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One of the early scenes in "Pulp Fiction" features two hit-men
discussing what a Big Mac is called in other countries. Their dialogue
is witty and entertaining, and it's also disarming, because it makes
these two thugs seem all too normal. If you didn't know better, you
might assume these were regular guys having chit-chat on their way to
work. Other than the comic payoff at the end of the scene, in which
they use parts of this conversation to taunt their victims, their talk
has no relevance to anything in the film, or to anything else, for that
matter. Yet without such scenes, "Pulp Fiction" wouldn't be "Pulp
Fiction." I get the sense that Tarantino put into the film whatever
struck his fancy, and somehow the final product is not only coherent
but wonderfully textured.
It's no wonder that fans spend so much time debating what was in the suitcase, reading far more into the story than Tarantino probably intended. The film is so intricately structured, with so many astonishing details, many of which you won't pick up on the first viewing, that it seems to cry out for some deeper explanation. But there is no deeper explanation. "Pulp Fiction," is, as the title indicates, purely an exercise in technique and style, albeit a brilliant and layered one. Containing numerous references to other films, it is like a great work of abstract art, or "art about art." It has all the characteristics we associate with great movies: fine writing, first-rate acting, unforgettable characters, and one of the most well-constructed narratives I've ever seen in a film. But to what end? The self-contained story does not seem to have bearing on anything but itself.
The movie becomes a bit easier to understand once you realize that it's essentially a black comedy dressed up as a crime drama. Each of the three main story threads begins with a situation that could easily form the subplot of any standard gangster movie. But something always goes wrong, some small unexpected accident that causes the whole situation to come tumbling down, leading the increasingly desperate characters to absurd measures. Tarantino's originality stems from his ability to focus on small details and follow them where they lead, even if they move the story away from conventional plot developments.
Perhaps no screenplay has ever found a better use for digressions. Indeed, the whole film seems to consist of digressions. No character ever says anything in a simple, straightforward manner. Jules could have simply told Yolanda, "Be cool and no one's going to get hurt," which is just the type of line you'd find in a generic, run-of-the-mill action flick. Instead, he goes off on a tangent about what Fonzie is like. Tarantino savors every word of his characters, finding a potential wisecrack in every statement and infusing the dialogue with clever pop culture references. But the lines aren't just witty; they are full of intelligent observations about human behavior. Think of Mia's statement to Vincent, "That's when you know you've found somebody special: when you can just shut the f--- up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence."
What is the movie's purpose exactly? I'm not sure, but it does deal a lot with the theme of power. Marsellus is the sort of character who looms over the entire film while being invisible most of the time. The whole point of the big date sequence, which happens to be my favorite section of the film, is the power that Marsellus has over his men without even being present. This power is what gets Vincent to act in ways you would not ordinarily expect from a dumb, stoned gangster faced with an attractive woman whose husband has gone away. The power theme also helps explain one of the more controversial aspects of the film, its liberal use of the N-word. In this film, the word isn't just used as an epithet to describe blacks: Jules, for instance, at one point applies the term to Vincent. It has more to do with power than with race. The powerful characters utter the word to express their dominance over weaker characters. Most of these gangsters are not racist in practice. Indeed, they are intermingled racially, and have achieved a level of equality that surpasses the habits of many law-abiding citizens in our society. They resort to racial epithets because it's a patter that establishes their separateness from the non-criminal world.
There's a nice moral progression to the stories. We presume that Vincent hesitates to sleep with Mia out of fear rather than loyalty. Later, Butch's act of heroism could be motivated by honor, but we're never sure. The film ends, however, with Jules making a clear moral choice. Thus, the movie seems to be exploring whether violent outlaws can act other than for self-preservation.
Still, it's hard to find much of a larger meaning tying together these eccentric set of stories. None of the stories are really "about" anything. They certainly are not about hit-men pontificating about burgers. Nor is the film really a satire or a farce, although it contains elements of both. At times, it feels like a tale that didn't need to be told, but for whatever reason this movie tells it and does a better job than most films of its kind, or of any other kind.
