Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction. Miramax et al, 1994.

Before watching the movie:

This is one of the films that college students flip out over, and any “true film buff” needs to have in their top ten. We’ll see about that.

Tarantino is perhaps held in too high of regard, but this is early days, and a good example of his talent. I’m prepared for the non-Euclidean timeline, which is usually considered good, unorthodox storytelling.

Because of the way it’s formatted, the large cast shouldn’t be as indicative of an over-reaching, complicated plot. Or it may be more indicative than most. Or both at the same time.

After watching the movie:

A hit man takes his boss’s wife out for an evening, and must keep her safe. A boxer double-crosses the boss and runs for his life. But before either of those things happen, a mistaken shot must be cleaned up. Also a robbery at a diner goes wrong, or maybe too right.

You want a better synopsis, you write one.

As with anyone else, I’m left wondering why this movie is what it is. So much happens, and yet hardly any of it really matters in respect to the rest of the film. It’s three or four shorts that happen to exist in the same world and use the same characters, but why they’re related is the subject of almost twenty years of speculation. The focus seems to weigh heavily on Vincent the hitman, since even in the segment that’s not at all about him, he appears briefly (to get killed). I think if anything, the key is in that. Both of the hitmen are shown to be decent people underneath their jobs, and in the end we’ve seen the circumstances of how they left that job.  But that doesn’t account for the other half of the movie, and it seems as simple as trying to tell an English professor that Moby-Dick is just a whale.

If meaningful storytelling isn’t the strong focus of the film, dialogue and camerawork are. The film seems at times to be entirely about showcasing the natural, yet evocative dialogue. The camera angles are thoughtful without often slipping into “look at me, pointing a camera all stylishly like a film student!” mode.

I think ultimately, the film doesn’t mean anything. I hate movies that try to make a statement by being about nothing, or inviting you to find all the meaning the filmmaker never thought of. If a film doesn’t mean anything, it’s a waste of the viewer’s time, and two and a half hours is  a lot of time to waste. There are many powerful moments and good lines, but it’s all only in the service of itself.


Watch this movie: if you’ve got time to kill, and no interest in being taught anything.

Don’t watch this movie: just for all the memetic lines.

One thought on “Pulp Fiction

  1. learningtogetolder October 5, 2011 / 3:28 pm

    Thoughtful and interesting post on a film that often gets a free ride — whether as “mere entertainment” or with pseudy justifications.

    Nice, balanced review.

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