Last Sunday, the film world celebrated the 53rd birthday of acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino. Known for his penchant for using racial epithets in his dialogue, witty pop culture references and a love for traditional cinema, Tarantino is one of the finest directors of all time.
Today, I’ll be talking about his magnum opus – and what I think is the finest film ever made: “Pulp Fiction.”
“Pulp Fiction” is many things. It’s raunchy, daring and dangerous, but it’s also a master class on how to write a script. Take a look at the multi-dimensional characters of Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson).
They are supposed to be deadly hitmen, but a simple viewing of their friendly bickering and lazy, yet weirdly poignant philosophical musings with each other illustrates the fragility of American masculinity. Don’t believe me? Watch a scene where Vega accidentally shoots a guy in the face.
And the pop culture references? Forget about trying to catch all of them. It can come through something as obvious as a discussion on fast food or something as subtle as a split-take cinematic shot. Even the settings of each scene are so rife with cultural nuance that viewers will pick up on.
For example, anyone who has seen “Pulp Fiction” will always remember when the seductive and charming Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) dances with Vega at a ’50s-esque restaurant: a perfect capturing of both forbidden romance (Wallace is the lover of Vega’s boss) and cultural exceptionalism.
Obviously, like any Tarantino movie, there’s levels of overindulgence. Whether it’s intentional or not is up for debate. For instance, I still find myself conflicted at whether a scene with Tarantino gratuitously saying the n-word is a brilliant portrayal of clueless and unstoppable white privilege or just him trying to be black.
Similarly, I’m not sure about my feelings regarding a scene where a prominent character is raped by another man. Is this supposed to be some statement of sexuality or a gross deconstruction of manhood meant for the director’s twisted sense of humor? As with Tarantino, the answer is probably a bit of both.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you’re probably going to ask me what it’s about. To be honest, I’ve seen “Pulp Fiction” countless times and each time I’ve had a different opinion about its content. All I can say is that its cultural richness, impeccable screenplay and multi-layered narrative make for a unique experience that solidifies its cinematic immortality.