Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pulp Fiction and the Power of Characters

Last week I had the not so fun experience of getting my wisdom teeth removed. Getting teeth ripped out of your mouth or drilled out in multiple pieces, as was the case with me, is a pretty awful time. Certainly not the way you want to spend the last week of summer break. But I had big plans for this week, plans that involved smoothies and movie binging, with Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction being at the top of my list. Many view this as one of Tarantino's top films and I was tired of the criminal look flashed my way when mentioned that I hadn't seen it. So I popped a few pain killers, pressed an ice pack to my cheek and settled onto the couch for this 2 hour 34 minute film.

A lengthy Tarantino movie is not unusual as most of his recent films are over 2 hours, sometimes pushing 3. I personally struggle at times sitting through long dragged out movies, but have never really had a problem with Tarantino. Both Django and Inglorious Bastards had a rich plot that carries the viewer through the experience, so I was unfazed by the long run time of Pulp Fiction.

The film draws you in quickly with it's strong dialogue and early action, bringing you into this dark and seedy world. Each seen brings a new circumstance that makes you question who's good and who's bad, what the consequences will be for each character and overall where is the plot heading? Every time I tried to convince myself that the story was leading to something big, it cut to something else, something new. It wasn't until around the 1 hour mark that I accepted the fact that plot was secondary in this film.

The thing that makes Pulp Fiction so captivating are the many personalities throughout. Each scene is pretty much used as a character piece giving the actor a spotlight to shine. Every character is so interesting and unique in their own way that as a viewer you stop thinking about the plot and more about the people. Tarantino doesn't diverge completely from formulaic story arcs as each little part of the film has a climax that is resolved before moving on to the next sequence. And things throughout the film are not actually in chronological order which is nowhere near as confusing as it sounds. Tarantino does a great job in navigating the viewer through by breaking up the different plots by titling each sequence change. For instance we see "The Golden Watch" flashed over black before jumping into Bruce Willis' story. Thanks to strong writing and direction all the actors in this piece were able to shine in this film.

What Tarantino has also done well in past is his ability to write and make a movie within a genre. A recent example is his most recent release, Django. In this film he was able to create a new and creative twist on the old school Spaghetti Westerns. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino does a great job of creating a film that falls within the Pulp Noir genres. For those like me who didn't know what that means I looked it up. According to the internet, "Pulp noir locations are often seedy, run-down and degraded urban landscapes, where the lack of law, morals and even the proliferation of crime and drugs are common themes. Another common trend in pulp noir is the glorification and/or demonization of its urban locations." This definition almost perfectly represents the world created within the film. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino was able to create an all time great movie built on it's characters and setting.

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