country, usually to show how triumph turns to tragedy. If there's a problem with Sin City, it would be the entire film itself. One could argue that it's shallow, macho pap, closer to the bottom of the river than even the most anonymous B pictures of the forties. That's exactly what it is, and in some ways that's a little disturbing. It doesn't even attempt to reflect on corruption, nihilism, or any other ways of life the characters inhabit. But there's an argument to that, as well, because in a city as messed up as this one is, it could be pointless to even try.