Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Political 'Sin'ema

Hey – don’t adjust your head. Sin City is meant to look this way.
The brainchild of director Robert Rodriguez (last seen in action with his epic ‘Spy Kids in Mexico’ trilogy) and comic book guy Frank Miller, Sin City is a film shot in black and white. And that’s not a reference to the overarching morality of the piece – that’s the colours (or lack thereof) it employs. In the main.
This is a stunning piece of cinema audacity, as the black and white (or monochrome, as we say) artistic direction serves to remind the audience of times gone by – because in those days, films were ONLY shot in black and white. Sometimes, it seems, the introduction of colours has only served to confuse matters.
Black and white is evocative – it allows us, as audience members, to pretend to be old people, reminiscing about things that never happened to us, and tutting loudly at the popcorn noises made by our neighbours, despite the fact that we ourselves may previously have let out a noisy fart, but had not bothered to acknowledge it.
In this way, Sin City is entirely reminiscent of a Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis Sunday matinee, but not on the televisions we use in our homes – on the big screen we have paid money to sit in front of, and the carpeted walls that pummel our ears with sounds of all kinds.
A brave, foolhardy, and ultimately triumphant decision. Kudos to all involved.
But that’s not all.
In my writings (above) you, dear reader, may have been lulled into a false sense of black and white acceptance – a kind of cinematic integration, if you understand my esoteric sense of humour. Even if you don’t, its okay – that’s not your fault.
However – and this is important – the film is not just in black and white. Do not misunderstand me. It is black and white, of that you can have no doubt. But it is not just in black and white. The italicised ‘just’ is vital.
For almost without our noticing it, elements of colour are included in the film. A red dress. Some yellow blood. Some red blood. A yellow monster. It is all there, if you look hard enough.
What Rodriguez and co have inserted into the film is a series of subtle, subconscious warnings. Warnings about the dire political state the world – and by extension us (as we live in the world) – finds itself in.
If you were paying attention two paragraphs ago you would have noticed that I used the words ‘yellow’ and ‘red’ to describe the colours that insinuate themselves into the film. These are the only colours we see onscreen.
(At some point a girl has blue eyes, but I believe this was a mistake on the filmmakers’ behalf, occurring during the process of blacking and whiting the very movie itself.)
The use of red is a subtle reminder that the evils of communism may have subsided, but are still very much a threat to our ‘black and white’ way of living. Is it any coincidence that red is used when someone is shot or hacked to pieces, or when some probably diseased prostitute consorts with our hero? If you answered yes, you should turn your eyes away now. Because the correct answer is no.
And what of the use of the colour yellow? Is it any surprise that the greatest communist menace at large in the world today is the Chinese, who some people say actually are yellow? (In fact, they are not literally yellow. Rather, the use of the word suggests their moral cowardice.)
And what is the most terrifying moment of the film? It’s when the big YELLOW monster comes chasing after Bruce Willis and his daughter. Luckily, Bruce defeats the monster and symbolically rips off its genitals. The Chinese threat has been emasculated. But for how long?
In the end, Sin City provides us with a morality tale. We can be comfortable living in our normal black and white world. But we must be eternally vigilant, keeping our eyes peeled for red or yellow invasions, and ripping off their genitals when we have the opportunity.
Sin City is a propagandist masterpiece.


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