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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pulp Fiction (1994)



Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American neo-noir crime black comedy film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, from a story by Tarantino and Roger Avary. Tarantino's second feature film, it is iconic for its eclectic dialogue, ironic mix of humor and violence, nonlinear storyline, and a host of cinematic allusions and pop culture references. The film was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture; Tarantino and Avary won for Best Original Screenplay. It was also awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival. A major critical and commercial success, it revitalized the career of its leading man, John Travolta, who received an Academy Award nomination, as did co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman.


 Directed in a highly stylized manner, Pulp Fiction connects the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. Considerable screen time is devoted to monologues and casual conversations that reveal the characters' senses of humor and perspectives on life. The film's title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue. Pulp Fiction is self-referential from its opening moments, beginning with a title card that gives two dictionary definitions of "pulp". The plot, as in many of Tarantino's other works, is presented out of chronological sequence.


 The picture's self-reflexivity, unconventional structure, and extensive use of homage and pastiche have led critics to describe it as a prime example of postmodern film. The film has also been described as a black comedy and a "neo-noir". Pulp Fiction is viewed as the inspiration for many later movies that adopted various elements of its style. The nature of its development, marketing, and distribution – and its consequent profitability – had a sweeping effect on the field of independent cinema. It is often considered a cultural watershed, with a strong influence felt in several other media.


A 2008 Entertainment Weekly poll named Pulp Fiction the finest film to have been released since 1983, and it is considered by many critics to be one of the best-written films of all time. The film ranks #9 on Empire magazine's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time. In 2013, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



Pulp Fiction's narrative is told out of chronological order, and follows three main interrelated stories: mob contract killer Vincent Vega is the protagonist of the first story, prizefighter Butch Coolidge is the protagonist of the second, and Vincent's partner Jules Winnfield is the protagonist of the third. The stories intersect in various ways.The film begins with a diner hold-up staged by a couple, then picks up the stories of Vincent, Jules, and Butch. It finally returns to where it began, in the diner. There are a total of seven narrative sequences.


 Hitmen Jules Winnfield and Vincent Vega are on their way to retrieve a briefcase from Brett, who has transgressed against their boss, gangster Marsellus Wallace. Vincent says Marsellus has asked him to escort his wife while Marsellus is out of town. They arrive at Brett's place, where they confront him and two of his associates over the briefcase. Vincent finds the briefcase and Jules shoots one of Brett's associates, then delivers a passage from the Bible before killing Brett with Vincent.


 Champion boxer Butch Coolidge accepts a large sum of money from Marsellus after agreeing to take a dive in his upcoming match. Vincent and Jules arrive to deliver the briefcase. The next day, Vincent purchases heroin from his drug dealer Lance. He shoots up to pass the day, then drives to meet Mrs. Mia Wallace.


John Travolta as Vincent Vega
Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield
Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace
Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge
Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe
Tim Roth as Ringo/"Pumpkin"
Amanda Plummer as Yolanda/"Honey Bunny"
Maria de Medeiros as Fabienne
Ving Rhames as Marsellus Wallace
Eric Stoltz as Lance
Rosanna Arquette as Jody
Christopher Walken as Captain Koons



Butch flees the arena, having double-crossed Marsellus and won the bout. The next morning, at the motel where he and his girlfriend Fabienne are lying low, Butch discovers she has forgotten to pack his father's watch and flies into a rage. He returns to his apartment, retrieves the watch, and notices a gun on the kitchen counter. Hearing the toilet flush, Butch shoots Vincent dead after he exits the bathroom. As Butch waits at a traffic light in his car, Marsellus walks by and recognizes him. Marsellus chases him into a pawnshop. The owner, Maynard, captures them at gunpoint and ties them up in a basement. Maynard is joined by Zed, a security guard; they take Marsellus to another room to rape him, leaving a silent figure in a bondage suit, "the gimp", to watch Butch. Butch breaks loose and knocks out the gimp. He is about to flee, but decides to save Marsellus. As Zed is raping Marsellus, Butch kills Maynard with a katana retrieved from the pawnshop. Marsellus retrieves Maynard's shotgun and shoots Zed. Marsellus informs Butch that they are even, so long as he never tells anyone about the rape and departs Los Angeles forever. Butch returns to pick up Fabienne on Zed's chopper.



After Vincent and Jules execute Brett, another man bursts out of the bathroom and shoots wildly, missing every time; Jules and Vincent shoot him. Jules decides their lucky escape was a miracle, which Vincent disputes. As Jules drives, Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin, one of Brett's associates, in the face. They hide the car at the home of their associate Jimmie, who insists they deal with the problem before his wife Bonnie comes home. Marsellus sends his cleaner, Winston Wolfe, who orders Jules and Vincent to clean the car, hide the body in the trunk, and dispose of their bloody clothes. They drive the car to a junk yard and Jules and Vincent decide to get breakfast.


 In the diner, Jules tells Vincent he plans to retire from his life of crime, taking their "miraculous" survival as a sign. While Vincent is in the bathroom, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny hold up the restaurant. When Jules holds Pumpkin at gunpoint, Honey Bunny becomes hysterical and trains her gun on him; Vincent returns with his gun trained on her. Jules recites the biblical passage, expresses ambivalence about his life of crime, and allows the robbers to take the cash and leave. Jules and Vincent leave the diner with the briefcase.




Roger Avary wrote the first element of what would become the Pulp Fiction screenplay in the fall of 1990; Tarantino and Avary decided to write a short, on the theory that it would be easier to get made than a feature. But they quickly realized that nobody produces shorts, so the film became a trilogy, with one section by Tarantino, one by Avary, and one by a third director who never materialized. Each eventually expanded his section into a feature-length script 



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, titled "Pandemonium Reigns," would form the basis for the "Gold Watch" storyline of Pulp Fiction.


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".


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. 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.


Main article: Pulp Fiction (soundtrack)
No film score was composed for Pulp Fiction; Quentin Tarantino instead used an eclectic assortment of surf music, rock and roll, soul, and pop songs. Dick Dale's rendition of "Misirlou" plays during the opening credits. Tarantino chose surf music as the basic musical style for the film, but not, he insists, because of its association with surfing culture: "To me it just sounds like rock and roll, even Morricone music. It sounds like rock and roll spaghetti Western music." Some of the songs were suggested to Tarantino by his friends Chuck Kelley and Laura Lovelace, who were credited as music consultants. Lovelace also appeared in the film as Laura, a waitress; she reprises the role in Jackie Brown. The soundtrack album, Music from the Motion Picture Pulp Fiction, was released along with the film in 1994. The album peaked on the Billboard 200 chart at number 21. The single, Urge Overkill's cover of the Neil Diamond song "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", reached number 59.
Estella Tincknell describes how the particular combination of well-known and obscure recordings helps establish the film as a "self-consciously 'cool' text. [The] use of the mono-tracked, beat-heavy style of early 1960s U.S. 'underground' pop mixed with 'classic' ballads such as Dusty Springfield's 'Son of a Preacher Man' is crucial to the film's postmodern knowingness." She contrasts the soundtrack with that of Forrest Gump, the highest-grossing film of 1994, which also relies on period pop recordings: "[T]he version of 'the sixties' offered by Pulp Fiction...is certainly not that of the publicly recognized counter-culture featured in Forrest Gump, but is, rather, a more genuinely marginal form of sub-culture based around a lifestyle—surfing, 'hanging'—that is resolutely apolitical." The soundtrack is central, she says, to the film's engagement with the "younger, cinematically knowledgeable spectator" it solicits.


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