Pulp fiction was the resounding winner in the poll, where I asked you to help me with my first column. In hindsight I should not have been surprised. It is the one “confirmed” classic among my six suggestions. I was apprehensive writing about it. Being a confirmed classic means that it has already been dissected every which it can be, since it was released in 1994. Could I add anything new? Then I watched it again. It is definitely worth a new conversation.
Why has this movie endured? That sparkling dialogue. These conversations about fast food, foot massages, piercings, gold watches, bacon….and I could go on. They are endlessly entertaining. It’s not about the narrative of the story, it’s about what happens in between while we are getting there. That’s what made it so fresh and interesting back then and what makes it a classic now.
These days you see non linear narrative in everything from movies to TV but back then it was new. Pulp Fiction inspired many with that device from ‘The English Patient” to “Damages”. Slowly peeling the story layer by layer and surprising us along the way. And above all none of the interlocked storied end in a place you would expect. Take Vincent Vega and Mia Wallace, never would I have expected their flirtatious teasing banter to end with him sticking a hypodermic needle in her chest?
Pulp fiction is endlessly quotable. I know I’ve used “uncomfortable silences’ many a time. I’m sure many have memorized Sam Jackson’s big bible quote and his speech about trying to be the shepherd. Not only are the characters quotable, they are fascinatingly written which feeds into fan fiction and theory and what made this a classic. Not to mention the red herring of what’s in the case? We’re never told or shown and this kept people talking. So many things to keep people talking. Did you notice Steve Buscemi in a cameo as the waiter “Buddy Holly”? Or Alexis Arquette as the fourth preppy gangster? Did you read any of the numerous articles about the significance of the band aid on the back of Ving Rhames’ head?
Pulp Fiction also was the arrival of Quentin Tarantino as a singular movie visionary. It fed into his cult of personality and made him for a while a pop culture phenomenon. It is the movie that started one of the most interesting auteur careers of the 1990s.
Of course Tarantino also revived John Travolta’s career with Pulp Fiction. Would he have been offered Broken Arrow and Face/Off without having been Vincent Vega first? Maybe. Probably not.
My favorite quote is Jules’ “I’m having what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity”. What is yours? Tell me in the comments.