Friday, December 5, 2008

Sin City--UltraViolence?

Sin City is another entry in the apparently ever-increasing number of films that are based on either comics or graphic novels. I haven't seen many of them, so my comments should be taken as relating to my own limited experience and not to this film category in general. Perhaps others more knowledgeable can comment on the overall state. This film is based on several tales from Frank Miller's graphic novels.

Sex and violence in literature and film generate a discussion, usually when the amount or type exceeds some viewers' tolerance level. The point becomes then whether the amount is necessary or gratuitous. War films are about violence, so violence is expected, and I think a higher level of violence would be acceptable to most viewers or readers than in other genres. The issue of excess violence generally is raised when the violence seems to go beyond some acceptable level and then brings up the question of why. Is it poor taste on the part of the director or others involved in the film? Is it an attempt to distract the viewers from realizing the weakness of the story? Is it a cynical ploy to increase ticket sales?

Sin City, however, seems to have taken the issue of violence to a new level. In this film, violence is neither an integral part of the story or a ploy to increase sales; violence is the story. Remove the violence from the film and not much is left. Someone is killed early in the story and the rest of the film involves torturing and/or killing numerous others as the POV characters try to survive or seek revenge. In this world, killing or torturing others is normal, and many enjoy it, including one or more of the "good guys."

Sin City received an R rating, but I think it should have been NC-17.

That being said, I thought the film was innovative in its use of special effects--a blend of straight filming with animation, computer graphics, and freeze-frame, or so it appeared to me. The film opens with a scene from a balcony overlooking the city. It is mostly dark with, of course, city lights off in the distance. Then a woman walks out onto the balcony in a red dress--a bright red comic book red, that style of coloring that was featured in a "Dick Tracy" movie a decade or so ago. It is startling, and it does attract the viewer's eye. Throughout the film, the action, at times, appeared to be taking place in an animated comic strip. Sorry, about this, but not being an aficionado, I lack the vocabulary. Overall, I found that the technology used made it a very interesting film to watch.

One other point--I was reminded of another film, Pulp Fiction, while watching this. It's been awhile since I watched Pulp Fiction, but it seems to me that there were a number of plot lines in the film, which surprisingly, to me anyway, did not all come together at the end, or so I remember. The characters from the various plots would bump into each other at times, but the resolutions to the plots were independent of each other. This is also true of Sin City. Major characters from one plot line would have a walk-on in anther plot, but would not play a significant role. For example, I think some characters from all plots eventually visited the same bar at one time or another. One of the waitresses waited on the characters in two of the plots and was a major character in the other.

Perhaps I was reminded of Pulp Fiction because it was directed by Quentin Tarentino, and the credits for Sin City list Quentin Tarentino as "guest director."

This is an interesting and innovative film for its use of special effects and technology. However, forget it if you're looking for drama, complex plots, and character development. This universe is a brutal one, and killing is the only solution.

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