Pulp Fiction (1994)

Cinematography Andrzej Sekuła
Directed by Quentin Tarantino

The initial inspiration was the three-part horror anthology film Black Sabbath (1963), by Italian filmmaker Mario Bava. The Tarantino–Avary project was provisionally titled “Black Mask,” after the seminal hardboiled crime fiction magazine. Tarantino’s script was produced as Reservoir Dogs, his directorial debut; Avary’s, titled “Pandemonium Reigns,” would form the basis for the “Gold Watch” storyline of Pulp Fiction.

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With work on Reservoir Dogs completed, Tarantino returned to the notion of a trilogy film: “I got the idea of doing something that novelists get a chance to do but filmmakers don’t: telling three separate stories, having characters float in and out with different weights depending on the story.” Tarantino explains that the idea “was basically to take like the oldest chestnuts that you’ve ever seen when it comes to crime stories—the oldest stories in the book…. You know, ‘Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace’s Wife’—the oldest story about…the guy’s gotta go out with the big man’s wife and don’t touch her. You know, you’ve seen the story a zillion times.””I’m using old forms of storytelling and then purposely having them run awry”, he says. “Part of the trick is to take these movie characters, these genre characters and these genre situations and actually apply them to some of real life’s rules and see how they unravel.” In at least one case, boxer Butch Coolidge, Tarantino had in mind a specific character from a classic Hollywood crime story: “I wanted him to be basically like Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer in Aldrich‘s Kiss Me Deadly [1955]. I wanted him to be a bully and a jerk”.

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Tarantino went to work on the script for Pulp Fiction in Amsterdam in March 1992,possibly at the Winston Hotel in the Red Light District. He was joined there by Avary, who contributed “Pandemonium Reigns” to the project and participated in its rewriting as well as the development of the new storylines that would link up with it.Two scenes originally written by Avary for the True Romance screenplay, exclusively credited to Tarantino, were incorporated into the opening of “The Bonnie Situation”: the “miraculous” missed shots by the hidden gunman and the rear seat automobile killing.

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The notion of the crimeworld “cleaner” that became the heart of the episode was inspired by a short, Curdled, that Tarantino saw at a film festival. He cast the lead actress, Angela Jones, in Pulp Fiction and later backed the filmmakers’ production of a feature-length version of Curdled.The script included a couple of made-up commercial brands that would feature often in later Tarantino films: Big Kahuna burgers (a Big Kahuna soda cup appears in Reservoir Dogs) and Red Apple cigarettes. As he worked on the script, Tarantino also accompanied Reservoir Dogs around the European film festivals. Released in the U.S. in October 1992, the picture was a critical and commercial success. In January 1993, the Pulp Fiction script was complete.

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Great director. Great story. Great characters. A masterpiece

4 April 2000 | by guybrush105 (Barcelona, Catalunya) – See all my reviews

Tarantino is without a doubt one of the best directors of all time and maybe the best of the 90’s. His first film, Reservoir Dogs was amazing and claustrophobic, his segment in Four Rooms was by far the greatest (even though Rodriguez’s was excellent too)and Jackie Brown is a wonderful homage to the Blaxploitation films of the 70’s. However, Pulp Fiction remains my favourite.

It was nominated for so many Oscars that I still find it hard to believe that it only got one: Best original script. I’m not complaining because Forrest Gump got best picture, since that film was also Oscar-worthy, but come on, movies like Tarantino’s or the Shawshank Redemption deserved much more.

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Anyway, going back to the movie, I particularly liked the first and second chapters, and that’s really a contradiction because one of the movie’s finest characters, Mr. Wolf, appears on the third. Bruce Willis also does a great job, and as far as I’m concerned he fell in love with the movie right after having read the script. I like the way his character gives a “tough guy” image at the beginning and then we discover he’s so affectionate and tender to his wife. Travolta is obviously the star of the movie and his second encounter with Bruce Willis in the kitchen along with the scene where he dances with Uma Thurman is when the movie reaches it’s highest point.

The other star is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a wise assassin that obviously knows how to handle situations. “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger…” is my favourite quote.

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Summarizing, Pulp Fiction is a modern classic and a must-see for anyone who is at least aware of what a movie is. I give it a 9 out of 10.

The rebirth of a genre – and film history

10/10
Author: gogoschka-1 from wherever good films play
24 July 2014

I can only speak for myself, but I had never seen anything as stylish, cleverly constructed, well written and electrifying as this milestone when I first saw it in 1994. What really pulled me in right from the start is what we’ve now come to know as a Tarantino trademark: the dialogue.

