Sunday, 16 July 2017

Pulp Fiction (1994)

"I'm gonna get mediaeval on your ass!"

This is, quite alarmingly, the 384th film I've done for this blog. Just as alarmingly, it's the first of those 384 films to have been directed by Quentin Tarantino. The odds were against this- I'm quite a fan of his, and this is THE film for those of my generation- but here we are; I've finally got around to blogging the finest film of the '90s.

So what makes Pulp Fiction so superlatively good? Well, part of it is just bloody good directing- take the syringe sequence- but there's more to it than this. Tarantino famously appeals both to the Cannes-attending intellectual crowd and to those who just like to be entertained by a couple of hours of violence and cool, two things which Tarantino is very good at. How does he keep both groups happy?

Well, I tend to say that Tarantino is the Jimi Hendrix of cinema- a true virtuoso, but you could never call him pretentious. Clever though he is, he always retains that lightness of touch. There's a line he doesn't touch. So Pulp Fiction may have a non-linear narrative and a complex ensemble plot with multiple perspectives, but at the same time it manages to be easy to follow, an achievement in both scriptwriting and directing which is not easy. Also, the allusions to cinematic history may be many, but they never overshadow the film itself.

But, I think, what Tarantino does with Pulp Fiction in particular is to use dialogue differently. It's not just that the dialogue is cool and quotable, although it's both of those things, but that it is allowed to breathe. Conversations are allowed to meander and reach a natural end, as per real life, from that first conversation between Jules and Vincent about Amsterdam through the entire film. They are not truncated to fit the narrative and rhythm of the plot; rather, the dialogue sets the rhythm and is used to make sudden moments of action more dramatic.

So many performances deserve praise- Uma Thurman as the tantalising Mia, Samuel L. Jackson as the compelling Jules, comeback kid John Travolta actually being quite good (and getting top billing after all those years of obscurity), Harvey Keitel doing the cool character that probably inspired those recent insurance adverts (something I've only just realised). Not only that, but even Bruce Willis manages to be more-or-less acceptable.

This is one of the greatest films ever, end of. It shouldn't be so long until I blog my next Tarantino film...

No comments:

Post a Comment