To put this in context, I am 34 years old and I have to say that this is the best film I have seen without doubt and I don't expect it will be beaten as far as I am concerned. Obviously times move on, and I acknowledge that due to its violence and one particularly uncomfortable scene this film is not for everyone, but I still remember watching it for the first time, and it blew me away. Anyone who watches it now has to remember that it actually changed the history of cinema. In context- it followed a decade or more of action films that always ended with a chase sequence where the hero saved the day - you could have written those films yourself. Pulp had you gripped and credited the audience with intelligence. There is not a line of wasted dialogue and the movie incorporates a number of complexities that are not immediately obvious. It also resurrected the career of Grease icon John Travolta and highlighted the acting talent of Samuel L Jackson. There are many films now that are edited out of sequence and have multiple plots etc but this is the one they all want to be, or all want to beat, but never will.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you think "Pulp Fiction" is brilliant, you're wrong. It's more than that. It's a milestone in the history of film making. It's already a classic. But why? Because of the many "f" words, or maybe because of the brain and skull pieces on the rear window of a car? No, that's surely not the point (unfortunately some other users - fortunately the minority - don't get it). Tarantino has made a movie that's someway different from many other action, gangster or crime movies. What's so different? He knows the subject of the movie is "cool", he knows it's a product of mass culture, and he even likes it by himself. But he smiles at it and tells three great stories with a lot of irony. And this irony is the first point. The second point is that he gave souls to extremely schematic characters. They surely aren't another action heroes who you forget as fast as you can twinkle. They are human beings like we are, talking about Burger King and McDonalds, about TV series and a foot massage. They just earn their money with killing others or selling drugs. What else is so great about "Pulp Fiction"? It's the acting, the directing, the cinematography, the soundtrack, the sense of humour and the whole rest. In my opinion it's all worth nothing less than a 10 out of 10. A masterpiece.
Pulp Fiction may be the single best film ever made, and quite appropriately it is by one of the most creative directors of all time, Quentin Tarantino. This movie is amazing from the beginning definition of pulp to the end credits and boasts one of the best casts ever assembled with the likes of Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth and Christopher Walken. The dialog is surprisingly humorous for this type of film, and I think that's what has made it so successful. Wrongfully denied the many Oscars it was nominated for, Pulp Fiction is by far the best film of the 90s and no Tarantino film has surpassed the quality of this movie (although Kill Bill came close). As far as I'm concerned this is the top film of all-time and definitely deserves a watch if you haven't seen it.
Viewers are taken on a ride through three different stories that entertwine together around the world of Marcellus Wallace. Quentin Tarantino proves that he is the master of witty dialogue and a fast plot that doesn't allow the viewer a moment of boredom or rest. From the story of two hit-man on a job, to a fixed boxing match to a date between a hit-man and the wife of a mob boss. There was definitely a lot of care into the writing of the script, as everything no matter the order it is in, fits with the story. Many mysteries have been left such as what is inside of the briefcase and why Marcellus Wallace has a band-aid on the back of his neck, which may be connected. The movie redefined the action genre and reinvigorated the careers of both John Travolta and Bruce Willis. This movie is required viewing for any fan of film.
My oh my. "Pulp Fiction" is one of those roller-coasters of a movie. It is both a joy and a trial to sit through. Amazingly original and unforgettable, Quentin Tarantino's trash masterpiece never gets old or seem outdated. It put a face on American independent film making in 1994. Miramax had been around since the 1970s and no one had heard of it before this film. Studios went into a panic when this film came out because they knew it would be an amazing hit. Of course it was. Independent film making became the rage and hit its peak in 1996 when four of the five nominated Best Picture films were from independent studios. The screenplay and direction by Tarantino are quite amazing, but the cast makes the film work. John Travolta (Oscar nominated) re-invented his career with this film. Bruce Willis cemented his celebrity. Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman (both Oscar nominees) became marketable superstars. Others who make appearances include: Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken, Eric Stoltz, Rosanna Arquette, Steve Buscemi, Frank Whaley, Harvey Keitel, and of course Quentin Tarantino himself. They all leave lasting impressions as well. Samuel L. Jackson stood out the most to me, his lack of substantial screen time may have cost him the Oscar. Just an amazing accomplishment, all involved deserve recognition. Easily 5 stars out of 5.