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When gangsters Jules and Vincent talk to each other (or all the other characters, for that matter) there is a natural flow, a sense of realism and yet something slightly over the top and very theatrical about their lines – it’s a mixture that immediately grabs your attention (even if it’s just two dudes talking about what kind of hamburger they prefer, or contemplating the value of a foot-massage). Then there’s the music: the songs Tarantino chose for his masterpiece fit their respective scenes so perfectly that most of those pieces of music are now immediately associated with ‘Pulp Fiction’. And the narrative: the different story lines that come together, the elegantly used flashbacks, the use of “chapters” – there is so much playful creativity at play here, it’s just a pure joy to watch.

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If you’re a bit of a film geek, you realize how much knowledge about film and love for the work of other greats – and inspiration from them – went into this (Leone, DePalma, Scorsese and, of course, dozens of hyper-stylized Asian gangster flicks), but to those accusing Tarantino of copying or even “stealing” from other film-makers I can only say: There has never been an artist who adored his kind of art that was NOT inspired or influenced by his favorite artists. And if you watch Tarantino’s masterpiece today, it’s impossible not to recognize just what a breath of fresh air it was (still is, actually). Somehow, movies – especially gangster films – never looked quite the same after ‘Pulp Fiction’. Probably the most influential film of the last 20 years, it’s got simply everything: amazing performances (especially Sam Jackson); it features some of the most sizzling, iconic dialogue ever written; it has arguably one of the best non-original soundtracks ever – it’s such a crazy, cool, inspirational ride that you feel dizzy after watching it for the first time. It’s – well: it’s ‘Pulp Fiction’. 10 stars out of 10.

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Awesome!

Author: Gatorman9
18 April 2004

I just finished screening this movie for the first time after putting it off for a number of years because of what seemed like equivocating appraisals from some of my friends. In hindsight, however, it seems to me that while the movie must have definitely bowled them over, overall they weren’t sure exactly what to make of it or how to articulate what were probably a confused mix of feelings. But I am so impressed that I feel compelled to add a few specific observations to the many fine reviews already on this database.

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First, this movie hits you with an impact somewhere in between, say, APOCALYPSE NOW and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, and for some people may be just as disturbing (however, in this respect I am happy to report I didn’t think it rose to the level of NATURAL BORN KILLERS). Full of graphically violent action and language, PULP FICTION is not a picture for everyone – I would definitely not recommend it to my parents, born in the 1930’s (even to my one fairly “hip” relative of the same generation who, at age 66, still teaches high school sex education and likes to talk about things like sunbathing nude, among other potentially sensitive issues).

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Irrespective of audience sensibilities, however, the film-makers, supported by superb acting in every role, manage to create a world full of the most fascinating sleazy characters possibly ever to appear on screen. From Travolta’s pronounced almost-child-like curiosity about the world to Jackson’s sincere and thoughtful philosophical ruminating and Willis’s deep devotion to the memory of his father, I think such fascination lies not only in the characters’ personalities as they are portrayed but in the way they tantalize the viewer into considering the possibility that such people could actually exist. As a lawyer of some years’ experience dealing with all sorts of people I was particularly drawn to this aspect of the film.

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Thus, and in response to some other reviewers’ comments, I think this movie is more character-driven than plot-driven. Instead of a story peopled by basically weakly developed characters employed primarily as a mere device to move the plot along, as is too frequently the case in the movies (especially these days), the undeniably strong, clever, and unpredictable plot lines in PULP FICTION are actually of essentially secondary interest and importance, serving primarily as vehicles to get you worried about the fate of characters you can’t help caring about despite the truly low attributes that otherwise form the basis for their respective personas. As at least one other reviewer noted, when the film ends you are actually disappointed, left craving more of these crazy people and their explosive lives.

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Finally, and as strange as it may sound, this film reminds me of another Monumentally Great Film which one would never typically associate with it in any way in a million years – CASABLANCA. As in that film made way back in 1942, and as another reviewer has suggested, perhaps its special appeal – its unusually high degree of emotional impact – lies in its distinctly successful simultaneous application of several different genres in a single film – drama, action, dark humor – with the whole thing bound together by essentially flawless execution in every department. And while CASABLANCA is no doubt clearly much more wholesome and high-minded, like the older film PULP FICTION is not without a pronounced theme of redemption, even if it is not as strongly felt, considering all the later film’s sleaze and violence.

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In sum, when people say that this is probably the best film of the 1990’s, it is easy to see why. Fundamentally a truly outstanding movie, it is a must-see for anyone who considers themself a film buff and can handle graphic subject matter.

(Incidentally, if you would like a more toned-down, much more overtly humorous and less serious picture with a not-altogether dissimilar look and feel, don’t miss another 1990’s Travolta picture, GET SHORTY.)

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A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

1/10
Author: Adam G from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
18 February 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are many differing schools of thought regarding Quentin Tarantino and his so-called “style”. There are those who believe that the director who began his career as a humble video store clerk with a voracious appetite for movies of every conceivable style is talented and worth imitating. While Tarantino has made some movies worth discussing for their positive qualities (Reservoir Dogs is, by far, his best effort), this group of movies is rather small, especially considering that he has only directed five movies. There is another school of thought who regards his works as inane, self-indulgent, and bloated. Pulp Fiction, written and directed by Tarantino, and released in 1994, is his most divisive movie simply by virtue of being his most well-known. Upon its release, it was hailed as a warning shot to a complacent Hollywood- the maverick behind the indie hit Reservoir Dogs apparently had something else up his sleeve.

