By Dave Montalbano
Thirty years ago this Labor Day weekend, I began my film writing studies under Peter Stowell, an English professor with Florida State University. I was taking the class Film Genres: Film Noir and the required reading was The Dark Side of the Screen: Film Noir, written by Foster Hirsch, who is a regular moderator with the Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival.
Beyond talking about cinematic motifs, acting and themes, Foster’s book reviews the literary influences of Film Noir and how many of these stories grew out of the original pulp fiction of the early 20th Century.
Released in 2005, Sin City, considered “Neo Noir,” was a natural extension of the literature of James Cain, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, or the 1940s movies starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Barbara Stanwyck as the femme fatale. Created from the graphic novels written by Frank Miller, wunderkind director Robert Rodriquez used green screen techniques and hired an all-star cast to recreate the mean streets of Sin City. A Sin City sequel has been one of the most anticipated movies of the decade.
Alas, with Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, one thinks about the time Rodriquez wasted with projects like Grindhouse, Machete Kills and the Spy Kids reboot. As fans clamored for the Sin City sequel, we mourned the loss of cast members Brittany Murphy and Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.
As the murderous henchman with impeccable manners, Dennis Haysbert does a commendable job as the younger version of Manute. His behemoth battle with Marv (Mickey Rourke) is better than what Frank Miller envisioned in his graphic novel. However, this is only one story of the four and there are stretches of dullness between each action set piece.
The movie opens with Another Saturday Night, which features Marv dealing with his amnesia and dead bodies. The film then introduces two new stories not produced as a graphic novel. In The Long Bad Night, Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a gambler with a death wish. The ghost of Bruce Willis returns in Nancy’s Last Dance, in which Jessica Alba avenges the loss of her protector. Sadly, these new stories are just not as interesting as Frank Miller’s original graphic novels.
Good Film Noir is a triumph of style over content. As Film Noir of the 1940s grew from literary giants, this “Neo Noir” has grown upon weak imitation of 1940s film noir. Sin City A Dame to Kill For does not live up to its potential.
For those seeking some literature before the professional football season begins, authors Darrell House, Rachel Galvin and I will be among the approximately 25 authors attending August Authors & Autographs this Sunday Afternoon at the Butler House. This event will feature the debut of my latest book, The Querulous Nights of Athena Minerva.