Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, One of the Best Movies Ever Made
What makes Pulp Fiction one of the best movies ever made?
Well, this certainly is a tricky question but let's look at the evidence.
Pulp Fiction is one of the best movies ever made because it had:-
- one of the best scripts ever written
- it had a cast that took chances - superstars rub shoulders with lesser-known character actors
- it played games with plotting - melding together 3 or 4 stories in a flawless way whilst also creating connections or degrees of separation between all of the characters in each story. It is a postmodernist movie which wears its style well.
- it has one of the best opening scenes in movie history - it shocks you, smashes and grabs you, fills your ears with an amazing song and then you better fasten your seatbelt because it's going to be the ride of a lifetime.
Pulp Fiction wrings every ounce of pop culture out of its various stories - Quentin Tarantino is a director with confidence in his audience. He might not have realised when he started that he was creating a masterpiece but by the time he'd watched the rushes, done the editing and picked up the Palm D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, he might have realised this was a very special movie.
He knows we'll get it!
Pulp Fiction Movie - Homage and Pastiche
Quentin Tarantino has said of Pulp Fiction "I always hope that if one million people see my movie, they see one million different movies."
These are the words of a brave director but also one who believes in himself and in his abilities to tell a good story.
Pulp Fiction is an homage to pulp fiction novels, honouring the pulp fiction novels and magazines of the last four decades. Originally, writers Tarantino and Avery wanted to call the movie, Black Mask, after the crime magazine of the same name. They decided against it realising that this movie was not just about crime.
Their original idea for Pulp Fiction was to base it on the ideas first seen in the 1963 movie, Black Sabbath but like all great things, Black Sabbath was only part of the story - Pulp Fiction features a lot of crime but there are drugs, some smooth dancing, some love interest, a case full of something (we never get to see what!), two young lovers with criminal intent but an idealised way of making it, a gangland boss with an interest in match fixing and we even get to see the 'back room guy' - the cleaner/the wolf (Harvey Keitel).
Pulp Fiction is nothing if not a mystery. It is both homage and pastiche - as a pastiche, it steals the best from film noir, black comedy and is first and foremost a postmodernist movie, it borrows from a range of styles from the past and near past both in its cinematic qualities and in its script and plotting.
Still photographs from the movie are only obviously from our era because we know the actors. Just for fun I have created some black and white shots from the original colour shots and you can see in these the classic stylistic qualities of film noir - they are suddenly from the 1940s not the 1990s.
WARNING - Profane language throughout
Prologue - Two Young Lovers Try To Hold Up A Fast Food Place
The opening scene of Pulp Fiction finds us in a fast food place in the throes of a conversation between two young people, 'Honey Bunny' (Amanda Plummer) and 'Pumpkin' (Tim Roth). Pumpkin really loves Honey Bunny and Honey Bunny is absolutely besotted with Pumpkin - she would do anything for Pumpkin.
He is not a criminal mastermind and he is trying to explain to Honey Bunny that they need to reconsider their criminal hits on licquor stores and gas stations.
"Nobody ever robs restaurants. Why not?" and so begins his plan for the two of them to rob this restaurant - the one in which they sit and drink their coffee.
"I bet you could cut down on the hero factor in a place like this." Honey Bunny says and eventually they talk one another into holding up the restaurant.
He needs her to not get panicky. He needs her to follow the plan, they will get some money - lots of money from the tills and from the people in the restaurant.
But Tarantino lingers on Honey Bunny's face; her eyes, her longing for Pumpkin. He lingers on her too thankful face when the waitress gives her more free coffee, her weirdness, her body movements. He unsettles us with her body language whilst filling our ears with Pumpkin's take on life and crime.
These two lovers are thrill seekers and are about to commit a crime in a fast food restaurant during breakfast time.
Hang onto your hats folks - this is just the beginning of this movie and we're about to be thrown into this director's maelstrom...or are we?
There's a reason this is one of the best movies ever made - you never know what's coming next.
Story 1 - Vince Vega and Jules Winnfield Go To See A Man About A Case
We have no sooner been thrust into the criminal lives of Pumpkin than Honey Bunny than Tarantino cuts away with some brilliant music to the credits for Pulp Fiction and then we are in the company of Jules Winnfield (Samuel L Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), two guys on their way up to an apartment and having a conversation about a colleague who has been thrown over a balcony by their boss, Marsellus Wallace for giving Marsellus' wife Mia a foot massage.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avery's script where the dialogue to move things forward is intermingled with small talk. Some critics have said that this is self-indulgent but personally, I find the small talk quite funny and it develops the characters even more. We know that Vincent has spent many months in Amsterdam and that McDonald's meals have different names there. Jules finds this stuff fascinating and repeats Vincent's foreign names for a quarterponder with a smile and a nod of agreement.
