Concise Review: Pulp Fiction (1994)


Pulp Fiction is an example of a rarely seen sophisticated and transcendent style over substance film. It would seem like a contradiction in terms to assert this, however, the influential 1994 picture warrants this claim in a few ways. Firstly, compared to his other films, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction is not really about anything. He does not have a thesis and his usual fascination with the appointed and self-created persona are only given lip service by a few characters. However, the style of the picture is so masterful and interesting that it does become one of those rare films where the lack of substance does not matter.

For example, the structure of the film demands repeated viewings as it creates a fascinating time line for all the characters, which in turn makes the universe they inhabit richer and their depth boundless. With this in mind, one could essentially watch the film through the prism of a single character and still walk away feeling satisfied with the experience. For instance, in the course of my recent viewing of the film, the character of Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) resonated with me most. Her plight was not only tense but also tragic as she comes across as a woman who is deeply unhappy but is nonetheless biting and charming. Thurman plays Mia with a precise balance of seductive and sad edge, which makes her dialogue and actions some of the best in the entire film.

Finally, Fiction has to be commended for its impeccable balance of disparate genres and tones. The picture goes from a scene that evokes 1950s Americana and Film to a scene that feels like it came out of a nasty, 1970s revenge exploitation film. This is an aspect that extends to some of the camera work and shots. For example, there is a scene that feels superimposed on a frame of a film from the 1960s, with an unnatural and surreal looking city surrounding, which is black and white. Along with the same fascination as Sergio Leone, which is a concern for the build up and drama before the gunshot and Tarantino has made a film that feels like a warm and loving embrace of the cinematic medium.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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