Miller and Tarantino ape the noir films of the forties and fifties. Originally noir was an attempt to develop interesting film without having to use the flash of big budget studio productions. This was accomplished by higher emphasis on acting talent and moral complexity rather then the expensive sets and celebrity (which is based on popularity, which is averse to moral complexity) of studio features. Noir shattered the idealized image of the squeaky clean good guy, and that idea was gradually accepted by the studios. Originally Tarantino and Rodriguez were part of a movement in the early nineties to shatter another idealized construct of the studios. They reintroduced the dark side of violence by portraying its effects graphically, an aspect often ignored by the action movies of the eighties. So in the early nineties there was genuine artistic merit to what they were doing. They were pioneers. They even acquire some intellectual credibility.
But what kind of evolution do movies like Kill Bill and Sin City represent? If anything they are a reversion.
Kill Bill is not even a movie: it’s a series of (samurai, cowboy and kung fu movie) motifs. There is no complexity, only imitation. It is a movie made for an institutionalized generation who constantly look for a set of rules set up by a surrogate parent authority to follow. In this case, it is the rules for making a movie that looks cool (according to Kurosawa, Leone, or Wu Ma).
Miller is even worse, imparting a clear quasi-libertarian morality (quasi because men, at least, are expected to fulfill chauvinistically defined roles, one of which is actively defending implicitly defenseless women). He clearly demarcates between those men secure in their narrowly and chauvinistically defined manhood and those that are insecure and dishonorable. And in Sin City it appears that only men are even capable of a choice between good and evil, degrading women to the status of objects that qualify a male as either honorable or dishonorable depending on whether he abuses or rescues. All ambiguity is extracted or ignored.
A good example of this is the resurrection of the Yellow Bastard. This world can’t be all that bad if a person that has been reduced to a Schiavo-esque state can be revived through medical science. And since Western Medicine has not relied on difficult to procure spices from The Orient nor ground body parts of dead Saints since medieval times, the fact that this amazing medical technology is not widely available demands an explanation. The failure to address this only makes the fact that these movies are just masturbatory adolescent fantasies with no real insight to offer even more obvious.
Now the reason some rightfully fear for the soul of anyone genuinely impressed by this schlock is that it reveals a propensity for rigid and regimented adherence to an asserted authority, a desire for simplicity while couching it in some pseudo-intellectual pondering on the significance of the violence, violence that has been stripped of all importance or relevance, rendering it pornographic. One should fear for the soul of these people the same as if they were cheering on Nicholas Cage in National Treasure (or at least reviewing it favorably as anything beyond mindless eye candy) because both reflect a certain callow emptiness. At best, a person who enjoyed this movie is a wanker titillated by the chauvinistic adolescent fantasy that it represents, at worst they are a tool easily manipulated into construing pornographic violence as a meaningful artistic statement, who is at heart afraid of ambiguity and nuance.
Apparently Josh is one of the people I’m worried about.