Pulp Fiction Introducing a film such as Quentin Tarantinos Pulp Fiction takes much patience and significant artistry with words.
Tarantinos work is an audacious, outrageous look at honor among lowlifes, told in a somewhat radical style overlapping a handful of separate stories. “Quentin Tarantino is the Jerry Lee Lewis of cinema, a pounding performer who doesnt care if he tears up the piano, as long as everybody is rocking” (R.Ebert). Introducing a film such as Quentin Tarantinos Pulp Fiction takes much patience and significant artistry with words. Tarantinos work is an audacious, outrageous look at honor among lowlifes, told in a somewhat radical style overlapping a handful of separate stories.
“Quentin Tarantino is the Jerry Lee Lewis of cinema, a pounding performer who doesnt care if he tears up the piano, as long as everybody is rocking” (R.Ebert). The title is perfect. Like those old pulp magazines named “Thrilling Wonder Stories” and “Official Detective”, the film creates a world where there are no normal people and no ordinary days; where breathless prose clatters down fire escapes and leaps into the dumpster. Or at least there are no ordinary days for those who dont consider tactless and accidental murder to be part of their everyday agenda and occupation. The characters in this film separate societal normality from personal normality. For example, Jackson and Travolta are magnetic as a pair of hit-men who have philosophical debates on a regular basis.
These characters continue to think that theyre “just doing their job” and that there jobs are for the same purpose as any body elses job – to get paid and then to, in return, pay the bills. Societal norms push the audience to believe that these characters along with Ving Rhames, (Marsellus Wallace), are misfits and should be “taken care of”. Tarantino starts us off with a dual definition of “pulp” one being “a soft, moist, shapeless, mass of matter” and two being “a book containing lurid subject matter, and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper”. This introduces the audience to the presentation of the film. Its segmented structure is Tarantinos way of playing with the audiences perceptions. The entertainment throughout Pulp Fiction is scintillating, it captures the audience and forces them to piece the segments together in order to form one complete story.
Hence the title containing the word “pulp” and the product being “rough” and somewhat “unfinished” to the viewer. This voluble, violent, pumped-up movie isnt for every taste, not for the squeamish, but its got more vitality than almost any other film of 1994. The screenplay by Tarantino and Avary is so well written in a psoriatic yet potent way that youll want to rub noses in it – the noses of all those zombie writers who take “screenwriting classes that teach them the formulas for writing “hit films”. Pulp Fiction is constructed in such a nonlinear way that you could see it a dozen times and not be able to remember what comes next.
It doubles back on itself telling several interlocking stories about characters who inhabit a world of crime and intrigue, triple-crosses and desperation. Vincent Vega (Travolta) and partner Jules Winnfield (Jackson) are a couple of mid-level hit-men who carry out assignments for a mob boss. We see them first on their way to a violent showdown discussing such mysteries as why in Paris they have a French word for Quarter Pounders. Theyre as innocent in their way as Huck and Jim, floating down the Mississippi and speculating on how foreigners can possibly understand each other. Vinces and Jules careers are a series of assignments that they cant quite handle.
Especially Travoltas character, not only does he kill people inadvertently (“The car hit a bump”) but he doesnt know how to clean up after himself. Good thing the two of them know people like Mr. Wolf (Harvey Keitel) who specializes in messes; and has friends like Lance (Eric Stoltz) who owns a “big medical encyclopedia” for emergency situations. Uma Thurman can tell you about those medical procedures.
Bruce Willis is compelling as a crooked boxer whose plan to take it on the lam hits a few detours. Butch Coolidge (Willis) is supposed to throw a fight but bails and looses Marsellus (Rhames) a lot of loot. Butch and his girly are to ditch town ASAP but first he needs to make a dangerous trip back to his apartment for a valuable family heirloom. The history of this heirloom is described through a flashback dream narrated by Christopher Walken, a Vietnam veteran.
Walkens dialogue build to the movies biggest laugh. The method of the movie is to involve its characters in sticky situations, and then let them escape into sticker ones, which is how the boxer and mob boss end up together as the captives of weird leather freaks in the basement of a pawn shop. Or how the characters who open the movie, a couple of stick-up artists (Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) get in way over their heads. Most of the action in the movie comes under the heading of “crisis control”. If the situations are inventive and original, so is the dialogue. A lot of films these days use flat, functional speech; The characters say only enough to advance the plot.
The characters in Pulp Fiction are in love with words for their own sake. Many of them dont listen but wait to talk. The dialogue is off the wall at times and some things seem to be said at peculiar moments where the “normal” movie viewer might not make complete sense of it, but thats the fun. The movie is like an excursion through the lurid images that lie wound up and trapped inside all those boxes on the Blockbuster shelves. Tarantino once described the old pulp magazines as cheap, disposable entertainment that you could take to work with you rolled up and stuck in your back pocket. Yeah, and not be able to wait for lunch so that you could start reading them again.
Quentin Tarantino, the creator of the lethal thrillers, “True Romance” and “Reservoir Dogs” returns with his most thrilling …