In a continuation of my Black and White Film month my next choice is Robert Rodriguez’s 2005 film Sin City. It may not quite be true black and white with it’s splashes of colour and emphasis but in another sense it is more black and white, a lot more basic than the various shades of grey that you get with most black and white films. It retains the style and exceptional work portrayed in Frank Miller’s classic comic books and it works really well on the big screen.
The dialogue may be classic comic book through and through but with a great cast it is delivered with style. Taking on this on this material are a stellar ensemble cast: Bruce Willis, Michael Madsen, Mickey Rourke, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, Powers Booth (who is never anything less than malevolently excellent in everything I’ve seen him in!), Benicio del Toro, Rutger Hauer, Jessica Alba, Nick Stahl, Clive Owen, Josh Hartnett, Alexis Bledel, Devon Aoki, Carla Gugino, Brittany Murphy and Jaime King. Phew! Quite a list of recognisable actors.
Based on the comics The Hard Goodbye (Marv’s rampage against those that killed his Goldie. And anyone else who gets in the way!), The Big Fat Kill (Dwight caught up in a war between prostitutes of Old Town, mercenaries, police and the mob) and That Yellow Bastard (Det. Hartigan protects a little girl from a serial killer and makes some serious enemies in the process), which are the first, third and fourth books in Frank Miller’s superb series. There are extra scenes from The Customer is Always Right at the beginning and end of the film, taken from Booze, Broads & Bullets (book number 6). If you haven’t read these I recommend that you sort that out straight away. Fantastic characters, great writing alongside the style that has made this series stand out.
As alluded to before, this isn’t true black and white. Colourisation has been used throughout the film to highlight certain aspects, to heighten the scenes or just to draw attention to something: Alexis Bledel’s blue eyes, Jaime King’s red dress and blonde hair, Nick Stahl’s yellow face and body. Also, much of the blood splatter is red to begin with, again in emphasis of the moment, later turning to white as it moves into the background. This film, apparently, was shot in colour and then converted to black and white. On top of this, as in noir traditions, was treated for heightened contrast to separate the blacks and whites. These elements combined together give it a truly unique look (Black and White Plus!) that is so reminiscent of the comic book origins.
It has been called a neo-noir film, utilising the elements of film noir from the 40s and 50s but updating them with modern methods and situations. The use of black and white only works to strengthen the link, and tied in with the crime elements, the femme fatales and the classic, sleazy film noir score, it definitely fits into the film noir genre. But this is no reserved film, there is no quarter given in the violence depicted on the screen, the highly stylised blood does get thrown around with abandon but it maintains that comic book feel and leads to a fantastic contradiction in emotions between disgust and humour.
Rodriguez’s Sin City is a violent, stylish and great looking representation of a fantastic comic, managing to convey the tone to the screen and has a wonderful cast. Great use of black and white imagery for a specific purpose, or multiple purposes: keeping true to the comic book, invoking film noir and most importantly, getting away with over the top violence on screen and showing it in all its bloody detail (stylised of course!).
Love this film, it was great when I first saw it. And the second time when I had read the comic books as well. And all the other times since!