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Zettel Film Reviews » Sin City – middle-aged, in the garage, wet dream movie

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Sin City – middle-aged, in the garage, wet dream movie

in your dreams guys

in your dreams guys

Sin City – Miller, Rodriguez, Tarantino

(BBC Prize Review)

Sin City is critic-proof. I guess that is the point. Any level on which you take it is uncool. Take it seriously and you’ve missed the cool joke. Treat it simply as a clever joke and you have missed the post-modern, movie-referential, ironic noir parody. Part of its uber-cool humour is of course to wind up anyone trying to make sense of it. It is an aesthetic ultimatum: buy it or you don’t get it. Schmuck.

This is essentially an adolescent movie. Not in any patronising sense but in that the critical feature of adolescent culture; music, TV, language, is that only other adolescents can understand it properly. There is nothing sadder than to see older people trying to sound what used to be called hip or cool, by trying to buy into this culture ignoring the essential ‘Private – Keep Out’ sign. And there’s the rub, for film-it-in-my-garage Directors Miller, Rodriguez and guest director chum Quentin Tarantino. They’ve been near middle-aged for a while now (48, 37, 42). Hey guys: you’ve mastered all the skills; time to come out of the garage, get a girl-friend, spend a bit of time on the beach, and make a film about the real world rather than other movies and graphic novels, or as we used to call them, comics. Give up wet dream movies.

And we do need to see this movie as reflecting the emotional reductio ad absurdum of adolescence where any conceivable idea, feeling, behaviour, however extreme, is run to get some sense of trying to find out where one wants to set the boundaries of one’s personal values. Without this justification, not really open to Rodriguez and Miller and Tarantino, this is a hateful, vicious, repulsively gleeful exploration of violence for its own sake. Worse: if it is the work of genuinely grown up men, then it blends profound misogyny with sexism in a context where sexual fantasy and erotic charge, is unashamably and repeatedly tied, with extraordinary graphical (sic) skill, to brutality and dominating sexual violence. A bit like trying to beat the censor by selling porn to children through video games. See how I didn’t get that you mustn’t take this seriously? Cool people, movie-in-my-garage people, will get the post modern sense of fun. Especially the ostensibly 70+ year-old Bruce Willis character getting it on with the 19 year-old girl he rescued from violent sexual abuse 8 years before. Psychoanalysis? We won’t go there; there are some pretty dark, f****d-up male fantasies swilling around in this.

It is a cruel irony that the breathtaking talent and visual flair that went into Sin City finds nothing better to express than ironic cruelty. Logically, irony depends upon a deliciously surprising contrast with normal expectations. Destroy any sense of normal expectations and you destroy the sense of irony. Like trying to plant seeds in concrete. Each new, technically brilliant, Tarantino film becomes a parody of the last with an implacable law of diminishing return becoming apparent. Miller and Rodriguez have made a visually stunning, inventive, extraordinary, evocative film. Its use of stark black and white and yes, one has to admit it, witty within-the-scene, striking monochromatic colour is, content aside, simply brilliant. That special sense of pace in action and imagery, unique to comic strip narratives, is wonderfully re-created on film. For these reasons alone, aesthetically the film is a must see. There is real talent on display.

Sin City is, in terms of content, a totally amoral nihilisitic film. The narrative it tells and the events it depicts are without feeling, sensitivity, meaning or purpose. If it does have any values – they are what one might call sentimental-fascist. (How cool is that?).It is not the content of the film that is immoral: it is the fact of it that is. Which is a serious debate for another time.

“See – this guy just doesn’t get it. Hey man – it’s just a comic!” Not with a multi-million $ budget; massive publicity hype, and global distribution it ain’t. It’s a very savvy, deeply cynical commercial enterprise to make big bucks out of a gullible market for whom the ultimate sin is to appear uncool. Some talent. Some waste. Some comic. And bet your last $, £ or Euro – some franchise.

(June 2005)

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