Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino

This is a peculiar film.  Its appeal is hard to argue against, and it is harder still to ascertain the reasons for the said appeal.

The characters are all outlandish, cool in an urban-ghetto way, witty and never lost for the right word, and very, very opinionated.

Enough has been written about this film. I want to focus on a peculiar feature of this film which seems to have been missed in all the reviews that I have read so far. Remember that this film won the 1994 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

My theory is that "Pulp Fiction" is a film about the mundane details of American lifestyle and culture. It imagines some lurid story-lines to describe some common, crass, low-brow experiences in the United States which may seem perversely delightful to a literate audience. Watching Pulp Fiction is like being at the zoo.

The film contains self-conscious references to the following entertainingly kitschy aspects of American culture:
  • Los Angeles
  • A heavy dose of unusually profane language
  • Plenty of drug use
  • American fast food.  In fact there are many monologues and curious plot-twists about cheap food in the film: cheeseburgers (especially the quarter-pounder with cheese!), milk shakes, fries, "Sprite", diner breakfasts, "blueberry pancakes", pop-tarts, ...
  • Big cars and the American love of automobiles
  • Brawny prizefighters
  • Dumb girlfriends
  • An ironical reference to war veterans gloating over their stories
  • An exposition that American names are meaningless ("Butch", "Bonnie")
  • Motels
  • Choppers.  Not just any regular motorcycle, the American travesty that is a "chopper"
  • Over-the-top fetishes (the "gimp")
  • Face piercings
  • Suburbia: lawn hoses, "graveyard shift wife", big garages, "gourmet coffee"
  • The "nigger" culture of gangs, gambling and drugs
  • Having cereal for dinner while watching TV
  • An overindulgence in gadgetry: e.g. the useless CCTV at home
  • Shallow decor (the inside-out restaurant)
  • The "twist" dance and rock-and-roll music
  • Bible-thumping while doing everything the Bible forbids
The film made fun of Americana in a lighthearted, entertaining way.  All the characters in the film are moral and intellectual imbeciles and it provided a morbid kind of pleasure to watch these street-smart bozos messing up.

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