Monday, April 04, 2005

Pulp Fiction 1

no joke...

No seriously, the buzz about Mickey Rourke as Marv in the cinematic Sin City is deserved. The comparisons of the flick to Pulp Fiction are not. Sure there’s a trio of main stories (with interstitial implications of others ) and both flicks embrace pulp sources but Q’s joint extrapolated the Elmore-like gab, filtered it through Woo and Leone and tinted it with Blaxploitation. Rodriguez translates Frank Miller’s words and imagery much too slavishly. No dig, the imagery is, for the most part, astounding in it’s accuracy but, too often, sadly static . Comic geeks know that the dynamism implied by frames get filled in by the reader… cinema should be showing that implied movement and rhythm. It’s as if Rodriguez stayed with the given framing so that we can 'ooh' and 'ahh' over the accuracy but I would rather be overwhelmed with cuts, odd angles and, oh hell yeah, camera movement… I would have loved to have seen the brilliant Miller frames linked to each other within ONE camera shot. Homage but interpretation.

The dialogue is a bit too artificial as well. I know, I know… It’s meta-hyper-stylized… the remix of the remix… of tough-guy-fiction interior-monologue and setting dames straight (with the predictable slap as punctuation). Mostly leaden, awkward, repetitive phrasing does not work if you’re smirking like Bruce Willis. (Note for contrast, Tarantino’s use of Willis’ smirk to excellent effect with Butch’s ‘Pulp Fiction’ lines). Following Miller’s text does a disservice to the story’s ‘subterranean’ tone by taking me out of the scene. Written dialogue is often altered on set when actors have to say the lines comfortably if not, I’ll concede, naturally. Cartoonish artifice can work, however, if an actor can deliver it sincerely. Rourke’s performance ably demonstrates his commitment to ‘Marv’ and the tone of the source book. His performance actually INCREASES the comedy of the pill-popping psycho especially when paired with the dead-pan voice-over. The initial escape scene becomes laughably extreme when seen on screen and the calm narration only ups the ridiculousness. In the comic-book, I could never tell if Marv was smiling or grimacing and I couldn’t match his expression with the things he was saying… but Rourke brings it to life… his smile expressing his new found freedom of purpose and not just the glee of punishment. If I were to compare Pulp Fiction to Sin City I would hope that John Travolta’s career resuscitation in the earlier film has similar repercussions for Rourke. 'Sin City' could be his Goldie.