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Pulp Fiction (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [1994] - 5.97

With Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender after initial success with 1992's Reservoir Dogs. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that re-established John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million) independent showcase for an ultra-hip mixture of established marquee names and rising stars from the indie scene (among them Samuel L Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin and Phil Lamar). It was more, even, than an unprecedented $100-million-plus hit for indie distributor Miramax. Pulp Fiction was a sensation. It packs so much energy and invention into telling its non-chronologically interwoven short stories (all about temptation, corruption and redemption among modern criminals, large and small) it leaves viewers both exhilarated and exhausted--hearts racing and knuckles white from the ride. (Oh, and the infectious, surf-guitar-based soundtrack is tastier than a Royale with Cheese.) --Jim Emerson

Customer reviews (av rating: 4.5):

Rating: 5:
ONE OF THE BEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME : One of the early scenes in "Pulp Fiction" features two hit-men discussing what a Big Mac is called in other countries. Their dialogue is witty and entertaining, and it's also disarming, because it makes these two thugs seem all too normal. If you didn't know better, you might assume these were regular guys having chit-chat on their way to work. Other than the comic payoff at the end of the scene, in which they use parts of this conversation to taunt their victims, their talk has no relevance to anything in the film, or to anything else, for that matter. Yet without such scenes, "Pulp Fiction" wouldn't be "Pulp Fiction." I get the sense that Tarantino put into the film whatever struck his fancy, and somehow the final product is not only coherent but wonderfully textured.

It's no wonder that fans spend so much time debating what was in the suitcase, reading far more into the story than Tarantino probably intended. The film is so intricately structured, with so many astonishing details, many of which you won't pick up on the first viewing, that it seems to cry out for some deeper explanation. But there is no deeper explanation. "Pulp Fiction," is, as the title indicates, purely an exercise in technique and style, albeit a brilliant and layered one. Containing numerous references to other films, it is like a great work of abstract art, or "art about art." It has all the characteristics we associate with great movies: fine writing, first-rate acting, unforgettable characters, and one of the most well-constructed narratives I've ever seen in a film. But to what end? The self-contained story does not seem to have bearing on anything but itself.

The movie becomes a bit easier to understand once you realize that it's essentially a black comedy dressed up as a crime drama. Each of the three main story threads begins with a situation that could easily form the subplot of any standard gangster movie. But something always goes wrong, some small unexpected accident that causes the whole situation to come tumbling down, leading the increasingly desperate characters to absurd measures. Tarantino's originality stems from his ability to focus on small details and follow them where they lead, even if they move the story away from conventional plot developments.

Perhaps no screenplay has ever found a better use for digressions. Indeed, the whole film seems to consist of digressions. No character ever says anything in a simple, straightforward manner. Jules could have simply told Yolanda, "Be cool and no one's going to get hurt," which is just the type of line you'd find in a generic, run-of-the-mill action flick. Instead, he goes off on a tangent about what Fonzie is like. Tarantino savors every word of his characters, finding a potential wisecrack in every statement and infusing the dialogue with clever pop culture references. But the lines aren't just witty; they are full of intelligent observations about human behavior. Think of Mia's statement to Vincent, "That's when you know you've found somebody special: when you can just shut the f--- up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence."

What is the movie's purpose exactly? I'm not sure, but it does deal a lot with the theme of power. Marsellus is the sort of character who looms over the entire film while being invisible most of the time. The whole point of the big date sequence, which happens to be my favorite section of the film, is the power that Marsellus has over his men without even being present. This power is what gets Vincent to act in ways you would not ordinarily expect from a dumb, stoned gangster faced with an attractive woman whose husband has gone away. The power theme also helps explain one of the more controversial aspects of the film, its liberal use of the N-word. In this film, the word isn't just used as an epithet to describe blacks: Jules, for instance, at one point applies the term to Vincent. It has more to do with power than with race. The powerful characters utter the word to express their dominance over weaker characters. Most of these gangsters are not racist in practice. Indeed, they are intermingled racially, and have achieved a level of equality that surpasses the habits of many law-abiding citizens in our society. They resort to racial epithets because it's a patter that establishes their separateness from the non-criminal world.

There's a nice moral progression to the stories. We presume that Vincent hesitates to sleep with Mia out of fear rather than loyalty. Later, Butch's act of heroism could be motivated by honor, but we're never sure. The film ends, however, with Jules making a clear moral choice. Thus, the movie seems to be exploring whether violent outlaws can act other than for self-preservation.

Still, it's hard to find much of a larger meaning tying together these eccentric set of stories. None of the stories are really "about" anything. They certainly are not about hit-men pontificating about burgers. Nor is the film really a satire or a farce, although it contains elements of both. At times, it feels like a tale that didn't need to be told, but for whatever reason this movie tells it and does a better job than most films of its kind, or of any other kind.

Rating: 5:
Tarantino's Masterpiece : the person who gave pulp fiction 1 star is clearly an unexperienced film reviewer as Fiction is absolutely outstanding. one of the best films ever to go to cannes, and a movie that any true film fanatic should cherish and enjoy. strong performances, a witty script and fantastic chemistry between thurman and travolta. incredibly entertaining and top noch all round. also home to the coolest dance scene ever, the coolest character- thurman and one of the best lines in movie history: 'Zed's dead baby, Zed's dead'.

