Things I Noticed Re-watching Pulp Fiction In 2012
Posted on December 3, 2012 by Chris Nelson
I first saw Pulp Fiction back when I was about 13 years old, in the local Century Cinema (that was back in a time when you could lie about your birthdate and get into an R rated movie, provided you did the math correctly). The film had all the fresh hype about it at that point, and the shocking nature of the dialog made it immediately quotable for me and my adolescent friends. Plus, quoting Ezekiel 25:17, missives on Amsterdam McDonald’s offerings, and dirty foot massage monologues were proof we had seen something that we weren’t supposed to. We knew all the lines.
Suffice it to say, I watched it numerous times during junior high and highschool, but in the past 10 years or so I haven’t seen it at all. With the new Tarantino XX box set, I figured I’d check it out again.
Here are a few things I noticed this time around:
It’s been almost 18 years, but the cinematography, editing, and acting all hold up pretty nicely. The film is technically solid. The little musical touches on certain sequences (eg. “It’s good to see you, I must go” when Butch encounters Marsellus) were hilarious. My favorite bit of camerawork happened to be Butch’s approach to his apartment, with the steadycam even following him through a torn chain-link fence. Really impressive stuff.
Many parts of the film are a lot funnier than I remember. For example, the interactions between Jules and Vincent at the Quentin’s house, while trying to clean Marvin’s blood off their hands, numerous idiosyncracies in their other interactions, and the hilarious and shocking shooting/foot-chase as Marsellus pursues Butch post-crash.
Conversely, many parts are a lot less interesting. The whole Esmerelda The Cab Driver sequence was always excruciating, but I found I was waiting out sequences of indulgent dialogue far more frequently than I remembered. Sure, being older and a bit more worldly, I now recognize the French New Wave nods, but I never really liked the French New Wave. More often than not, it’s been a waste of my time.
The story is pretty much America’s Dumbest Criminals better cinematography. For example, Butch returns to his apartment in order to retrieve his watch, and though knowing he’s completely in danger, he almost immediately gets distracted by Pop-Tarts. Vincent, equally stupid, leaves his gun behind in the kitchen, (something no experienced hitman would do, though it is during his first day without Jules), which results in his death.
In scene after scene Jules postures and bloviates extensively without listening or thinking. In the restaurant, he “buys” Ringo’s life, but never demands he do anything with it. Similarly, his “I’m trying real hard to be the Shepherd” claim reminded me of recovering alcoholics with a half-day of sobriety. Seriously, he had just killed a room full of people about two hours prior to that point. It’s all kind of ridiculous. Entertaining, but ultimately empty calories.
Lastly, if you organize the story in chronological order, The Gold Watch story really sticks out as a dissimilar piece. Vincent and Jules go to retrieve Marsellus’s breifcase. They kill some dudes, get shot at themselves, and ultimately end up accidentally shooting Marvin. Then they go clean up their car, go to the restaurant, and stare down Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. Afterwards, Jules quits the game, Vincent goes out with Mia, dances, and adrenalizes her. That night, Butch throws the fight, and in the morning retrieves his watch, kills Vincent, and watches Marsellus get ass-raped, and kills the hillbillies. Then Butch and pot-girl ride off into the sunset. You’ve got a film that’s primarily Vincent and Jules, with Butch thrown in at the very end. Scrambled all up it seems a lot bigger and more cohesive than it really is.
I probably sound negative, but most of the new things I noticed were due to my seeing the film with a critical eye, time having eroded my rosy-colored glasses. I also noticed quite a few interesting touches Quentin added. For example, I’d just re-watched Reservior Dogs the previous night, and Quentin was sporting the same Speed Racer T-Shirt Roth was in that film. The Tennessee license plates in the dungeon/pawn shop were a nice nod to the state in which he was born. And Vince reading Modesty Blaise both times in the bathroom? Quentin’s character Jimmy Dimmick has the same last name as Mr. White from Reservoir Dogs (revealed in a deleted scene). Are they related? And that’s interesting that he’s interacting with Keitel as The Wolf. And then the crazy cameos. Kathy Griffin? It’s Pat?? What the hell? Too funny.
So, all in all, it was an interesting experience. Both better and worse than I remembered, and entertaining in ways I hadn’t noticed before. But ultimately, I found it inspiring. It made me want to start writing again. Not just about film, but about whatever crazy things come to mind. I’ll have to watch it again in a few more years and see what I think, but for now I’m glad to have visited it again.