For 1 Year, 100 Movies, contributor/filmmaker Trey Hock will watch all of AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies list (compiled in 2007) in one year. His reactions to each film will be recorded here twice a week until the year (and list) is up!
All right I know that what I’m about to ask you to do is all but impossible, but please try.
Imagine if you will, that this is a time before BMF wallets, Royale with Cheese t-shirts, or Jules and Vincent action figures. This is a time when you may have seen “Reservoir Dogs,” a flawed but exciting first film from a young up and comer. Or maybe you missed it, but word on the street was that you needed to catch his second film.
You purchase your ticket, find your seat, sit back and relax as the theatre dims. “Pulp Fiction” begins. The opening scene comes up and you spend 10 minutes in a small coffee shop getting to know Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer), two small-time criminals that are discussing previous heists. This is all tone and little action, but the conversation is engaging.
Still we wait for something to happen, a moment of clear action, and when Pumpkin jumps on to his seat and waves his gun announcing that this is a robbery, we viewers all sit comfortably knowing that this is the moment we were expecting. We are all wrong, because at this exact moment we are torn away and thrown into the credits. When we return, Pumpkin and Honey Bunny are gone, and we slowly realize that the intro was mostly a way for director Quentin Tarantino to set the tone for the movie we are about to see. This is cool filmmaking at its pinnacle.
Everything about this movie is cool, from the music to the dialogue to the pacing,–even the fonts of the titles are cool. And that’s how I felt when I left the theatre dazed from the nonlinear radness of the story. This was not high modernism. This was not Kubrick, or Wilder, and definitely not Welles. What Tarantino was showing us was straight joy of film.
As I revisited “Pulp Fiction,” this is what kept impacting me. If you listen to the dialogue it is unnatural and constructed. Everything about it is written and composed, but it always feels right. It always works. Tarantino doesn’t shy away from revealing his brush strokes, whether it is scripted dialogue or camera angles or moves. This is film impressionism. What we are watching isn’t real, but it gives us the impression of something real, and delights our senses with the process.
Another thing that Tarantino does so well is to focus on the moments in between. While other filmmakers focus on the moments when the door is kicked in and guns blaze, Tarantino shows us the ride to the job, conversation before the guns come out, and all of the behind the scenes stuff that makes two gangsters human. By doing this, we believe Jules (Samuel L Jackson) when he has his religious moment, instead of callously dismissing his “moment of clarity.”
I will be honest, of his early work I prefer “Jackie Brown” to “Pulp Fiction.” I just think the story is even tighter and there is a subtly in “JB” that “PF” has little time for. And if you prefer “Jackie Brown” you don’t get as many drunken, flip-flop and white ball cap wearing douches screaming quotes at you. But upon my nth viewing of “Pulp Fiction” when I stretch my imagination to its limits and remember a time before all of the extraneous garbage that now surrounds it, I must admit that there is really little if anything at all wrong with this still surprising gem.
Since this is one of the most contemporary films on the AFI list so far, feel free to post any good stories about where/when you first saw “Pulp Fiction.” I am a believer in theatre viewing, and know there have to be some good stories out there.
As for mine, I was on a date at the Westloop Cinema in Manhattan, KS. I was shocked/amazed at how entertained the young woman was by the movie. Let’s hear your story.
Next up #93 The French Connection (1971)