View Full Version : pulp...fiction?!

06-26-2008, 04:16 AM
i stumbbled upon this while looking for my new sig. its pretty old news and ive read all these before, but just thought id share these with you guys...share your thoughts and anything else.


by Roger Ebert

We were analyzing "The Fiction," as it is sometimes called, at the University of Virginia, where I was spending a week as the first Kluge Film Fellow. Patricia Kluge, founder of the Virginia Festival of American Film, sponsors the fellowship on Thomas Jefferson's beautiful campus (although what Jefferson would have thought about Vincent Vega and Honey Bunny is hard to imagine).

At the end of the four days, my own admiration for the movie had only deepened. It is more subtle and complex than at first it seems; the Oscar-winning screenplay, by Tarantino and Roger Avary, turns out to contain the answers to mysteries that baffle viewers in a first viewing, and it makes connections that only occur to you after time.

The film tells interlocking stories, which unfold out of chronological order, so that the movie's ending hooks up with the beginning, most of its middle happens after the ending, and a major character is onscreen after he has been shot dead. Why is the movie told in this way? For three reasons, perhaps: (1) Because Q.T., as his fans call him, is tired of linear plots that slog wearily from A to Z; (2) to make the script reveal itself like "hypertext," in which "buttons" like the gold watch or "foot massage" lead to payoffs like Butch's story or Vincent's date from hell; and (3) because each of the main stories ends with some form of redemption. The key redemption -- the decision by Jules(Samuel L. Jackson) to retire from crime after his life is saved by a "miracle" -- is properly placed at the end of the film even though it doesn't happen at the end of the story.

The first time I saw the movie, in May 1994 at the Cannes Film Festival, I thought it was very violent. As I saw it a second and third time, I realized it wasn't as violent as I thought -- certainly not by the standards of modern action movies. It SEEMS more violent because it often delays a payoff with humorous dialogue, toying with us. Our body count at Virginia turned up only seven major deaths. (Read no further if you do not want to know major plot details.) The dead:

-- Three guys in the apartment -- one in the chair, one on the couch, and one in the bathroom -- are killed by Vincent (John Travolta) and Jules (Jackson).

-- Marvin, the fourth guy from the apartment, is accidentally killed while sitting in the backseat of Jules' and Vincent's car.

-- Vincent Vega is killed by Butch (Bruce Willis).

-- Two men are killed at the pawn shop: Maynard, the store owner, and his friend Zed.

-- In addition, there are two unseen or implied deaths, of the boxer killed in the ring by Butch, and of "the Gimp," dressed in leather in the pawn shop basement.

Against this body count, there are several people who are saved in the movie. Mia (Uma Thurman) is brought back from the dead after an overdose; Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) is saved by Butch in the basement; and many potential victims in the coffee shop are saved after Jules talks Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth) into calling off their stickup. And, of course, the lives of Jules and Vincent are saved, when a volley of shots in the apartment misses them. Jules chooses to call this a miracle, a sign from God, and retires from crime. Vincent shrugs it off, and pays the price. There is also an important, hilarious, subplot about the saving of Butch's gold watch.

One thing we kept noticing during our shot-by-shot odyssey was that much of the violence is off-screen. When the guys in the apartment are shot, the camera is on Jules or Vincent, not on the victims. When the hypodermic needle goes into Mia's chest, the camera cuts away at the last instant to a reaction shot (instant comic relief from Rosanna Arquette, who is into body-piercing, and is delighted to have witnessed the ultimate piercing). The gunshot in the backseat of the car is offscreen. The violence in the pawn shop basement is graphic, but within the boundaries of standard movie fights.

