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The Noir in a Plug to the Gut: The Intellectual Merit of Sin City

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Introduction

Thesis: Sin City molds sick chainsaw violence to fit a refreshing new landscape harboring astounding artistic vision and the dark psychology of ubiquitous film noir. I. Sin City is visually arresting, but also contains the dark intellectualism of classic film noir. A. Closely adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel, the film embraces a distinct aesthetic. B. Thematic hallmarks of the genre, such as voice-narrative and archetypal characters make the film a throwback. C. Classic noir devices provide a scope into the heart of darkness. II. Thematic and aesthetic noir qualities coalesce into a violent, modern presentation. A. Film noir's dark fatalism was born from an era ravaged by depression and war. B. Concepts derive from a "spider-web" of fate exhibited by psychologically-invoking filmic devices. C. Sin City's violent sensationalism is tied back to its noir roots by deeply cerebral themes like anguish and vengeance. III. Character Marv expresses a specific example of the film's employment of classic noir themes. A. Though a brutal killer, Marv draws compassion from the audience. B. Marv is "born in the wrong century;" he is a temporal outsider. C. Cinematic effects set a primeval atmosphere which isolates and provides scope into amorphous human thought. D. Ambiguity of time is juxtaposed with predestined fatalism as Marv recognizes his "spider-web" of fate. IV. Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times provides a counter-argument to Sin City's intellectual merit. A. Style and sensationalism overshadow theme and characterization. ...read more.

Middle

The "petty crime or minor evasion" results in a plug to the groin. The femme fatale wears thigh-high gladiator shoes and dons multiple whips. Things appear quite differently than they do in The Maltese Falcon (1941), but the characters carry the same human burdens of anguish, vengeance, lust. Sin City borrows heavily from the past while stretching naughty sensationalism to its limits for today's strong-stomached moviegoer, as critic Roger Ebert asserts, "If film noir was not a genre, but a hard man on mean streets with a lost lovely in his heart and a gat in his gut, his nightmares would look like Sin City." There happens to be a hard man with a gat in his gut, Marv, played by a Mickey Rourke caked heavily with layers of prosthetics. Marv is machismo hyperbolized. After he is pummeled by a car and shot multiple times only to walk away with a mild stitch in the side, his testosterone level can be assessed only as one of ridiculously high proportions. One of three male protagonists in the film, he is a monstrous criminal with a battered black trench-coat and a face that looks like it has been beaten with a mace. His expertise lays in finding creative, gleefully gruesome ways in which to "make them talk." During one scene he holds a man by the collar of his shirt face down against the road as he speeds down the highway; during another, he shoots the priest to whom he is giving confession, and his glass-busting, building-leaping evasion from the police is at the very least extremely impressive. ...read more.

Conclusion

At times, the necessity of so many obliterated crotches, severed heads, and creatively mutilated limbs becomes questionable; style and sensationalism overshadows theme and characterization. And though Chocano credits Sin City with being technically impressive, she insists that it feels "cloistered and airless" within its green-screen universe. But cloistered and airless is not altogether unfitting for the broodingly internal noir. Inside the dilapidated cage of Sin City, the viewer never leaves the confines of the equally ravaged minds of the inhabitants. The hard artificiality of CG intensifies the frightening, foreign dreamscape of the enigmatic human psyche, a visual disconnection that pushes the audience back to observe this brutal rendition of deepest, darkest thought. By cutting off any trace of clean, natural air, one is forced to look directly into a dense, entropic jungle. This is an unnatural, alien world-a psychological gutter filled with dualities, loneliness, and magnificent chiaroscuro. The "stylized gross-outs and gleeful sadism" (Chocano) are certainly there to create a stir among teenage boys, though they also exist to rip the average viewer from familiar, natural reality and throw him straight into the dense gridlines of bleak, gritty, artificial graphic novel noir. Sin City took the sharp, hyperbolized action of the graphic novel and pitched it with deafening force at the cerebral, fatalistic philosophy of classic film noir. Together the inscrutable, intangible, out-of-space, out-of-time coils of the human mind begin to unravel for an enraptured audience- the heart of darkness entails an eaten limb, an ax to the forehead. Together, the noir brain and bloody brawn of Sin City is "one hell of a way to [form] a partnership. ...read more.

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