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Pulp Fiction is ostensibly a crime story featuring the interconnecting lives of several characters. However, upon repeat viewings, the viewer begins to wonder exactly what that something is. Personally, I found this movie ran too long in spots, likely because Tarantino is so ridiculously in love with the sound of his own voice as spoken by different actors that he is afraid to cut one speech or even a single line. Dialogue, though it doesn’t necessarily need to serve the story to justify its inclusion, should not be so dense as to drive the viewer out of the experience. When John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, on the way to retrieving a briefcase for their employer, are talking about European hamburgers and foot massages, the scene plays like a witty outtake- as though the actors so understood the style of the movie that they were in that they felt comfortable riffing with the material. Not so- the rest of the movie is filled with conversations of a similar type, including (but not limited to) body piercing, blueberry pancakes, hamburgers (again), and coffee (this one performed by Quentin Tarantino himself, as though he couldn’t wait to get a shot at delivering his own lines).

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The strangest thing is, while the characters are “in character”, as Samuel L. Jackson says in an opening scene, the movie is quite enjoyable. When the characters are placed into real confrontations, the movie takes on an entirely different persona and becomes at least a decent crime movie. Ultimately, however, these scenes are few and far between and, unfortunately, the movie clocks in at 154 minutes. There’s really only a decent short film in all of this.

The movie also lacks what I would call a plot. The movie is described as three stories about one story, though that one story (ending, chronologically, with Bruce Willis and his irritating Euro girlfriend riding off into the sunset) doesn’t connect the characters enough to be truly about one thing.

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Ultimately the movie is a prime example of what happens when a VCR and a wide selection of movies replace film school. The movie lacks a coherent center and seems more like something that was made for the sake of just committing something to film and resurrecting the flagging career of John Travolta. The movie is too large in scope to sustain itself, and, in the end, implodes because there is really no conviction behind the presentation- too concerned with being a hipster-cool riff on a crime story, rife with pop in-jokes and 70’s music (perhaps the best part of the movie is the soundtrack), somebody must have neglected to mention that the movie went nowhere and lacked the momentum to even get there.

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While all of these qualities combine to form a truly deplorable viewing experience, I do have to mention Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson as two performers in this movie who, I felt, got away clean. Bruce Willis probably gets away with it because he’s alone for the majority of his segment and, therefore, doesn’t have anybody with whom to trade despicably derisible dialogue. Samuel L. Jackson gets a mention because of the scene at the very end of the movie in which he confronts Tim Roth’s character and makes him realize that there are far more fearsome powers at work in the world than robbing a diner. In fact, the scenes coming directly at the beginning and the end of the movie are the two best, and everything else is filler.

As you no doubt have guessed, I fall squarely in the latter of the two groups I mentioned at the beginning of this review. Pulp Fiction is inane, self-indulgent, and bloated.

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Hands down, the best film of the ’90s.

Author: verbal-15 from south carolina
2 August 1998

Pulp Fiction, despite borrowing from just about every movie ever made, is the most invigorating cinema experience a filmgoer can ever hope for. Its hodgepodge of violence, mayhem, and generally deviant behavior is an assault on the senses, not to mention political correctness. However, despite all the film’s cleverness and style, it hinges on the performance put forth by Samuel L. Jackson as Jules. The fact that he was denied an Oscar is a downright shame. Martin Landau, the best supporting actor winner that year, was terrific and funny in Ed Wood, but Jackson was perhaps the most commanding screen presence in film history as the bible-quoting, godfearing hitman. The last scene in the coffee shop with Tim Roth still sends chills down my spine, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Rumors of a prequel involving Jules and Vincent (John Travolta) have been floating around lately. If Quentin Tarantino wishes to regain the fans he lost with the dissapointing (but still pretty good) Jackie Brown, he should get to work right away. I’ll be the first in line to see the finished product.

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Just Terrible

1/10
Author: Grant Bullert from Minnesota, USA
30 April 2016

One of the worst movies I have seen. Sure, the dialogue is interesting, but pointless. If I wanted to have conversation about random things, I would just talk to my friends. I don’t want to hear Samuel L. Jackson talk about television or John Travolta about European travel. I don’t care. This movie could have been about 1/4 as long as it was. The jumps back in time serve no purpose. It seems like Tarantino tried too hard to make something different and strange. It just didn’t work. So if you like random violence and cursing, this movie is for you. Violence and cursing doesn’t bother me in movies, but in this film it just seemed forced. It did not piece well together or flow. Poor job of writing this time around in my opinion.

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