Pulp Fiction (1994): Quentin Tarantino's brash, homage-laden depiction of Americana

The Quintessential Tarantinoesque extravaganza

A Potpourri of Vestiges Guest Review

By Jade Waddy

Featured in IMDb Critic Reviews

Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino, starring John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, and Harvey Keitel.
Pulp Fiction (1994) By Quentin Tarantino
IMDb Ratings: 9.0
GenreCrime | Drama | Thriller
CastJohn Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson
Country: USA
Language: English | Spanish | French
Runtime: 154 min
Color: Color



Summary: The lives of two mob hit men, a boxer, a gangster's wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.

Probably one of the more weighty jewels in Quentin Tarantino’s Crown, Pulp Fiction debuted in Cannes in 1994 as a shining example of the brash, homage-laden Americana that has now become a staple of the auteur's film-making tool box. Also Pulp Fiction is his most critically acclaimed film to date not only winning the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes (Fun Fact: 1994 was also the year Kevin Smith made his film-making debut with Clerks) but also garnering as many as seven Academy Award nominations including those for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture.

John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction
In the words of the maker of Pulp Fiction Quentin Tarantino, "We had $8 million. I wanted it to look like a $20–25 million movie. I wanted it to look like an epic. It's an epic in everything—in invention, in ambition, in length, in scope, in everything except the price tag." The film itself, he so boldly says, was filmed "on 50 ASA film stock, which is the slowest stock they make. The reason we use it is that it creates an almost no-grain image, it's lustrous. It's the closest thing we have to '50s Technicolor.” And the most extravagant part of the budget? $150,000, which went to towards creating the Jack Rabbit Slim's set where the film's world renowned famous dance scene takes place. The set came alive in a warehouse, where several other of the film's sets (as well as the production offices) joined it. For the amazing costumes costumes, Tarantino took divine inspiration from the French director Jean-Pierre Melville, who liked to think that the costumes were in fact “symbolic suits of armour”.


A Still from Pulp Fiction: Jack Rabbit Slim's set
The screenplay, by Tarantino and Roger Avary, is so well written that the nonlinear way that the story is presented to you, you could see it a dozen times and not be able to remember what comes next and still revel in its surprising twist and turns and gasp in the moments of savage violence. It doubles back on itself with Tim Roth’s diner heist book ending the story, while the bulk of the film tells several interlocking stories about characters who inhabit a seedy world which spans the whole socioeconomic spectrum from crime lords and their trophy wives to the worried girlfriend of an ageing sportsman in to deep. Tarantino crossed the normally mutually exclusive genres of action and drama to create a world where the mundane and the bizarre can sit opposite each other and eat breakfast and no one bats a eyelid because the world has been sculpted to such an extent that you believe these characters actually exist as real people (or you at least wished they did).


Tim Roth's diner heist, pumpkin and honey bunny, Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
A Still from Pulp Fiction: Tim Roth's diner heist
Pulp Fiction not only rejuvenates aging genres made stagnant by the bland, pastel toned, soft focused love stories and the new wave horror franchises of the '80s but also a few careers. Most notably for John Travolta who had aged out of the roles that made him famous. Bruce Willis falls into this category but to lesser extent after being immensely popular from the Die Hard films he had made a few bad choices and was close to joining Travolta in the hall of marginally remembered actors. The rest of a cast is pretty much a no brainer drawing from his already substantial stable of go to actors with Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel and adding the soon to be staples of said stable Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman. Tarantino cast himself (as usual) in a modest-sized role as he had in Reservoir Dogs, a trend that continued up until his most recent films.

Tarantino's Cameo, Mr. Wolf, Harvey Keitel, in Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction
The crux of Pulp Fiction is to involve its characters in tight spots, and then letting them escape into tighter ones, which is how the boxer and the mob boss end up after a serendipitous meeting at some traffic lights together as the captives of a racist and his, for lack of a better term, ‘pet’ in the basement of a gun shop. Or how the characters that open the movie, a couple of thieves who get in way over their heads. Most of the action in the movie comes under the heading of crisis control or just plain bad luck.


Bruce Willis as Boxer, boxing night, Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Bruce Willis in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction
The situations are laden with homage but are ultimately tales of Tarantino’s own design with the homage playing more the part of an in joke that only people who love film as much as he does will get, the dialogue follows a similar tact. A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot and not a lot else  because nowadays movies are more about spectacle than story. The dialogue by Tarantino and Avary is a little eccentric at times, but that's the fun. It also means that the characters have very distinct voices: Travolta is laid back in a perpetual opium haze, Jackson is sharp and focused, Keitel uses the shorthand of a man who has done his job for too long for anyone to evee tell him how to do it, and Thurman whose waifish exterior belies her cleverness.

Uma Thruman as gangster's ravishing wife, Pulp Fiction, Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Uma Thurman in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction
As the preface suggests watching Pulp Fiction for the first time is special: it sets the tone for a lot of films that we see today whether its dialogue, production design or narrative structure. It was a forerunner in the independent film movement of the '90s and the fact that I’m writing about it 19 years later is a testament to how vital this film was to not only movies but also popular culture as a whole.

About Author - 

Jade Waddy works for an exciting new free independent film network for indie filmmakers, Mutinee, to upload, share, rate, and comment on videos with the aim of bringing filmmakers together to create great videos to showcase to the rest of the world. The views expressed by the author are personal.

Readers, please feel free to share your opinion by leaving your comments. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!  

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5 comments:

  1. A great review for a great film, Ali. First class job,mate. A Smashing read.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jay, I couldn't have agreed more about the movie... it's indeed great. As far as the review goes, I am really glad that you liked it... but the credit must go to Jade, the guest reviewer, who took the pain of writing such a well researched review!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. When i think about this movie , following are the words that comes to my mind : Cult Classic , Epic , a masterpiece , Awesome.
    The dialogues are simply top-notch. One of them is " Jules says : I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way."...hahaha :D
    Every single thing about this movie is just class apart! :)
    Well written review.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When i think about this movie , following are the words that comes to my mind : Cult Classic , Epic , a masterpiece , Awesome. The dialogues are simply top-notch. One of them is " Jules says : I wouldn't go so far as to call a dog filthy but they're definitely dirty. But, a dog's got personality. Personality goes a long way."...hahaha :D Every single thing about this movie is just class apart! :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. You have nailed it, my friend... I couldn't have agreed more. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!! :-)

    ReplyDelete

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