The night writer/director Robert Rodriguez discovered the Sin City graphic novel by Frank Miller, he sped down to his VFX studio to test if he could replicate the known style of the acclaimed graphic novel series. Less than a week later, Rodriguez had the opening scene shot, and ready to present to Frank Miller, and not long after we had Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2005).
Sin City heavily uses black and white, matching the illustration style of the graphic novel, as well as linking the film thematically to classic film noirs. While black and white are heavily used, colour is utilized as a tool to convey hidden subtextual meaning. In the opening scene, we meet a woman who wears a red dress named The Customer, who meets her fate at the hands of a man named The Salesman. This is purposely done to illustrate how corrupt and violent Basin City can be. This idea is reinforced when Marv wakes up to find Goldie dead in a bed, lying under a red silk sheet. In turn, this links Red with danger and death.
While blood is sometimes coloured Red, it is typically a luminous white. This is done to desensitse the audience, and to disengage them from the violence. In turn this puts the audience in a similar mindset to the enhabitents of Basin City.
Blue and yellow are also used throughout the film to associate characters with an idea or subtextual meaning. For instance, Becky’s blue eyes are initially done to convey a sense of innocence in her character. But later it would be revealed that she’s a traitor. The blue eyes, therefore, represent the idea that even the most innocent of people living in Basin City can be corrupted.
The main villain of the film, The Yellow Bastard, is a luminous yellow. Which is used to link with the character idea of something being unstable – i.e Uranium powder used in nuclear warheads. Furthermore, John Hartigan comments that The Yellow Bastard smells terrible and repulsive. The oozing yellow blood pouring out of The Yellow Bastard at times looks very similar to puss inside a boil or a pimple.
Since the film consists of multiple storylines, in a nonlinear fashion- similar to that of Pulp Fiction. The Strip Club and character Nancy Callahan acts as the link between all three stories. Marv is her protection in the strip club. John Hartigan saves Nancy from The Yellow Bastard, and Dwight is a regular at the club. This not only gives all three characters commonality but paints a portrait on Sin City’s metaphorical meaning.
In my opinion, Sin City at its heart reflects the idea that minorities in society are strong when united for a cause, compared to when they aren’t. Whether it be The Customer in the opening scene who dies, Nancy who is the victim of rape and attempted murder, or Goldie who is killed by Kevin after seeking protection from Marv. Given the cities violent and extremely corrupt nature, the female’s who act independently is almost always painted as the victim. Whereas female characters who unify themselves act with authority. Take The Girls of Old Town. They are a deadly gang of prostitutes who guard Old Town with their lives. Not even the police dare to enter Old Town, ultimately demonstrating the extent of The Girls’ authority. The Girls of Old Town are feared, and authoritative, illustrating the power a united front can have. When Becky betrays the Girls of Old Town in hopes of survival, she alienates herself, leaving her victim to The Salesman in the final scene.
Having The Salesman in the first scene, and the last scene implies that despite the events that have occurred throughout the film, Sin City hasn’t changed. It’s still as violent, as corrupt, and as deadly as before.