Tarantino is without a doubt one of the best directors of all time and
the best of the 90's. His first film, Reservoir Dogs was amazing and
claustrophobic, his segment in Four Rooms was by far the greatest (even
though Rodriguez's was excellent too)and Jackie Brown is a wonderful homage
to the Blaxploitation films of the 70's. However, Pulp Fiction remains my
It was nominated for so many Oscars that I still find it hard to believe that it only got one: Best original script. I'm not complaining because Forrest Gump got best picture, since that film was also Oscar-worthy, but come on, movies like Tarantino's or the Shawshank Redemption deserved much more.
Anyway, going back to the movie, I particularly liked the first and second chapters, and that's really a contradiction because one of the movie's finest characters, Mr. Wolf, appears on the third. Bruce Willis also does a great job, and as far as I'm concerned he fell in love with the movie right after having read the script. I like the way his character gives a "tough guy" image at the beginning and then we discover he's so affectionate and tender to his wife. Travolta is obviously the star of the movie and his second encounter with Bruce Willis in the kitchen along with the scene where he dances with Uma Thurman is when the movie reaches it's highest point.
The other star is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a wise assassin that obviously knows how to handle situations. "And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger..." is my favourite quote.
Summarizing, Pulp Fiction is a modern classic and a must-see for anyone who is at least aware of what a movie is. I give it a 9 out of 10.
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction is a terrific film. It also gets
better with each viewing, especially if one of those happens to be on a
big theatrical screen where all of the BIG compositions get bigger and
more detailed. How much else is there to talk about it after all these
years? It's filled with dynamite, sudden and always interesting action,
great and naturally clever dialogue, and memorable characters. Also,
the acting is always something to behold as by turns straightforward,
over the top, subtle, and just downright menacing and spot-on. The
directing is one of the strongest that we've seen from Tarantino, as he
makes his choices in pacing with shots in unconventional ways but never
in a way that would be distracting. And writing, already noted, has
been copied by many, and only equaled by a select few.
The dance sequence. Samuel L. Jackson's superlative monologuing. It has loyalty among low lifes, and many other odd characters that are all bad and not one is a villain or hero. And somehow even after years of parody and terrible rip-offs, it holds its own and- as one can say after seeing it at a midnight screening- holds its audience as much as it had the countless times before they saw it (or if they are, the first time). The first time you're surprised, the second time you look for the clues or other ambiguity, and then the third time you laugh you head off. The fourth time... I'll leave to you.
I just finished screening this movie for the first time after putting
it off for a number of years because of what seemed like equivocating
appraisals from some of my friends. In hindsight, however, it seems to
me that while the movie must have definitely bowled them over, overall
they weren't sure exactly what to make of it or how to articulate what
were probably a confused mix of feelings. But I am so impressed that I
feel compelled to add a few specific observations to the many fine
reviews already on this database.
First, this movie hits you with an impact somewhere in between, say, APOCALYPSE NOW and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and for some people may be just as disturbing (however, in this respect I am happy to report I didn't think it rose to the level of NATURAL BORN KILLERS). Full of graphically violent action and language, PULP FICTION is not a picture for everyone - I would definitely not recommend it to my parents, born in the 1930's (even to my one fairly "hip" relative of the same generation who, at age 66, still teaches high school sex education and likes to talk about things like sunbathing nude, among other potentially sensitive issues).
Irrespective of audience sensibilities, however, the film-makers, supported by superb acting in every role, manage to create a world full of the most fascinating sleazy characters possibly ever to appear on screen. From Travolta's pronounced almost-child-like curiosity about the world to Jackson's sincere and thoughtful philosophical ruminating and Willis's deep devotion to the memory of his father, I think such fascination lies not only in the characters' personalities as they are portrayed but in the way they tantalize the viewer into considering the possibility that such people could actually exist. As a lawyer of some years' experience dealing with all sorts of people I was particularly drawn to this aspect of the film.
Thus, and in response to some other reviewers' comments, I think this movie is more character-driven than plot-driven. Instead of a story peopled by basically weakly developed characters employed primarily as a mere device to move the plot along, as is too frequently the case in the movies (especially these days), the undeniably strong, clever, and unpredictable plot lines in PULP FICTION are actually of essentially secondary interest and importance, serving primarily as vehicles to get you worried about the fate of characters you can't help caring about despite the truly low attributes that otherwise form the basis for their respective personas. As at least one other reviewer noted, when the film ends you are actually disappointed, left craving more of these crazy people and their explosive lives.
