Monday, April 11, 2005

Sin City

The collaborative culmination between director Josef von Sternberg and superstar Marlene Dietrich ocurred in 1935 with the last film that the two made together: The Devil is a Woman. Superb cinematography was always one of the key ingredients of these elaborate, baroque fantasies made at Paramount, and some of the best studio cameramen -- Lee Garmes, Lucien Ballard, James Wong Howe, and Bert Glennon -- worked with the director in defining the sultry and unforgettable look of these B&W films. In The Devil is a Woman, von Sternberg, credited in the film with his American Society of Cinematographers (A.S.C.) title, took the directorial as well as the cinematographic credit, an aspect of his films to which he always payed the utmost attention.

Sin City, Robert Rodriguez's new film, adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novels is, technically, a worthy successor to von Sternberg's early work in Hollywood. Rodriguez takes the cinematographic as well as the editing credit, and also shares directorial credit with Mr. Miller.

When was the last time that a major motion picture was released in black and white? The last that I can remember was Jim Jarmusch's 1995 iconoclastic western Dead Man, and that was an independent film that received limited release.

Sin City is visually a unique film. That alone demands that the work be seen, and it is reason enough for me to not go at length about it; for how can you faithfully describe with words what one needs to experience with your sense of sight? Miller's noirish sleaze is brought to life in a panoramic style that captures the pulp essence of the work, but allows the medium of film to expand on it. The results are truly stunning. Go see it. Post your comments about the film here.

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