La Ville Du Vice
I’m writing a piece on Clive Owen for MSNBC.com, which won’t go up for a few weeks yet, and so last night I watched, for the second time, “Sin City.” It has its fans. It’s currently no. 91 on the IMDb.com list, ahead of too many great films to mention (OK, here’s a few: “On the Waterfront,” “Jaws,” “Yojimbo” and “Annie Hall,” which are all scattered between nos. 100-133), and it’s certainly the most comic-booky movie I’ve ever seen. Entire shots feel like panels on a page. What Warren Beatty wanted to do with “Dick Tracy,” Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and “special guest director” Quentin Tarantino accomplish with “Sin City.”
Even so. Its antecedent is more Mickey Spillane (talk tough, act tough, be tough) than Stan Lee (be superstrong outside, feel superweak inside), and that’s not my bag. Basically it worships at the twin altars of cool and cruel. Its cool heroes are cruel to the ones who are cruel to the weak, which means the heroes, and by extension the viewers, get to be cruel and moral. Fun! But it's pretty disgusting stuff. There’s no feeling in any of it, just a wish to be tough, cool and cruel. And to fall in love with a hooker who looks like Rosario Dawson.
These days I often watch American films with French subtitles (improve your French as you’re entertained, etc.), but “Sin City”'s promised French subtitles were non-existent. There was a French audio track, though, and so that’s how I watched it: dubbed in French with English subtitles. The mere fact of this will discount, for its fans, anything I’ve said above — “Dude watched it in fucking French” — but for me it was the only thing worthwhile about the entire experience. I should also add that the guy who did the French voice for Bruce Willis was pretty damn good.