Friday, November 18, 2011
CANON OF FILM: "PULP FICTION"
PULP FICTION (1994)
“Pulp Fiction,” is possibly the most influential movie made in my lifetime. It’s certainly the most important film made in the ‘90s. You might be able to argue better movies, but not influential and importance. Watching it again recently, for the, whatever-nth time it’s been, I realize the movie gets more enjoyable with every viewing. The first viewing, I remember just being confused. I respected, and admired, and even liked a lot, but I didn’t quite realize the pure joy the movie brings. That’s a strange thing to say about a film that has shocking, unexpected blasts of gun violence. It’s fun. There’s a love of filmmaking that’s in every frame and it's what makes every Tarantino film so infectious. His creates amazing characters with great-sounding dialogue. It’s his gift, and he knows it, so then, he does other things to tease us. He doesn’t have to tell the story of “Pulp Fiction,” out of order, but he does to keep us slightly off-balanced. We don’t know, or sometimes can’t remember, exactly what’s going to happen next, but we know there some exciting things are going to happen. Take a second look at the Jack Rabbit Slims scene. First off, there’s the strange outline on the square that Mia (Oscar-nominee Uma Thurman) makes. Why is it there? Most theorize that its to let the audience know that the stories we’re about to see are stories, and are fiction. The title should tell us that. Maybe it’s because the movie’s been so violent and intense until then, that without it, people might take the film too seriously. We, then enter, what has to be the strangest, most bizarre, acid-induced restaurant in the history of film. Filled with strange anachronisms, and not simply costumes, but perfect imitations of cultural icons of the ‘50s. Would this have come off as realistic to anybody? No, but it’s inventive, and it’s different. Tarantino is insistent on surprise in the movie. This is actually strangely predictable compared to the unexpected ending of the scenario between Butch (Bruce Willis) and Marcellus (Ving Rhames). Butch is a boxer, who was supposed to throw a fight, that he not only won, he killed his opponent, and bet himself big to win all over town. He has to escape L.A. before Marcellus catches him, but unfortunately, his girlfriend (Maria de Medeiros) forgot to pack his gold watch. A very important and personal gold watch, we learned that earlier through one of the funniest and random monologues ever given in film by Christopher Walken, and we know, Butch must risk death in order to retrieve the watch. Yet, of all the outcomes of this situation, the last one would’ve been the ending we get, Butch and Marcellus tied up and gagged in the basement of a Redneck-Clansman type and his police officer friend, and their gimp, awaiting for death and rape. Yet, what does this scene tell us? It tells us that things will be difference for Marcellus from here on in. How different? We don’t know. We see him, one other time after, where he sends the Wolf (Harvey Keitel) to help Jules and Vincent (Oscar-nominees Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta, respectively), but this scene takes place in the past, so he’s not the guy he becomes. Strangely, Tarantino is insistent on letting us know what becomes of these characters. Butch leaves L.A., richer than before and never to return, Marcellus still runs his loansharking empire, his wife Mia, protects Vincent for saving her life during the movie’s most memorable sequence, (That whole sequence, done in a shot by shot analysis, could be an entire blog entire entry about twice as long as this article; there are so many little details in it to just analyze.) Vincent, however gets killed, while Jules retires to walk the Earth. Tarantino must care deeply about these characters, he cares enough to give them complete arcs, when he doesn’t even need to. It’s also part of the dialogue. That treasured dialogue Tarantino uses. Where other movies with writers and directors with less talent for dialogue simply have actors, usually repeat the plot or something like that, Tarantino has them talk about everything, from the famous, what’s a quarter-pounder with cheese called in France, to whether if a pig had more character the way a dog has, would it matter so much if he rolls in his own feces? Strange in a movie where people are constantly killed, or almost killed, that often talk about the most subtle nuances of life. What is it like to go to a McDonald’s in Amsterdam? If you don’t have that experience, you’d probably would be curious about it, even so much so that it could distract you just enough from your job as a vicious hitman to, think about all the burgers you’ve had. Tarantino once said that he thinks movies should have the same creative freedom as books do. A book is allowed to have any chronology it wants and can constantly change point-of-view, perspective, even the tense that its being written in, and it’s perfectly acceptable, but God forbid, a movie decides to play fast-and-loose with the three-act structure. Books can also have long stream-of-consciousness narrative and monologues in characters' heads that talk about how exactly they feel and think about every little thing. I wonder if Tarantino’s dialogue is simply his own personal diatribe on the meaning of life? While you’re thinking about that, think about how you feel when you’re trying to think of what to say next in your conversation, and ask whether you enjoy uncomfortable silences.
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino based on stories by Quentin Tarantino and Steve Avery