Ba(Sin) City

by vpundir | June 6th, 2005

Are you expecting something like Robert Rodriguez’s previous feats El Mariachi, Desperado or Once Upon a Time in Mexico? Or some standard comic-book fare like Frank Miller’s Elektra?
You have no idea what you are getting yourself into. Perhaps you missed the “guest director” part of the credits. Quentin Tarantino, yells (everything yells in the movie) this special credit. Achtung baby! Don’t put a foot inside the theater if Kill Bill made you queasy.

The credits also say that the movie is an adaptation of graphic novels of the same name by Frank Miller. To tell you the truth, I missed the adaptation. I just got the graphic novels. And thoroughly enjoyable ones at that, I must admit.

The movie has three intertwined stories. Chief of them, is the story of Marv, a tough-as-nails misanthrope out to avenge the murder of Goldie, a prostitute that he had fallen in love with, in just one night. Dwight, the clandestine lover of Shelley, is out to protect his beloved from Jackie Boy. He ends up fighting to defend Gail and her Old Town girls. What a sucker for the damsel in distress! Oh, and there is Hartigan who takes on the most powerful politician of the slimy city to protect a girl’s honor. Love truly brings out the best and the worst in men.

Initially, as one story gave way to another, I was reminded of Prawal Raman’s Darna Mana Hai, which I thought was a good movie, though not even close to being in the same vicinity as Sin City. Anyways, while the friends give narratorial support and interconnectivity to Raman’s stories, characters of Sin City touch each other’s lives in invisible ways in the “normal” course of things. Also, Sin City makes the protagonists moonlight as narrators. That is probably what gave me the impression of reading a novel. I enjoy reading books much more than watching movies based on them, partly because movies don’t let you get into the mind of the characters. This movie lets me know what the protagonist is thinking, and that’s cool.

The director has chosen to use exaggeration as a stylistic element, as is appropriate for a comic-book of this kind. So, there are monster-from-hellish characters, unspeakable evil and incredible action-feats. And you watch all that without batting an eyelid. The most striking manifestation of the art of exaggeration, though, is in the chromography of the movie. It is a black and white movie of the film noir genre with certain elements like blood and lipstick in color. This exclusivity accentuates the colors and works magic on the screen.

For all that sorcery, the stories are simple but amazingly human. You start feeling for, rooting for, and praying for the protagonists as if they were real people. Marv achieves the amazing coup by simultaneously activating in you a feeling of awe and pity through his invincibility and vulnerability. The crooked photographer Dwight seems like the most upright man in the world.

And your heart goes out to Hartigan when he says, “An old man dies; a young woman lives. Fair trade.”

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