‘P’ in the Alphabet Challenge (Alphabet Challenge) takes us to the 1994 Quentin Tarantino masterpiece crime epic ‘Pulp Fiction’.
This 154 minute classic tale of gangsters in some unexpected situations, was Tarantino’s second directorial effort after 1992’s low budget independent ‘Reservoir Dogs’. For this one, he was operating with a bigger budget, a broader cast, but more importantly the cinema planets aligned for him in this film.
The non-linear story opens with a couple enjoying breakfast, that quickly escalates to a robbery. Even in this opening scene, Tarantino was setting up the whole film. The fast paced dialogue, the moments that twist into something else and the film soundtrack that bursts alive into the opening credits after the first scene.
Tarantino’s ability to craft dialogue with extended ‘near rants’ plays out through the whole film. Through it all, its the dialogue that really stands out. Before we watched the film, a friend and I tried to debate our favourite line from the film. Even not having seen the film for a number of years, we quickly got to 15+ lines that are all highly memorable, and a number of those would be considered classic cinema lines.
It has aged incredibly well with only inflation impacting the idea of a ‘five dollar shake’ being the only noticeable hint of age around it.
Not only was the screenplay a masterpiece, Tarantino drew in a stellar cast for the film, most noticeably single handedly relaunching John Travolta’s career. Travolta’s previous film before Pulp Fiction was ‘Look Who’s Talking Now’. The film he made after it was ‘Get Shorty’. Not only that, but he even got him dancing again.
Beyond Travolta’s rejuvenation, the rest of the cast was like a Tarantino dream team including (but most certainly not limited to) Harvey Keitel, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Christopher Walken, Eric Stolz and of course Quentin Tarantino (as Jimmy – a man having a very trying morning).
Ultimately though, the film is stolen by the performance of Samuel L. Jackson, in his first collaboration with Tarantino as a director, with his portrayal of Jules Winfield. Jackson has a way of delivering QT’s dialogue like no one else and based on this performance, its no surprise that the director would choose to make Jackson a staple of his future films. The chemistry between he and Travolta is one of the great pairings in recent cinema.
Tarantino delivers, as is his style, references to cinema history throughout, from restaurants with cinema stars as waitresses, through to a briefcase that’s a nod to 1955’s ‘Kiss Me Deadly’ – a famous film noir.
Someone once told me that they had recently watched Casablanca, and thought it was full of cliches. Clearly it isn’t. What it is, is a film with so many great lines that became famous themselves, that you have to remember that they were written for that very film. There is a hint of this in Pulp Fiction now. You have to remind yourself that this isn’t another example of Tarantino’s punchy dialogue, this was the time when the world first really got to see it (i.e., mainstream cinema goers).
In Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino established his ability to craft a soundtrack that could stand out a mile and Pulp Fiction managed to build on this. Moments don’t use include music, they are made by them. Songs like ‘Son of a Preacher Man’, ‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’, and ‘You Never Can Tell’ are as memorable as the footage playing out to them.
Tarantino is one of the great auteurs of our time in cinema, and for me, this is his masterpiece. His next film would see him shift from this film to directing Jackie Brown based on Rum Punch by Elmore Leonard, but that’s a different story.
10 Royale with Cheeses out of 10