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Parent Issue
Month
November
Year
1994
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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[1994. Directed by Quinten Tarantino. Cast John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Urna Thurman, Bruce Willis. Miramax Films. 153 mins.] m E Ld Atthough not always easy to watch - and even harder at times to sympathize with - Quinton Tarantino's latest film, Pulp Fiction, is a highly compelling motion picture. Three interiocking stories whose shlfts in time and narrative make it a fascinating post-modem faux-noir, Tarantino's Palmd'Or surprise winner at thisyear's Cannes Rlm Festival has all the makings of a longterm cult classic. So f it marters, movie fans, you can rest easy. ReservarDogs wasnofluke. Even atthisearlypoint in hls career, no one can doubt that Tarantino's got the makings of a writer and director who can go the distance. Pulp Fiction's breezy zip confirms this fact without question. But after only three years it's also becoming obvious that he's got to flash a couple of other cinematic ideas fairiy soon. While the horseplay of this film is interesting enough to keep a general audience satisfied, knowledgeable watchers are also noting the more than few similarities in his projects - both films and screenplays- to date. The movie's most compelling character is Samuel L Jackson's incredubus hitman, Jules. This bible-quotlng hired killer, and his fellow lug, Vincent (John Travolta), must retrieve a mysterious briefcase belonging to their gangland boss that keeps getting repeatedly lifted. The rest of the story takes off here. For Vincent must also contend with squiring the bosses' vixen, Mia (Urna Thurman) in the film's loopy first episode, "Vincent Vega and Marsellus Wallace's Wife." Mean while, mob-influenced boxer, Butch (Bruce Willis), must somehow survive afixed fight he nadvertently unfixed in "The Gold Watch." And finally, tworemarkabletwistsof lifeand (mostly) death(s) go along way towards persuading Jules that he'sgottogiveup his stressful prof essioninthe concluding episode, "The Bonnie Situation." There's a maniacally energetic glee to Pulp Hcöbnthatgoesalongway.WhenitseemsTarantino can 't top himsetf n this film; he does It again - and again. Yet by the time the movie concludes, the audience can 't help realize it's being manipulated. We're reduced to watching the director perform a high-wire act where he - and nothisfilm - isincreasingly on parade. The result is a movie that is stylistically even and extraordinarily clever, but temperamentally immature. That it would gamerone of the world's highest screen honors is more of a telling commentary on the state of the film industry today than what it says about Pulp Fiction as a motion picture itself. Being the fourth American film to win Cannes' Golden Palm in these last six years, it's becoming obvious the dramatic impact of last generation's European cinema is groaning to a halt. Dating back to the Italian Neorealists of the 1940s through the French New Wave of the 1 960s and Germany 's Das Neue Wno of the 1 970-80S, the Hollywood film was an inspiration for all to watch, but not a model to be emulated.Now the rest of world cinema is looking to our independent filmmakers to supply them with inspiration. The only problem is it's also a rather backhanded compliment because the American pictures being honored are vague retreads of European film styles. Pulp Fiction is really no d rfferent in this way than Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Wíld at Heart, or Barton Fink. What makes this film slightly different from its fellow U.S. Cannes-winners is its brassy lack of conscience. For even David Lynch wouldn't go as far as to endorse the notion that more gore, more humiliation, and more mayhem are lots and lots better than worse. Instead, Tarantino serves it up with a gusto that is as ultimately appalling as it is recurrently fetching. He ends up being the high school wise guy who constantly pushes the moral envelope in hisquestto prove he's hipper than anyone else in class. And it works famously. But while Pulp Fiction ends up havinglotsofmoviemoxie.it'slack of moral maturtty is also very, very interesting. QUIZ SHOW [1994. Directed by Robert Redford. Cast John Turturro, Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow, David Paymer. Hollywood Pictures. 130 mins.] Robert Redford has finally rolled up his sleevesand gonetowork. His latest film, Quiz Show, gives us a keener sense of what he stands for than the three films he's directed to date: Ordinary People, The Milagro Beanfíeld War, and A River Runs Through It. Redford, a uncloseted and unrepentant politica! liberal, has crafted a clever indictment against typical political bogeymen: capitalistic greed; a cabal between the government and big business; and intemecine middle-class warfare. The only hitch is that the facts that fit his movie's case could use a little more Ideológica! perspectlve - and he's certalnly not willing to go this far. Quiz Show's history is simple: NBC's 1958 game show Twenty-One could use a goose in the Nielsen ratings. So Producer Dan Enright (David Paymer), rlgs his program with ringers that will dramatize the cerebral thrill of victory and the agony of thick-headed defeat. He lucks out in recruiting upper middle-class WASP ColumbiaUniversity instructor, Charles Van Doren (Ralph Rennes) when vaguely working-class Jewish grad student and returning champ, Herbert Stempel (John Turturro), is determined by the show's sponsors to be putting Americato sleep a few hours early. In good time, the quiz show's newly found "Professor" Is a coverboy for Time magazine; he's reading poetry on the Today Show, and he's knocking the sorority coeds dead with his undergraduate literature lectures. Now most academies could only dream of having this cake. ..and eating it, too. It's also only a matter of time when Congressional investigator Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow) starts snooping around for a scandal to kick-start his stalled career on a Capitol Hill subcommittee covering legislative oversight just as Stempel is simultaneously being given the bum's rush off the airwaves. From here the story veers into some interesting ethical territory as class and ethnicity begin to play a major role in Goodwin 's not-so-subtle attempt to shield Van Doren; fend off the earnestly obnoxious Stempel; and bag the corporate villains who are deluding millions of innocentlygullibleAmericans into thinking thatbrains can indeed equal cash on nationwide televisión. But surely somebody had to know the fix was on. After all, Gerftol was the sponsor. One can instead see the ndignant sweat of Redford's brow as he labors to unveil the layers of hypocritical treachery lining the leather wallets of those greedy men at NBC. Yet in equally typical liberal fashion, he also carefully hedges his bets as everyone turns out to be on the take in this pseudo-morality play. Investigator Goodwin will eventually go to work in the Justice Department for that paragon of virtue, John F. Kennedy. Van Doren resigns from Columbia to write books. Even the corporate players eventually make more millions of dollars with game shows more inane than Twenty-One. Only Stempel ends up with a fate worse than death: He gets a job with the New York City transit system. The wonder of Quiz Show is that Redford has made a reasonably compelling filmout only moderately compelling material. But in his studious equal-handed attempt to remind us that the rot blighting America started well before Vietnam and Watergate, he's forgotten one important point. Maybe we would have all been better off if the crooks on Twenty-One hadn't been exposed so quickly. At the least, it would have spared us from Wheel of Fortune. I RATING KEY ft Acting Cinematography Direction 8E Editing fa Narrative Sound O Special Effects Wien a symbo appears following a title, t implies that the corresponding category s a strength of the movie.

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