Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pulp Fiction

I was behind the rest of the world on this one; I didn't see it until I was a sophomore in college. Clearly I had been watching films for a great many years before this, but Pulp Fiction was the first film that made me stop and think, "Holy fucking shit," during the entire thing and for days afterwards. In a way, it was the catalyst that led to my quitting music and doing film instead. To say that I love it would be putting it mildly; if you know my kids' names, you know just how serious I am. More than soundtrack, cinematography, or dialogues, this film taught me one thing: sometimes there are things (films, sentences, people, actions, writers) that just come together and are almost undefinably awesome---I want this in my life in all ways possible.

Pulp Fiction, 1994. Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson

"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." (IMDB).

The items that struck me then are the same ones that strike me now. Mostly chronologically:

1. First scene with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny; freeze frame on the last second before the dialogue ends. Scorsese does it, which means a shit load of Frenchmen probably did it too, but damn, it looked *awesome.* Tim Roth's sort of animated, explanatory rant together with the strangely innocent yet impulsive Amanda Plummer. That gun he slams down on the table and the metallic sound it makes. "Garcon means boy."

What an opening.

2. Samuel Jackson as Jules Winnfield: deliveries and reactions. The explanation of Tony Rocky Horror's recent speech impediment and the implications of Vincent's date with Mia Wallace. The exchange over Big Kahuna Burgers and sprite followed by the "'What' ain't no country I ever heard of," bit. All lines spoken at Jimmy's house: "I'm a mushroom cloud-layin' mother fucker, Mother Fucker!" Can I say that he made the film? He did.

3. The soundtrack. Quentin Tarantino was born in 1963; I was born in 1976. He grew up listening to a vastly different collection of music than I did, but the selections chosen and their placements within the film completely blew me away, again and again. The surf music of The Tornadoes and The Lively Ones; Dick Dale's Miserlou. The Statler Brothers. Urge Overkill. Al Green. Kool and The Gang. And my personal favorite, Dusty Springfield, when Vincent meets Mia. I love this scene, a lot. He's stoned on Choko; she's doing lines. She watches him through a spy camera while he stares at a painted picture of her. Her lips, her voice, her feet.

4. The Overdose. Mostly I love this because of the car antics and all the cursing. Vincent's Malibu fishtailing around the corner. "Fuck you, Lance, ANSWER!" The way Lance (Eric Stoltz with Jesus hair/beard and robe) just paces around that cluttered up house and then finally goes to the front door, snaps up the window shade and sees that car fly across the lawn (at a diagonal angle to what is presumably the driveway) and then crash into something, maybe the chimney. Favorite. Scene. Ever. I don't think my dad ever saw this but as someone who laughed hard enough to cry at the motorcycle through the wall scene (plus Sammy Davis's reaction) in The Cannonball Run, I think he would have dug it. This is a minor part of the film, I realize, but seriously, I think about this whole scene being written ("Car flies up across lawn at angle and crashes into house. Vincent drags Mia from car, unphased,") or however it appeared in the screenplay, and I almost pee myself giggling.

What do they look like, Jimmy?
5. Overlapping and out of sequencing the storytelling. Everyone does this now, but Tarantino did it first. Trickery. I like it. Also, in the end, referring to Jules and Vincent as "dorks," when Jimmy (Tarantino) clearly is one himself.

Bonus for liking gourmet coffee.
What a film.


Dave said...

"Holy fucking shit" is just about right. That's my immediate visceral reaction when I saw this film. Like you, it made a major impression on my young, impressionable self. Definitely changed my life too.

Nice tribute, Anna!

Justin Garrett Blum said...

I've got to try watching this with my wife sometime. I can't remember if we ever watched it together, but I think she isn't really a fan. I tried watching Reservoir Dogs recently with her, and it was the first time ever she actually asked if we could stop watching a movie. Though that's a pretty different movie to Pulp Fiction, to be sure.

Anna said...

Thanks, Dave!

Justin---I can definitely see how someone would be put off by a lot of QT's stuff, even now I have a hard time with THE GIMP. there are scenes like that in all of his films and those grotesque, violent sort of spectacles bother me, too, if I think about them long enough.

Justin Garrett Blum said...

Mostly, she just found Reservoir Dogs boring (i.e., too talky) and depressing. We made it about 20 minutes in. And I can understand why she wouldn't like it.

We both enjoyed Inglourius Basterds, however. Me, personally, I enjoy most of what Tarantino does. Even when I'm not crazy about it (like Kill Bill vol. 1), it's at least interesting.

Anna said...

for sure, talky. Once I saw those opening creds, though, my heart was his.

Donald said...

I actually bought these DVD a couple weeks ago cause I saw it for three bucks. Great deal, right? Awesome movie? I watched about twenty minutes before I turned it off because I was bored and just hated all of the characters. I couldn't remember why I ever liked it.