Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sin City


Dir: Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez

The first five minutes of this movie tell you all that is good about it. The look is so unique, the direction so striking, the technology so artistically deployed, that one cannot escape the conclusion that something truly different is afoot. Once that initial shock is assimilated, what is left is really a boilerplate neo-noir, as lacking in nuance as the comic books that were the source material no doubt were. Not that I have a problem with that, but the overarching impression I take from the film is that it is entertaining and spectacular, but not potent enough to truly be transcendent.

Rodriquez wants to be as faithful to the Miller comic style as he could. Realistic cinematic techniques cannot capture the abstraction of the original. So, turn the the computer. Since things in CGI never look as good as the real thing, then what happens once artificiality becomes the goal? What emerges is the only green screen movie that I have ever thought truly worked as an artistic vision and is the most appropriate application of digital technology ever in film. Here is technology in the hands of a truly groundbreaking film maker, not just as a shortcut to a superhero scaling buildings in ways that the laws of physics do not allow. Taking the limitation of a medium and transforming it into a strength is a bold and important move by Rodriguez, one that blazes a trail for further film makers.

However, the film is so faithful to its source that it seems stuck within it. The movie is an exercise in adaptation only. And while I can dig the pulp, I am not ready to proclaim Sin City as a great movie in the way that Crash was a great movie. Sin City tells me nothing about humanity; it creates an entirely fictional reality that plays on the voyeuristic and the macabre to entertain. I would have loved the full creative force of Rodriquez or Tarantino to have been brought to bear on this movie, extending beyond the comic to make the stories about more than basic vigilanitism or violence. Here is the creationg of an atmospheric universe that can motivate a narrative in untold ways that film cannot. And yet, the stories are simple and trade shock for character development.

Sin City is an important film and a giant artistic leap forward. But as a narrative, it remains mired in the universe of the adolescent. I can't help but feel that I have punished the movie for only going most of the way toward genius and then coming up short. That is a fault of mine that may fade after subsequent viewings. I did love the movie, but cannot place it among the elite films of the year.



Blogger ronvon2 noted on 10/23/2005 10:57:00 PM that...

Maybe the build up was too great. I am not certain I even paid attention to the narrative. I can not speak for the source material, but this WAS a comic book, and for the interplay of the media alone, it was genuis. When art from one medium is tranfered into another, something is evitablely lost (even though we do it all the time and measure it against the original source, e.g. books to films, books to music, painting to film, senses into words, etc.). So the genius IS the comic book on-sceen. As for the narrative, I am certain comic book lovers appreciate the narrative more (yes, I am an apologizer for the film). It's great, not like Alien V. Predator. Worst....episode....ever.  

Blogger paroske noted on 10/24/2005 05:56:00 PM that...

This is not an instance of something being lost in translation, i.e. book to film. It is that nothing was added in translation. Since the narrative of the original was insipid and banal (it seems), then so is the remake.

That is not the case with the other movies from this wing of directors. Tarantino elevates the blaxploitation, the heist movie, the pulp. Rodriguez brought value added to the Spaghetti Western. And not just with tech or flash, but with narrative and character. This is the difference b/t a good Batman movie and a bad one, or Spiderman Two versus a bad comic movie. You have to overcome the limitations of the source material with writing to make a great movie.

I granted that the art direction is great. But by handcuffing themselves through not changing the Miller comic matieral, the movie is nothing but a really great looking comic. That's great, but not brilliant.


Blogger Paul Johnson noted on 10/25/2005 09:51:00 AM that...

You are underselling AVP- they found Moses' DVD collection