Saturday, August 06, 2005

REV: Sin City

This review comes much later, after i've absorbed what i thought about a movie that i was so looking forward to that i risked raising the expectations bar out of my own sight.

Early trailers were dazzling -- both for their snippets of storytelling, in 50s noirish tones, together with obviously pioneering, and starkly beautiful graphics. And, it was not only loaded with actors i envy, but all the actors were ones i envy. These days it is hard to find a movie that doesn't have someone in it that i loathe, and must thus avert my mind while they are onscreen.

But not Sin City.

So there i was, fidgeting 10 minutes into the film, something i rarely do. Within 30 i was ready to get up and walk out, something else i don't do. But i stayed. I'm glad i did, if only for the one time experience (since i won't be watching the movie again; and that's me saying this two months after watching the film, and listing it as a favorite -- if it's a favorite, i think it's best left that way strictly as a memory, and not from reanalysis).

And after all this time, and discussions with the occasional other who has seen the film and whose opinion i value, here's what i come to more than anything else:

I think the difficulty in watching the film comes in the faithfulness of its translation from comics to celluloid. That was an issue for Robert Rodriguez, to stay true to the page -- and perhaps that is the right angle, for it's that very noirish look and method of storytelling that made those graphic novel comics so compelling.

Most comic book characters removed to constant animation tell a full story just as a fiction filmed movie would.

But in this case, each frame dictated a scene, a complete scene. And therein, i think, lies the problem.

When reading a comic novel, one moves the eye from frame to frame, but in the process, the mind is mulling the possibilities, processing the scene shift, and filling in the blanks of the story. Comic writers use this in order to produce the sting, the setup, so common in their stories.

Only, while watching film, one doesn't have the time to do that processing. And in this case the result is a jarring disorientation while you try to fill in the blanks at the same time you're picking up the clues in the scene unfolding before your eyes. And on the big screen, arguably the place to see this film, there is no pause or rewind button to make those allowances.

Perhaps that was a conscious choice for another reason -- that to fill in the blanks would require doubling or more the running time. After all the film is about several plots all converging into one oversized denouement. Perhaps it's a story that can't be told in one attention span. I don't know.

What i do know is that months later, i'm still sore that the movie did not turn out to be the movie i wanted it to be. I am still awed by the attempt, and awed by the graphics, and enraptured of the devices and the acting, and still am having trouble pinpointing where the movie fell through my visceral cracks. But it did.

Maybe there's a director's cut somewhere . . .

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