Pulp Fiction [Blu-Ray]
Director : Quentin Tarantino
Screenplay : Quentin Tarantino (stories by Quentin Tarantino & Roger Avary)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1994
Stars : John Travolta (Vincent Vega), Samuel L. Jackson (Jules Winnfield), Uma Thurman (Mia Wallace), Ving Rhames (Marsellus Wallace), Bruce Willis (Butch), Maria de Medeiros (Fabienne), Eric Stoltz (Lance), Tim Roth (Pumpkin), Amanda Plummer (Honeybunny)
Although it is has been 17 years since Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction took the world by storm, winning the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and making the wunderkind video-store-clerk-turned-director a cultural icon of cinematic obsessive-cool, it remains one of the most audacious, confounding, and ultimately exciting American films of the last few decades. As wholly original as it is a copy of hundreds of films before it, it dares you to step out of the mundane and enter a colorful, exhilarating world that could only be Los Angeles seen through a camera lens.
As a modern tribute to the trashy excesses of an era gone by, it blazed a brave new trail through contemporary cinema, refusing to play by any rules and succeeding on every level against all the odds. On a purely formal level, Tarantino’s sophomore film is defiant in the way it manipulates conventional plot structure by twisting time to satisfy its own devices and make the impossible possible. It is an odd miracle how Tarantino could distort chronology so blatantly, yet finish with a product that is not only accessible to a mainstream audience (the film grossed well over $100 at the domestic box office, an unheard-of feat for a non-studio production), but flows more smoothly than it would have had he told it in linear fashion.
The film tells a series of interlocking stories involving two hitmen, a boxer and his French girlfriend, a crime boss and his mischievous wife, a small time drug dealer, a trio of wannabe criminals, two lovebird robbers, a high-strung suburban husband who makes great coffee, and a professional problem solver who attends formal cocktail parties at eight o’clock in the morning. Add to the mixture several heavy doses of comical violence, a lot of fascinatingly vulgar dialogue, and a mysterious suitcase, and all the elements--unlikely as they are--are in place.
The two hitmen, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, are portrayed by John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson, who play off each other with perfect timing and relaxed ease, carrying on intriguing conversations about the subtle differences between Europe and America (“In Paris, you can buy a beer in McDonald’s”) as well as philosophical debates about the nature of miracles and the relative importance of foot massages. One episode in the film involves Vincent taking his boss’s wife out while the boss is out of town. The boss is Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), an imposing crime lord, so you can quickly see why Vincent is so nervous about not offending his wife, Mia (Uma Thurman). Their date starts in a hip burger joint called Jack Rabbit Slim’s, an extravagantly brazen ’50s-style joint that includes more pop culture references than I could dream of listing. The night ends with an overdose and a frighteningly hilarious sequence where Vincent and his friendly drug connection buddy (Eric Stoltz) bicker incessantly about who is going to inject Mia’s heart with a six-inch adrenaline needle. The scene is alternately outrageous, hilarious, tense, gruesome, and touching--a neat summary of the film as a whole.
Another scene finds Vincent and Jules in the homely suburban kitchen of the high-strung Jimmy (Tarantino). Vincent has accidentally blown someone’s head off in the back seat of the car, and they have to get it cleaned up and out of Jimmy’s garage in an hour before Jimmy’s wife comes home. This requires the aid of Winston Wolf (Harvey Keitel), a.k.a. The Wolf. “I solve problems,” he announces on the doorstep. The whole sequence is completely ludicrous in its own bloody way, but it’s also hilarious in its playful inversion of power, with the two professional hitmen at the whim of a wormy suburbanite in his bathrobe.
Yet another sequence involves Butch (Bruce Willis), a boxer who double-crosses Marsellus. Through a series of contrivances, Butch and Marsellus wind up meeting on the street the next day (this involves the story of Butch’s infamous gold watch, something you have to hear from the mouth of Christopher Walken to believe). After an ensuing fight, they both wind up in the clutches of two hillbillies and their leatherfreak slave, lovingly referred to as the Gimp. The whole sequence verges on the surreal as the unexpected keeps popping up right before your eyes. Just when you think it can’t get any weirder ...
Yet, despite all this outrageousness, Tarantino keeps a remarkably firm grasp on the material, even as it threatens to spin completely out of control. Pulp Fiction is so remarkable because it walks to the very edge of chaos, but never falls over. It isn’t afraid to mix the past and the present, the vulgar and the religious, the logical and the supernatural, or the comic and the violent. Tarantino draws studiously from his personal well of cinematic obsessions, whether it be blaxploitation films, horror comedies, European art oddities, or film noir, and he even references his own nascent cinematic universe by casting actors familiar from his 1992 debut film Reservoir Dogs (Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, and Steve Buscemi) and giving Travolta’s character a name similar to Michael Madsen’s character in the earlier film. He leaves questions unanswered (What is in that glowing suitcase?), but affirms in no small way that evil is punished and there is room for righteousness in our deeply flawed world. The film allows for maximum effect without every quite destroying itself, and Tarantino’s mastery of that daring kind of cinematic dangerousness alone makes it, hands down, the best film of that year and arguably one of the best films in recent memory, the kind that truly alters the course of cinema history. A whole generation of filmmakers has been chasing it ever since.
|Pulp Fiction Blu-Ray|
|Audio||English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround|
|Distributor||Miramax / Lionsgate|
|Release Date||October 4, 2011|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|Pulp Fiction’s high-definition 1080p transfer was remastered under Quentin Tarantino’s supervision, and it looks very much the way I remember it looking in theaters back in 1994. The image is sharp and crisp, yet it retains just a slight edge of characteristic roughness in Andrzej Sekula’s garish cinematography, which tends to favor bold contrasts, bright colors, and blown-out whites. The black levels are impressive throughout, allowing us to see minute details in John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson’s suits, even though at time it purposeful fades into darkness. There is little evidence of any image boosting, which allows the image to retain its natural grain structure. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround soundtrack has also been remastered, giving the film’s bold sound mix and sometimes startling use of music maximum effectiveness.|
|All of the supplements from the previous two-disc DVD edition are included here, along with two new supplements. The first is “Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat,” which consists of 45 minutes of interviews a number of cast members, including John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Eric Stoltz, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, and Rosanna Arquette. Their reminiscences are consistently interesting and fun to listen to, even if you’ve head many of them before; there is something about having an additional decade of distance between now and the film’s initial release that gives their memories that much more impact and poignancy, especially when Travolta talks with obvious emotion about how the film effectively saved his career. Also new is a lengthy roundtable discussion about the film by five well-known film critics: New York Times critic Elvis Mitchell, Salon critic Stephanie Zacharek, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, Los Angeles critic Andy Klein, and Variety critic Scott Foundras. They generate a lively discussion, not all of which is unadorned praise for the film (Zacharek is quite open in expressing her issues with it).|
Copyright ©2011 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © Miramax / Lionsgate