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Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction image
Parent Issue
Month
September
Year
1995
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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I A uentin Tarantino, the genius m, I of the moment embraced by so many who vvould never vote Republican, is the hip version of the angry white guy who does. Tarantino's manifestaron of the phenomenon is not so crude, except facetiously so, but there is a reflexive form of machismo evident in the two films he has directed, "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction." In both, of course, the prime tooi is a gun, and the standard operating procedure is force. Both films are widely admired as the ultimate tough-guy movies, unflinching in their portrayal of graphic violence - but with a sense of humor and pop-culture erudition. For all its interrupted storylines and O. Henry surprises, "Pulp Fiction" is self-consciously conventional in content, just as Tarantino is a proud partaker of the mass media fiction world of the pulp magazines, a genre of strict narrative conventions. The boxer whose honor won't permit him to throw the fight, the gangster's moll with a wandering eye, the camaraderie of professional killers - these are all subjects so hoary as to be clichés. In using them as a starting point, "Pulp Fiction" rejuvenates the fundamentals of American moviemaking, the kiss-kissbang-bang first principies (with an emphasis on the "masculine" side, the bang-bang), by pumping the old storylines up with an intricate web of quota tions from the communal media world of televisión, movies, and, in perhaps Tarantino's most significant addition, the universal experience of being a consumer. One of the most famous exchanges in the movie is the conversation between Jules and Vincent about McDonalds in Paris. "Royale with Cheese" has made it into the language far enough to become an allusion in other media; I recently heard a televisión newscaster use it in a story about foreign food, without attribution to the movie, simply as a commonly understood joke. Yet only in this most superficial way does "Pulp Fiction" traffic with everyday reality. In general the tone of Tarantino's work is a rejection of anything resembling the "real" world. Sure, there are scènes in coffee shops "like Denny's," as the script denotes, and in old cars and suburban tract homes, but the movie exists only in the terms of other movies, and is not, as collagists like Godard might construct, an undermining of those terms. In fact, the perfection of its escapism places it squarely in the most traditional and the most contemporary wave of Hollywood moviemaking. Quentin Tarantino is not the first poet of the consumer age, but he may be the first who has given himself so completely to it. Nothing but the ephemeral products of the marketplace seems to inspire him, and he seems only to exist in the shards he has collected for his private amusement. At the heart of his films is the exhilaration of watching a gifted fetishist arrange the useless objects of his obsession; it's like looking into the abyss and longing to fall into the restful emptiness. He is the distillation of Hollywood's eternal pledge that "It's only a movie," and a fitting hero for the centennial of commercial cinema. - excerptedfrom an article by Pat Dowell, in Cineaste, Vol. XXI, No. 3

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