Rating: 1:
A little self indulgence goes a long, long way : No, I'm not (just) on a wind up! I really DO NOT rate this movie AT ALL. When I first watched it, I thought 'Ok, looks great, but what the hell is new here?' All around me, it seemed teenagers and even adults were nearly wetting themselves about this new movie god! And I thought, 'Hullo, the bloke's managed to con them all.' But I can tell you there are quite a few he didn't fool, as well. All the good looking film tricks he used had been used many times before in various films from various genres. This makes him little more than an art thief in my book, or put more kindly, a dilettante. But more pertinently, the type of thing he was copying was a thirty year old film art formula. It roughly goes: 'To make your run of the mill movie into an Oscar winning one, or even better to some directors-Palme D'or winner, just put some wide angled, incongruous lanscape photography in, or some narrative breaks with maybe a sensuous dance to a nice tune, or of course some uncalled for flashbacks to show off your gift for visual imagery, maybe throw some montage work in as well, and if you're really desperate for an award, you can revert from reality to surreality with absolutely no explaination as to why.'

This is ofcourse, well trammelled ground now, and you can only fool the Acadamy of Film Arts and Sciences once with that kind of work. Although the people at Cannes are definitely more susceptible here, no question. In other words, this is what film directors do when they are merely showing off. I am quite sure Alfred Hitchcock would have been up to all of that mentioned, and more, and did infact indulge a little in his films before it became all too fashionable, but he never once left the integrity of the film story alone just to showcase his talent, or prove he could do it! It was always central to the narrative of the movie and was done to expand its horizons, never to alter what it was. It is a quality that sets him several levels higher than many other more fancy film makers, and always will!

Just look at the wave of stylishly brilliant semi-art movies of the late 60s. Many big movies had elements of film art fashion in them, some more than others. Just a few of examples of the many, were The Graduate, Midnight Cowboy, Blow Up, If..., (which must have used more art film techniques than any other mainstream release). Even The Italian Job was nearly infected with this obsession: There was a huge fight to pull a long scene the director insisted should stay in, with the Mini Coopers just dancing around with each other to a musical background. Very artistic but what about the narrative of the film?! Thankfully the studio got its way and saved a good movie from being ruined.

So this sort of thing was far, far from new, in 1994. Tarrantino is a gourmand of other people's films. He pays his great homage to them by blatently plucking out his favourite ideas and techniques, and then assembles them in a highly glossed package of his own. They are ofcourse praised as original classics, because he's put his own stamp of coolness on them, because he used trendy ultra violence and chose a rather obscure list of minor classic soul music to have on his essential soundtrack. This is NOT TRUE FILM MAKING, fellow reviewers, I am sorry. This is film assembly! I do wonder what his reputation is among the long list of seasoned film makers. I wonder if they are as fawning in their praise for his pop trash movies as his hordes of loyal fans are. I don't think the guy is without talent in the craft, in the way I think our own Mr. Ritchie, for example, appears to be. The man has a good eye for visual imagery undoubtedly, and his scenes are proper scenes, unlike a lot of modern cinema, which has lost its way a bit with good scene building, and very much so with narrative and film structure (of which QT is a major culprit). I just wish he would make something far, far more original, and concentrate more on narrative substance than mere style. And where is he of late? He wouldn't happen to have run out of material, would he? I hope this talented arriviste can one day re-invent himself with a film or two of genuine class that will in some way make amends for the blaringly unoriginal and mereticious fare he dished us up in the 1990s.

Rating: 5:
Amazing. : One of my personal favourites. Such a witty script. Quentin Tarantino manages to capture everyday conversation in a larger than life story. Some excellent preformaces from the entire cast. I must agree that Tarantino's acting skills are not the greatest, however this does not manage to detract from the movie as a whole. If you have not seen this film, buy it, don't rent it because you will want to watch it again and again.

Rating: 5:
Still Authentic And Fascinating Over A Decade On : As well as reviving the career of John Travolta, this was also many people's first glimpse of Samuel L Jackson and Uma Thurman. Tarantino also made a real name for himself with this film, as one of the most cutting edge directors in the business.

The plot is actually split into various chapters, all of which have a crime/drugs theme, but interestingly, Tarantino chose to jumble up these chapters so that they are not in order. He also chose to shoot these chapters in a deliberately simplistic and uncomplicated way, as a homage to several French 'film noir' directors such as Besson, but, Tarantino makes it his own and achieves an authenticity which he has retained throughout much of his career.

We see some truly brilliant performances and memorable, if shocking, scenes, including some heavy drug use and a seriously grim scene of male rape. What saves this film from slipping into the land of unpleasant is it's script - which is trademark Tarantino - witty, observant, charming, detailed, chatty and fascinating. Listening to gangsters chatting about fast food and drugs laws has never been so amusing.

In addition to this, a memorable dancing contest and many laugh out loud moments make this film Tarantino's finest piece of art to date.

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