Tuesday, 7 September 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 357

9 - Pulp Fiction - 4 stars
It is amazing to realise how long it has been since I have seen any of the films in the top ten. Obviously I wouldn't have seen any of them in the past 365 days, but I haven't seen any of these films in years. Odd considering these are supposed to be the greatest ever made. Still it is nice to revisit them all now.
My first viewing of Pulp Fiction was a memorable one. I was 15 and this was back in the day when you had to wait a year or so before a film would make its way onto Sky Movies (how on earth did we cope?). I begged my parents to let me watch it, since it was an 18 and they might have wanted to protect their innocent little boy, but they relented and we watched it... or at least I watched the first 50 minutes or so. It turned out when I looked up at the ceiling that I had actually fainted during the overdose scene and therefore never got to see the end of the film. It would actually be several years before I got to see (and stayed concious for) the entire film.
So what do I think of it now?
Empire called Pulp Fiction the "definitive nineties movie" and it would be hard to argue with that. It spawned an entire genre of imitators (i.e. any crime film had to have scenes where the criminals would talk about pop culture references in a non-linear narrative); cemented the need to have a soundtrack filled with snippets of dialogue from the movie; made Tarantino the coolest filmmaker around (even if he found it difficult to follow up on this film); and was incredibly influential on the careers of its actors (Travolta's career was resurrected, Willis proved he could do more than action, it made a star out of Samuel L. Jackson, etc).
Fiction is an interesting film but it is not due to the non-linear structure but it is down to other aspects of its storytelling. It is made up of three generic pulp stories; The Boss's Wife, Boxer Throws A Fight and The Hitmen Who Have To Retrieve A Package.
Tarantino splits these up so elements of each story appear in others but what is great about the film is that he takes each story in an unexpected direction. Instead of having an affair with the wife the employee has to take care of her when she ODs; we never see the boxing match, just the aftermath; and the story with Vincent and Jules is really made up of the scenes that would be cut from any other movie as they don't really service the plot, and just feature two guys talking about life.
The film's main strength is its dialogue. It is a beautifully lyrical film, albeit one loaded with f-bombs. QT has a real ear for natural sounding dialogue and the result is one of the most quotable films of all time, whether it is discussing the differences between Amsterdam and the US or Christopher Walken delivering another cracking monolgue about a watch up someone's ass.
What impressed me this time around was the cinematography. Andrej Sekula has a sharp eye and knows how to frame each shot, particularly during the dinner scene with Travolta and Thurman. They start off far apart and distant in the frame, then gradually met in the middle as they get to know each other.
However... after all that praise I am still only going to award Pulp Fiction 4 stars. Why? Because Tarantino has always been guilty of not knowing when to cut. Because he writes and directs his own material it makes it harder for him to edit them because he seems to lose some degree of objectivity, Death Proof being a prime example of a film with too much talking, not enough action. And in Fiction, the problem lies in that fact that The Bonnie Situation segment that ends the film is too bloated and not as good as the previous parts of the film.

P.S. The Empire 500 List was compiled back in August 2008 and at that point they said that Tarantino was yet to surpass this... but in my humble opinion (and pretty much the only one you will find on this blog) I honestly believe that Inglourious Basterds is now his "masterpiece", which seems to improve with every viewing.
P.S.S. To follow on from the story of fainting during Pulp Fiction, it was actually a pretty regular occurence during movies when I was a teenager. Something about blood made me pass out, ironic considering my dad is a haemotologist! It wasn't your run-of-the-mill OTT Evil Dead style, obviously fake blood and gore that is made from melted red crayons that affected me but realistic stuff that sent me heading straight to the floor.
There is actually another film in this top ten that caused me to pass out but which one? I guess you'll have to keep checking back every day to find out.

Days remaining - 8 Films remaining - 8

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