Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino)

Vincent, Jules and the divine intervention.

Oh, how "Pulp Fiction" exemplifies the very meaning of the phrase 'it gets better after every viewing'. One can watch this film any way he/she wants to. If you're in a mood for a pretty slick, densely-written comedy of characters and choices, then there's nowhere to look further than this film. If you're in for some pop culture-laden crime film, then "Pulp Fiction" it still is.

Now, if you may initially think that this film is nothing but a shallowly self-indulgent farce that extracts its energy and ideas from worn-out B-movie references and obscure music, then simply look at it through Jules Winnfield's (the immortalized Samuel L. Jackson) desensitized eyes. It will immediately turn into a film of staggering, multi-layered power, and a rough-edged ode towards spiritual redemption and hard-bound honor, which is what the film is really all about, at least in my view.

But do not get me wrong about that 'selective exposure'-type subjective viewing that I have recommended. I mean, it can still be enjoyed in its immediate layer of violence and involving dialogues. But "Pulp Fiction", unlike any other films not just of its kind but of any films in general, gets better every time you dig a little bit deeper. There's little to no doubt why critics have endlessly analyzed the film ranging from its theological relevance to its devilish undercurrents (Did Marsellus Wallace's really sold his soul to the devil?). Many people have since relished all that's been there, surface-wise. Now it's time to further the appreciation.

There have been countless deconstructions, theorizing and analogizing (I'm not even counting how many speculations have been formulated regarding the content of Marsellus Wallace's briefcase) that have occurred and transpired ever since this film claimed one of the uppermost pedestals of postmodern cinema so that it can rightfully stand side-by side with the seminal works of Jean-Luc Godard.

"Pulp Fiction" has also created a colorful, albeit violence-laden, alternate reality where gangsters may kill in cold blood and talk about foot massages and cheeseburgers and rejected TV pilots at the same breath. A parallel but infinitely peculiar netherworld where normal-looking fellows can ably run pawn shops the same way they can also be dangerous homosexual perverts.

But the film, a masterful merging of spontaneous articulacy and empirical pop culture knowledge by Quentin Tarantino, Quentin Tarantino (I just have to mention him twice) and Roger Avary (who both deservedly won an Oscar for the film's unique screenplay), ceased to be just a cynical exploration of the wholeness of crime.

For a film that consists of sex, drugs and violence that blur the boundaries that separate it from the thematic commonalities of a typical B-grade fare, Tarantino and Avary infused their subtly hopeful sides into it to provoke, balance, and substantiate the transgressive nature that they have visually depicted all throughout the film. "Pulp Fiction", with its ironic mixture of cruelty and humanity, displays an unorthodox poise that makes it even more special and, to a certain extent, quite illuminating.

There's not much to say regarding its top-notch all-star cast, with Sam Jackson, John Travolta (as Vincent Vega) and Uma Thurman (as Mia Wallace) delivering the highlight performances, and with Bruce Willis as prizefighter Butch Coolidge serving as our rare glimpse of heroism that may either be self-serving, unconditional or both.

But what really served as the film's transition point from darkness to light is Jules' powerful dual delivery of the "Ezekiel 25:17" Bible verse. Notice his initial delivery that seems to be an oratorical expression of superficial, god-like anger. Then compare it to his enlightened utterance of the said verse in the film's final scenes. For people who may say that "Pulp Fiction" is nothing but a pretentious, overwritten mess that has an almost 3-hour running time but does not even have anything concrete to say at all, take a look at the tonal difference between the two line deliveries and how Jules, in the latter enunciation, stresses the line about how he tries real hard to be a shepherd with glittering conviction. It's just stunning.

Sometimes, it's not mainly the narrative that hands out change, but the characters themselves. Consider Winston Wolf's (Harvey Keitel) unforgettable remark: "Just because you are a character doesn't mean that you have character." Fortunately, Jules surely is and certainly has.


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