Thursday, June 16, 2011

Literary Review of Pulp Fiction

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Pulp Fiction, one of the most highly acclaimed films of 15, was without a doubt a shocking and controversial movie. Director Quentin Tarantino brought into the mainstream a genre that had never has such mass appeal, and he did it very successfully. This story is a cleverly disorienting journey through a landscape of danger, shock, hilarity, and vibrant local color. Nothing is predictable or familiar within this bizarre world.

Introducing a film such as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, takes much patience and significant artistry with words. While some critics denounced Pulp Fiction for its violence, the film is not about the killings that happen in it. Pulp Fiction is about its characters in potentially comic situations. Tarantino uses these characters and their situations to achieve a stylish masterpiece. The laid back nonchalant attitude is mixed with some vanity and an odd sense of loyalty, all created with a modern flair. The imagery is all part of the gangster mystique, which American movie audience’s love so much.

Tarantino starts us off with a dual definition of pulp. One being “a soft, moist, shapeless, mass of matter” and two being “a book containing lurid subject matter, and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper.” This introduced the audience to the presentation of the film. Its segmented structure s Tarantino’s was of playing with the audience’s perceptions. The entertainment throughout Pulp Fiction is scintillating; it captures the audience and forces them to piece the segments together in order to form one complete story. Hence the title containing the word “pulp” and the product being “rough” and somewhat “unfinished” to the viewer. In this sense I believe that Tarantino is allowing the viewer to make their own interpretations of the segments. Trying to determine if this film affected viewers on a formal or sensual level would only take away some of the film’s mystique. This film manages to affect viewers on both levels, depending on their depiction of the events.

Pulp Fiction is constructed in a nonlinear way doubling back on itself telling several interlocking stories about characters that inhabit a world of crime and intrigue, triple-crosses and desperation. Vincent Vega and partner Jules Winnfield are a couple of mid-level hit-men who carry out assignments for a mob boss. We see them first on their way to a violent showdown discussing such mysteries as why in Paris they have a French word for Quarter Pounder. They are as innocent in their ways as Huck and Jim floating down the Mississippi and speculating on how foreigners can possibly understand each other. Vince and Jules’s careers are a series of assignments that they can not quite handle. Especially Vega’s character, not only does he kill people inadvertently (“The car hit a bump”) but he doesn’t know how to clean up after himself.

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Most of the characters in this film personify style, and Tarantino accentuates that in a new and unconventional way. Using conventional directorial techniques in an unconventional way, Tarantino gets the viewers to experience his characters and to laugh at traditionally non-comedic situations. Using long static shots, instead of cutting from one character to another; Tarantino’s camera stylizes the screen action in invigorating ways. He also uses unconventional camera angles; for instance, when Vincent and Jules arrive at the apartment complex to collect the briefcase and are entering in what is normally thought of as an unnerving experience. Instead of showing the characters nervously going to collect the briefcase from an apartment in which they do not know how many people there are, Tarantino spends time on shooting the dialogue of the two characters annoyed at the fact that they do not have shotguns for this task. Where most directors would simply shoot the two conversing, Tarantino uses a more stylish way of showing the conversation. The shot is looking up at the two characters from the trunk of the car from which they pull their pistols. This shot serves two separate purposes. First, it is somewhat eccentric, which works for Tarantino’s purpose by going against convention, yet still getting his point across. The second purpose of the shot is that it is subjective foreshadowing, for later in the film the audience looks into the same trunk only to find if has a dead body in it.

The foreshadowing that Tarantino uses is also irregular, for two reasons. The first of those being, that he sometimes foreshadows pointless things; the other reason his foreshadowing is unconventional is because of the sequencing of the scenes, the effect is more of a post-shadowing. The best example of post-shadowing involves Vincent Vega. If the scenes were put in chronological order the audience would see Vincent go into the bathroom with a book. The audience would then see Vincent emerge from the bathroom a few minutes later with the same book, but pointing a gun at someone. Then later on in the film the audience would again see Vincent emerge from a bathroom with the same book, only this time Butch would shoot and kill him. Because the scenes are out of order, the audience sees Vincent get killed by Butch first, then in a later scene the audience sees Vincent exiting another bathroom with the book and his gun. Tarantino ventures out and does some very unconventional things with Pulp Fiction. The most apparent being his out of time sequencing. Placing the scenes out of order is a very modern idea that in the end also creates alarm in the audience (carefully noted by the director and placed in places where it will not destroy an already built tranquility).

His penchant for memorable dialogue also lends an admirable quality to the film. His passion for storytelling allows the most outrageous characters to reveal their feelings in long takes and torrents of words, poetic and profane. One of the unique characteristics of Pulp Fiction is that it celebrates life and does not depict, analyze, or critique it. Suspending viewers’ moral judgments makes it that much easier for the story to sustain its startling tone. The violent events are offset with unexpected laughter; the contrast of moods becomes liberating, calling attention to the real choices the characters make. In these choices the audience cheers for the good guys, who are stereotypical bad guys, and celebrates life by questioning their own at the end of the story.

The characters in this story are not simply black and white, from the moment you meet them you are drawn in and want to know more about them. The story’s intrigue, that element that makes the viewer curious, draws the audience in, as does the story’s credibility and the consistency of the characters. These characters appeal to the viewer because of the street smart and logical thinking. The characters do not live in an average nine-to-five world, but they still manage to maintain complete believability. Most importantly each character preserves absolute independence of intention throughout the story. Each character has their own set of values and goals which only adds to the credibility of the characters.

If Pulp Fiction were a film just about the violence in it, it would be just another action movie for the masses. This film is not about the violence in it, but about the characters it portrays and the things they strive for. Quentin Tarantino uses odd time sequencing, unconventional cuttings and camera angles, and a very twisted wit to achieve a film that is well grounded in tradition, but at the same time separates itself by giving the audience the unexpected. The characters are colorfully multidimensional and most importantly they are believable. With great talent he has carefully blended three main scenarios and several sub-plots into one full-length movie.

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