Sunday, 19 June 2011

Zed's dead, baby. Zed's dead

No 9 - Pulp Fiction
Director - Quentin Tarantino

This is the film that really showcases Tarantino's dialogue (and it is his dialogue which is his true strength). He is very good in situations where he has several stories going on at once - this is a classic example of a successful use of chapter based storytelling, accompanied by incredible performances and a totally boss soundtrack.

If you have to find a central point to the film, it probably falls on Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L Jackson) - 2 heavies who work for a mobster called Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames). They might not be the protagonist for every chapter (Bruce Willis' boxer Butch also takes the spotlight at times) appear in all of the stories and are pivotal to the tale.

I'm not going to go into detail on all of these chapters, as they have all been assessed to the hilt. However, I just want to talk about a few factors of the film.

This film drips with effortless cool. So effortless that it seems lazy. The film manages to be cool without really trying. This is probably helped by the music throughout (after all - anything would look cool when paired with Neil Diamond.... even though its actually a cover by Urge Overkill in the film). But what is impressive is that elements that shouldn't work at all, end up working. Just look at the picture of John Travolta above - taken from the film's single coolest moment: the twist competition at Jack Rabbit Slims. Firstly, he has lank and greasy slicked back hair and secondly he has the most 90's suit ever seen.... and yet he remains cool.
Same with Jackson, he appears wearing a bloody PERM and yet he still looks too badass for words.
As I've already mentioned, the film's coolest moment is the Twist scene... It manages to be almost nonchalant in the dance, a very cool scene which is now iconic. The nonchalance is important. There are a lot of films out there which are self conscious in their drive to be cool. Obviously Tarantino tries hard to make sure his movies come out as stylish, but it never feels forced. That is an impressive feat and ties me into my next part.

Tarantino has always been lauded for his dialogue, and throughout the film you can see why. The casual conversation occurring through out scenes was pretty revolutionary at the time. Whilst most people discuss the famous Royale with Cheese conversation, I'm much more impressed by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer's conversation about the intricacies of bank robbery. It is all discussed in a matter of fact and straightforward manner. He also manages to make believable characters with distinctive voices.
Whether it is Fabienne's stilted dialogue with her adorable use of words or L Jackson and Rhames speaking with distinctively 'black' dialogue (whatever the hell that means). He also knows how to lift his quotes. Is there anything more chilling then L Jackson quoting the bible?(then again, he can say anything and sound badass)

There are some moments which don't quite work (Christopher Walken will never be a convincing kindly child friendly character), but the worst is Tarantino himself with his character of Jimmy. A man who grates throughout (I'm not a fan of Tarantino's voice or delivery and find him jarring in every one of his cameos) but who mainly makes me feel uncomfortable through his excessive use of the N word (a word which is liberally used throughout the film, but notably only by black characters). By having Jimmy use it so casually (rather than as a racist insult) it leaves a strange taste in my mouth and is the only part of the film which draws me out of the world.

This is a dark film. A film which successfully shows drug use (and subsequent overdose). Shows an awful lot of violence and an awful lot of abuse. Yet, The Simpsons decide to parody a dark film's darkest moment. Where two men are gagged and bound in order to be subsequently tortured, raped and (it is hinted) killed by a redneck, Dorien Tyrell and a gimp.

It is such an odd choice for a Simpsons reference. What the fuck?!

Throughout the film we spend time with Wallace, the true central crux of the film and a mysterious (and possibly paranormal?) thread throughout it all. After all.... why has Wallace got a plaster on the back of his neck? What is in the suitcase?

Quite the mystery...

A fabulous fabulous film.

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