Friday, August 21, 2015
"Pulp Fiction" (1994)
“Pulp Fiction” is in Tarantino’s early, pre-revenge films. It is a collection of vignettes, short stories, pieced together in non-sequential order to tell a larger, slice-of-life story. It revolves around a group of mobsters doing the things mobsters do: fixing fights, gambling, enforcing their will, killing people, but also going out to eat and having mindless small talk. It is not for everyone. Some people do not like watching this underworld. Add in some truly bizarre sexual predators and you turn a lot of people off.
But it is a tour-de-force of cinematic narrative. And it is incredibly well written and executed. But beyond all of that there is a compelling story at the center of things.
An event that happens very early in the narrative, but that is told as book-ends at the beginning and end of the film, involves two hitmen killing some guys and recovering a possession for their boss. In the course of their job, they experience a miraculous event. They are shot at point blank. And yet, even though there are bullet holes in the wall behind them, they are untouched.
One of the killers, Vincent Vega played by John Travolta, believes that the whole thing is a coincidence. He goes on with his mobster life, and is ultimately killed a few days later. Jules, on the other hand (played by Samuel L. Jackson), sees it as a miracle of God and decides to change his ways. We see him make this change and attempt to become a good man. It makes the film a story of redemption.
Now, admittedly it is not a strong story of redemption. Tarantino is really more about style than substance. But all of the major mobster characters face terrible, often ironic, judgements. Most of the stories deal in one way or another with death. And, being a postmodern film, there is a whole lot of subtlety leaving things open to the viewers interpretation. But the redemption angle is unambiguous. And, framing the whole movie, you have to think it is the point of the film.