I had been meaning to see Sin City since I first watched a trailer for it back in 2004, and last week I got the DVD from the library. I sure waited long enough, didn’t I? The movie is a series of character vignettes and the characters tend to cross each others’ paths pretty consistently. All are from Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novels. You’ve got your basic aging but honest cop, your basic vigilante tough guy, your basic hit man, your basic katana-wielding prostitute and your basic yellow smelly serial killer. No one really has super powers, although some of their skill levels and sheer toughness approach that level. All in all, it is very violent and beau coup noir.
I know virtually nothing about Frank Miller’s style, but from what I’ve seen and what I felt in watching Sin City, I believe Robert Rodriguez did a great job in the transfer. There is a heavy dose of celebrity in the film, with Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Benicio del Toro, Brittany Murphy, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson and a few more girls who can’t act but are easy on the eyes. Mickey Rourke’s character, Marv, stole the show for me. He’s the tough guy vigilante. His vignette was third in the movie, after the hit man [Josh Hartnett] and the cop [Willis] and once his story got going I really got immersed in what Sin City is like, and really started to notice the excellent cinematography and digital mastering that gave the film its well-known stylization and tone. So many of the shots looked like stills from a comic book [see links at the end of this post] that I became seriously impressed with the amount of planning that must have gone into it. Quentin Tarantino apparently guest directed at one point [I think I know which one] but the kind of gracefully sudden violence that I’ve known from Rodriguez in El Mariachi and Desperado works great in this format.
The word you are looking for is chiaroscuro. Virtually the entire film is desaturated, with key bits of vibrant color tossed in to accentuate and insinuate certain scenes and themes. It should also be mentioned that Rodriguez did a lot of the music for Sin City and it is a pretty heavy set of post-industrial tunage. Worth checking out on its own merit. I’ve added this movie to my heavily updated wishlist, so you know I find it worth watching over and over and over again.
Graphic novel versus film shot comparison
Yahoo! still comparison
Wired article on Rodriguez