The more you watch the movie, the more you're convinced that there is a hidden spiritual level in the plot. Much has to do with the famous briefcase which belongs to Marcellus Wallace, and which Jules and Vincent capture in the apartment. We never see its contents, which emit a golden glow. There have been countless theories about what's in it ("an Egg MacGuffin," said somebody at Virginia), but of course we will never know. What we can notice is that the combination to its lock is "666" -- the sign of Satan. That has led to speculation that the Band-Aid on the back of Marcellus' neck conceals the number "666." Is Marcellus the devil? That's unknowable, but reflect that Jules, who believes he has been saved by God, lives -- while Vincent, the scoffer, dies.

He's shot by Butch as he comes out of the bathroom (lots of things happen in this movie while people are in the john). A detail that escaped me the first time, however, is that Butch uses a gun belonging to Marcellus, who left it on the counter of Butch's apartment while going to get coffee and doughnuts. (Marcellus has joined Vincent in the stakeout for Butch because, of course, Jules has already resigned.) "The guys who wrote this screenplay weren't lazy," someone said at Virginia; "it's interesting how they worked all this detail in even though most people will miss it."

A theme running through the movie is that many of the weapons do not work or are not used as they are intended (the gun that misses Jules, the gun that kills Vincent, the gun that accidentally kills the guy in the backseat, the guns in the coffee shop robbery, the guns belonging to the pawn shop guys). After Jules is converted, his own gun PREVENTS violence in the coffee shop.

On the film's less significant side, there are also many secrets to discover. In Jack Rabbit Slim's, for example, the waiter playing Buddy Holly (Steve Buscemi) was Mr. Pink in QT's "Reservoir Dogs." Three other cast members from "RD" (Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel and Tarantino) are also in "PF." There is a Vic Vega in "RD," perhaps related to Vincent Vega.

As Butch sneaks up on his own apartment, the words "Jack Rabbit Slim's" emerge from an open window he walks past. One particularly neat bit of continuity happens in the pawn shop, where there is a neon sign for Killian's Red beer. Some of the letters are burnt out, so the sign says only "Kill Ed." Later, when Butch escapes on Zed's motorcycle, he looks at the key-ring, which has a big metal "Z." Add the Z to the sign and you get "Kill Zed," which is what happened. The motorcycle has the word "Grace" painted on its gas tank, and as Butch escapes -- well, there, but for the grace of God ...

There were two visual touches we discussed a lot. One is the golden glow which mysteriously suffuses the screen as Jules and Vincent open fire in the apartment; is it connected somehow with the briefcase? Does it link the devil's case with the devil's work? Another is a curious head-on shot of Bruce Willis, who looks straight at the camera while Marcellus Wallace instructs him to fix a fight. The lighting is used to shadow exactly half of Willis' face; a line runs down his forehead, nose and chin. Or ... is it lighting? The line of demarcation between light and shadow is so sharply defined that we wondered if makeup was used to augment the effect. We looked at the scene repeatedly using freeze frames, but were unable to decide.

One element I've barely touched on is the film's humor. The dialogue is very funny, and some of it echoes great literature in a modern, profane form: The opening exchange between Jules and Vincent about what the French call Quarter-Pounders, for example, is a reminder of the conversation between Jim and Huckleberry Finn about why the French don't speak English. Jules is constantly quoting what he identifies as Ezekiel 25:17 from the Bible, and although some of the words are the same, he has embroidered a lot. [See sidebar below]

A basic strategy in the film is to use humorous dialogue to delay the payoff of a moment of violence. While the Uma Thurman character is dying on the floor, for example, Travolta and Eric Stoltz have a hysterical debate over how to use the hypodermic needle.

This strategy is set up in the opening shot, where Jules and Vincent have a long, funny discussion about foot massage while walking down a long hotel corridor. The shot is done in one unbroken take. They arrive in front of the door to the fatal apartment, decide it is not yet time to enter, and walk further down the hall to continue their discussion. But now the camera no longer joins them; it stays planted in front of the door, and pans to look at them, walking away. The visual language says that the apartment is the first priority; the camera seems almost impatient as the discussion continues, and that builds tension.