So Tarantino creates two characters who seem ok but we know by their clothes (black suits, white shirt, black tie) that they are in business somehow - but their dialogue is full of gossip and foreign fast food. Tarantino makes us want to know Jules and Vince.
And then he puts them in a room full of teenagers. Now they do look out of place. The teenagers are dressed like teenagers and they are eating fast food. Jules helps himself to a bit of the 'big Kahuna Burger' belonging to one of them - "that is one tasty burger"
And then Jules and Vince get out their guns.....
Story 2 - Butch Agrees To Throw A Fight for Marsellus Wallace
....So for now, we are not going to get to find out what Vince and Jules are up to, but don't worry, they'll be back.
Pulp Fiction is a movie with a fractured timeline, you will find yourself in the present, then back in the past, then back in the present, then in a different story in the present, then back to a different story's past.
But don't worry - you won't get lost off or have to rewind to remind yourself what happened - all of the stories will join together at some point - yup, all of them.
Butch (Bruce Willis) is a boxer in a conversation with Marsellus Wallace. Marsellus is telling him to throw the fight in a certain round. Bruce takes possession of a large envelpe full of bills - Bruce goes back to the bar for a drink.
Sitting at the bar? Vince Vega (this time without Jules).
But Butch doesn't throw the fight - he decides that this is his pride at stake and so, in this last fight, he places a wager on himself to win and he does just that but he also kills the other guy.
Marsellus is very, very unhappy but that's a different story....
Story 3 - Vince Is Sent to 'Mind' Marsellus' Wife
....Vince has to see Marsellus about something.
Marsellus wants Vince to take his wife Mia out dancing. Vince has only just heard that Marsellus threw another of his henchmen over a balcony for massaging Mia's feet so Vince is a little bit worried about Mia.
Will Mia come onto him? Will he end up being thrown over a balcony?
To take the edge off Vince goes to see his drug dealer, Lance for some heroin. He shoots up at Lance's house and then drives to Marsellus' house to pick up Mia for the date.
They go to JackRabbit Slim's a new 50s style diner and they eat burgers, talk a little bit and then they win the dance contest.
Vince takes Mia home and throws his jacket on the chair whilst he goes to the bathroom.
Mia finds his drugs and thinking its cocaine, takes a deep snort. She goes into overdose shock and Vince returns to the room to find her in dire need of an adrenalin shot.
A race across town in his convertible with the unconscious Mia is all filmed in a staccato way by Tarantino and you are hoping he can get help. Lance is reluctant but they finally make it and Vince injects the adrenalin straight into Mia's heart.
He saves her life and drops her off home....
WARNING - Profanity Alert!!!
Prologue - Everything Explained
Keeping up? Good!
While Vince recovers from Mia's overdose, Butch plans his escape from town. Marsellus Wallace is already looking for him.
The next episode of this fractured timeline sees Vince blows their informant's head off in the back of their car and Butch get lost in the wrong part of town whilst trying to escape from Marsellus.
So Pulp Fiction is one of the best movies ever made because it is about 6 or 7 different incidences arising from 3 or 4 storylines.
You don't get time to ever, ever get bored. You are a voyeur of all of the characters lives and you will warm to all of them and accept that they are good and bad people with good and bad attributes.
Situations in these people's lives are not like ours - because they live on the wrong side of the law. Crime is their life - Butch is trying to escape from a life as a mediocre boxer whose father died in Vietnam. All Butch ever wanted was for his dad to be proud of him and so he takes his own path to make good.
Jules and Vince are assassins working for a tough gangland boss with a pretty wife and a bad temper.
They have blood sprayed all over their car because Vince accidentally kills Marvin in the back of their car. They have just survived a rain of bullets from three different guns and every bullet misses them.
Jules decides that he's done with crime and he's 'gonna walk the earth.....like Kane' but then he went and got coffee from a fast food restaurant about to be held up by two inept robbers.
Interested yet? If you haven't seen Pulp Fiction, then you should but if you don't like violence, profanity and sexual references, give it a miss!
If you want to see one of the best movies ever made, then get it on DVD and watch it - you will not be sorry. You get to the end and want to press START all over again.
Thanks for reading!
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