Finally, and as strange as it may sound, this film reminds me of another Monumentally Great Film which one would never typically associate with it in any way in a million years - CASABLANCA. As in that film made way back in 1942, and as another reviewer has suggested, perhaps its special appeal - its unusually high degree of emotional impact - lies in its distinctly successful simultaneous application of several different genres in a single film - drama, action, dark humor - with the whole thing bound together by essentially flawless execution in every department. And while CASABLANCA is no doubt clearly much more wholesome and high-minded, like the older film PULP FICTION is not without a pronounced theme of redemption, even if it is not as strongly felt, considering all the later film's sleaze and violence.
In sum, when people say that this is probably the best film of the 1990's, it is easy to see why. Fundamentally a truly outstanding movie, it is a must-see for anyone who considers themself a film buff and can handle graphic subject matter.
(Incidentally, if you would like a more toned-down, much more overtly humorous and less serious picture with a not-altogether dissimilar look and feel, don't miss another 1990's Travolta picture, GET SHORTY.)
That's what this 1994 film is, a tour de force cinematic expression by
Quentin Tarantino. A film with which Tarantino staked his claim to the
title of genuine Hollywood wunderkind, auteur, young genius, all ala
Orson Welles. Pretty heady stuff.
By what means? First, with a snappy script with witty if not cerebral give-and-take dialog, written mainly by Tarantino himself. Then, by populating the cast with an intriguing hand-picked array of actors to deliver those well-written snappy lines. This film oozes inspired casting, of actors who either played against type or at least became offbeat and edgy in ways in which we hadn't hitherto known them. Then, through the editing process, by telling the story in a maximum non-linear way, out of time, reducing the film to a series of seeming disjointed non-sequential vignettes, each vignette featuring the aforementioned snappy dialog delivered by the aforementioned hand-picked edgy actors. It is only after watching the entirety of the movie, and reflecting back on it, does the gestalt emerge for the viewer. And, it may take more than one viewing to get there. Then, lastly, by topping it all off with a snazzy soundtrack. That's how. Add all that stuff together and you get Pulp Fiction.
The film received its share of acclaim, and deservedly so. But that said, while seen by most as a good film, Pulp Fiction is not regarded as another Citizen Kane, and Pulp Fiction is not ensconced in the pantheon of the greatest of the great Hollywood films of all time. Those are for a reason. As good a cinematic achievement as Pulp Fiction is, the fact is that as a film it plows turf that's just way too coarse for comfort. Over-the-top blood, guts, and brains-blown-out violence. Gritty gutter language. Subject matter dwelling in the underbelly of life that goes way beyond seedy or unseemly. And it's all presented in a very graphic way. Some people really like it that way. Hey, I understand. That's what Tarantino wanted too, right? But the simple fact is that such fare isn't for everyone. Period. In this way its own intentional and unrelenting coarse nature is what self-selects it out of the greatness category. To achieve greatest of the greats greatness it has to be seen that way across the board, amongst every audience. Pulp Fiction by Tarantino's design isn't intended to appeal to everyone.
And whither Tarantino? That's the real question. His career didn't actually begin with Pulp Fiction, what with the auspicious start he made a couple of years earlier with Reservoir Dogs (1992). And Pulp Fiction of course certainly wasn't his last film. The Kill Bills, Vol. I and Vol. II, 2003 and 2004 respectively, were noteworthy and ambitious projects. And Jackie Brown (1997) made its mark too. But let's be honest here. When it comes to Tarantino it looks more and more like Pulp Fiction is as good as it gets. And he hasn't moved much beyond dwelling on the coarseness in any appreciable way. In fact, he's still earnestly tilling that soil. And getting less and less out of it too, if Grindhouse (2007) is any measure (and most will say it is a measure). Of course at his age he has the potential of many more films in him screaming to get out, but unless he evolves in some new directions, unless he stretches himself in some new and different ways as a storyteller, Pulp Fiction may end up being his magnum opus. Which isn't a terrible thing. Pulp Fiction is a remarkable movie. But, hey, we thought there'd be more.
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