18 July 2009

Sin City

How do you describe something like Sin City? I mean the comic by Frank Miller, not the film--that will be the subject of another post. Speaking of post, that's where we live in 2009, the post-modern world. In the post-modern world, everything has been deconstructed. All the modes and tropes of popular art have been re-worked, re-imagined, re-invented, and re-applied. When you dive into a form like a detective story, or a crime novel, or a film noir, you've got a lot a cultural detritus around. There's a fine line between clichéd and clever, between parody and homage. Which brings me back to Mr. Miller. There are enough booze, broads, bullets in Sin City to make any hard-boiled fan happy. The art is almost all black and white, with the broad strokes, sharp contrasts, and long lines of those low-budget 50s films we now know as noir classics. In fact, it's mostly art--there is very little in the way of narrative or dialogue. Tough guys and their hooker allies take on all sorts of corrupt cops, scheming politicos, and evil geniuses in the dark and dangerous world of Basin City, but they don't say much. The stories, despite the convoluted timelines and overlapping characters, are pretty simple, and go by a little too fast. They go by fast because Sin City is mostly a picture book. Sure, it's a comic, I get it. You are supposed to look at the pictures. And Miller is in a soft-core mood throughout the series--there are lots of naked girls to look at. The rest of the time, these curvaceous femmes, whether victims, heroines, or villianesses, are bursting out of their fishnets, bustieres, and unmentionables while kicking ass or getting their asses kicked. It's a Joe Bob Briggs breast festival--nipples popping up everywhere--and a pouty lip parade that'd shame Angelina into another round of botox. Miller is famed for his Batman work: The Dark Knight Returns is both brilliant and brutal, simmering with apocalyptic rage and dystopian longing. He's also known for 300, his fabulistic re-telling of the Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae. It's another flesh-fest, this time sweaty, over-muscled, nearly-naked Greek men in a glorious crescendo of suicidal violence. Both these rivers run through Basin City. The underworld denizens move around in impossible, super-hero leaps and bounds, with either a fatalistic nonchalance or an insatiable sadistic lust. It's a heady brew. The best parts are the unique angles and interesting perspectives Miller uses to draw many of the scenes. I also love his sounds. KREK. FUPP. WHUUNG. SPAK. KRNCH. The whole Basin City layout with Old Town, the Projects, Sacred Oaks, The Docks, The Roark Farm, Kadie's Club, and the Santa Yolanda Tar Pits is nicely imagined, making the setting a sort of über-American pastiche. Perhaps it's the hodge-podge nature of the work that ultimately left me a little unsatisfied. It was a fun ride, but it had nowhere near the visceral and dramatic intensity of Dark Knight, and suffered, like 300, from some over-blown adolescent-fantasy imagery. I'm going to give the movie--which I remember liking quite a bit--another go here pretty soon, so I'll be back with more on Frank Miller and Sin City.

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