96. Sin City


Not for content but technical display, which is true for a number of Rodriguez films. The Mexico Trilogy and From Dusk Till Dawn are plainly good movies, but Sin City takes unsettling subject matter (pulp neo-noir and horrific misogyny) and makes something dazzling out of it. Rodriguez (and Miller) are directing with a precision in the manner of Edgar Wright. Every tiny, subtle movement of the actor contributes to the aesthetic — Marv smokes a cigarette in extreme closeup, Hartigan grabs a tree for support and his jacket flutters, Dwight flashes a look (a hero shot, Rodriguez says) after kissing Gail — it’s all so goddamn cool.

The trailer, possibly the greatest trailer ever created, says it all, taking these moments in an electric montage. It’s a film about the quiet dignity afforded to badasses before tragedy befalls them. In Sin City, only the most ruthless are winners, and our heroes are almost romantic in their plights against them.

The world-building of Sin City is pretty interesting, how an oppressive, dystopic atmosphere has risen from this lawless zone, and developed to a mythic degree. No explanation necessary — it almost breaks in the sequel with mention of Las Vegas and places outside of Basin City.

And speaking of the sequel, A Dame to Kill For makes the original seem realistic. It’s much more of a cartoon, and yet considerably less shocking. Hatred of the second sex persists as a constant however, although one of the main characters is now Nancy (Jessica Alba), who’s doing her best Return of the Living Dead III cosplay.

Watching the behind-the-scenes of Sin City is just as fascinating as watching the movie. Rodriguez is the master of inventing clever workarounds to technical problems, whether using morning sky as a bluescreen in Planet Terror, or air jets as throwing knives in Once Upon a Time in Mexico. Rebel Without a Crew comes highly recommended for anyone even remotely interested in filmmaking, and Robert Rodriguez is one of my favorite filmmakers, even if his movies don’t always do it for me.

This is part admiration for the artist, and part nostalgia. Sin City is a lesson in renegade film practice, but do not take it as a lesson in gender relations, unless it’s true that women really are just the worst… ever.

Check out the trailer I mentioned:

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