Monday, October 06, 2014

Sin City 2: Where Blood is Coloured White

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014) is a sequel some were impatiently waiting for, for almost a decade. Did it worth the anticipation/hype? More or less. Did it catch us by surprise?  It certainly didn't, as it's hard for a sequel to bring new elements in the game, but we loved it anyways. Sin City brings back nearly forgotten heroes and monsters from an era long gone.

Performances & Characterisation

Ex Dark Angel Jessica Alba is more stunning than ever. And oh-so-innocent. Contrapuntal Eva Green is the archetype of femme fatale, trying to beat her predecessors in classic film noirs. No matter how impressive the looks, she doesn't win the competition with the likes of Lana Turner and Barbara Stanwyck. She ends up an amusing caricature though, a devouring sex goddess with such a harsh/ exaggerated outline that makes thinking men unable to fall/kill for her (at least in real life). Same goes for the whole gang: their traits, whether physical or character ones are seen through the magnifying glass -something which accommodates us. It accommodates our politically-correct selves -we find it hard to identify with them, thanks God. But, one cannot expect subtlety in the adaptation of a graphic novel, right?

Shock Tactics 

Beware: this is R rated material. Banned in Iran, while in fast-forward Canada 14 year olds are allowed in screenings, the film is not a valid choice when in chill out mood. Highly sensitive souls will have to cover their eyes for the biggest part of the movie (sic) and they will still be agitated nevertheless. Of course, it's not the "sexual content, nudity or short drug" use we disapprove of.  It is the "strong brutal stylised violence throughout". Those sequences must have been a pain to shoot and I appreciate cast and crew and extraordinary stuntmen for their contribution, but, guys, that was so intense an experience that I was unable to sleep until four thirty in the morning.  

Overwhelming sequences of combat, killing, spare or deformed body parts, physical or mental pain and distress, and all that in B & W. Very high contrast B & W -no subtlety there either. Red tones occasionally -so cheesy as archetypical. Red lips. Pink baby dolls. Let's not forget crocodile green eyes and orange locks of hair -a woman is all it takes for colours to get back to life. But, you know what, at least blood is white (practically this film could never be called a splatter, blood is ketchup red in those ones). Blood pours out of strained bodies like water, but it is slightly less upsetting, because it's white and innocent like snow, damn it. Soothing reminder that fiction and reality never cross set borders (or, do they?).

Aesthetics & Co

Once upon a time only genre/grindhouse movies got away with excess of violence and grotesque elements; no major studio could dare to disrespect the Hays Code, the impact in distribution would be disastrous -if the film would be distributed at all. Then freedom of expression became the norm, and then Tarantino appeared in the scene. Paying tribute to exploitation genre is his favourite game (but, oh well, some do it better than others). Violence in Django Unchained (2012) felt  quite essential to the core elements of the film and didn't bother me a tiny bit. In 300 (2006) ruthlessness in the battle had a fair depiction on screen, too. My point is, violence should not be ubiquitous and in those movies it was somehow necessary, much more than in Sin City -even if the latter is meant to revive crime comic tradition (crime is in the intentions and moral repercussions, not in the execution i.e. The Postman Always Rings Twice). The glorious first instalment of Sin City had the right balance of great visuals, some romance, and the man-as-a-beast" bits and pieces. We have seen so much in between, though, that the producers feared they won't manage to pull out the trick any more. Or was it Rodriguez/Miller themselves that wanted things to get even more cult, even more pulp, even more dirty? All-star cast, witty dialogue, fast-paced action were more than enough. Visually stunning scenes, perfectly sculptured female bodies stripping, imaginative costumes and sets would have been enough, though. The banned poster scandal due to "too much nipple" must have been enough to secure producers' dollars (and, yes, sex is a good alternative to violence, don't you think?).

Misogyny or Empowerment? 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. If you break that down, perception is a very personal thing. And what looks like misogyny to some, looks like empowerment to others. Alan Moore was among those who criticised the series, finding that there was "unreconstructed misogyny" lurking, due to depiction of women as "vixens, vamps, prostitutes and, more broadly, male fantasy objects – idealised, lusted after but in no way respected"(Independent). For one reason or the other, I tend to agree with the findings of Catherine M.Roach, who argues that working as a stripper in front of a male audience might be empowering, rather than demeaning. In her book Stripping, Sex, and Popular Culture (2007) she does exhaustive on site research in stripper clubs: what she describes and images from Sin City make a good match. Letting morality aside, women in Sin City are an object of lust alright, but they only yield in if they decide and only for their own interest. Men, on the other hand are portrayed as physically strong but mentally unstable: easy prey to women who want to manipulate them. For what I know, this film with its gritty humour and caricature take could be an ode to feminism, if you want it to be. Because, not only everything is the eye of the beholder, but the author(sic) is dead and has no power on  his creation: the oeuvre is out there for the audience to judge and to make whatever they want out of it.

* Did you recognise Lady Gaga, by the way? I didn't.

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