"Pulp Fiction" delights some audience members and disturbs others, I think, for the same reason: because it toys with their expectations. It does not seem willing to play by the rules. It imposes its own order on the material. Just at a time when American action films have seemed bogged down in a morass of formulaic plots, here is one which throws out everything they teach in the Hollywood screenwriting workshops and reinvents a genre from scratch. "Pulp Fiction" is likely to be the most influential film of the next five years, and for that we can be thankful, because it may have freed us from uncounted predictable formula films.


The hitman Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) frequently quotes "Ezekiel 25:17" in "Pulp Fiction," but in fact he has greatly altered the Bible passage. The actual passage says:

"And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them."

Here's what Jules says, adding bits from the 23rd Psalm and his own rhetoric:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides with the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon those with great vengeance and with furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know that my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee."


Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ from: QUENTIN TARANTINO AND HIS FILMS (V2.0) (c) 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, Simon Gleave and Jason Forrest

The Basic Plot:

The film opens in a diner as a couple of thieves discuss the possibility of holding up restaurants. This leads us into three distinct strands; a date between a hit man and the wife of his boss, the boxer who is supposed to throw a fight and the cleaning up of a hit man's mistake. The stories are told in non chronological order and we finally return to the diner for the final scene.

What is contained in the briefcase?

There is no real answer to this and Tarantino has actually said that he didn't know what to put in the case so he decided to leave it to the viewers to decide.

Another very plausible suggestion is that it contains the diamonds from 'Reservoir Dogs'.

What films have influenced Tarantino in the making of 'Pulp Fiction'?

The dance competition is clearly influenced by Jean Luc Godard's 1964 film 'Bande A Parte' which Tarantino has named his production company after.

The unknown contents of the briefcase are a homage to Robert Aldrich's film 'Kiss Me Deadly', made in 1955.

When Butch stops at the lights and sees Marsellus crossing the road, we are reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's film 'Psycho' when Janet Leigh stops at a set of lights to see her boss crossing the road.

The pawn shop rape is clearly reminiscent of 'Deliverance', made in 1972 by John Boorman.

'The Bonnie Situation' contains Jules and his friend Jimmy, clearly a reference to Francois Truffaut's film, 'Jules et Jim'.

The character of Wolf in this story is taken from Jean Reno's portrayal of a 'cleaner' in Luc Besson's 'La Femme Nikita', a role reprised by Keitel himself in the American remake 'Point of No Return'.

In addition, the films of John Woo, Sam Peckinpah, Brian De Palma and Don Siegel are all important.

Why did Mia overdose at her house?

She thought that she was snorting cocaine whereas she was taking Vince's extremely pure heroin. His heroin had been packaged as cocaine would normally be because his dealer had run out of the standard heroin packaging.

Why did Butch return to the pawn shop to save Marsellus?

Redemption is one of the central themes of this film and this scene along with Jules' saving of Honey Bunny and Pumpkin in the diner are the best examples of this. Butch's conscience made him go back to save Marsellus and this acted as his redemption for killing Wilson in the previous night's boxing match.

Why did Vince leave his gun on the counter at Butch's apartment when he went to the bathroom?

Quite simply, he didn't, the gun belonged to Marsellus. Vince was clearly with somebody else at the apartment as he didn't react when Butch came in, thinking it was his partner. Jules had given up 'the life' by this point and Marsellus was probably filling in on this job. For further evidence look at the scene where Butch runs Marsellus over; the 'big man' is carrying two cups and as he is near to Butch's apartment, we can assume that he is Vince's partner.

Why are Honey Bunny's lines different from the beginning of the film and at the end?

A lot of people seem to think this is a mistake. My opinion is that Tarantino was showing us the difference between perceptions of different people in the diner, the second time being Jules' perception. It makes little sense for Tarantino to shoot the scene twice, unless there was a reason.

What was Winston Wolf doing in a tuxedo at 8:30 in the morning? Where was he?

The script explains that Winston was in a hotel suite where people were gambling. If you listen closely, you can hear someone in the room telling the gamblers to 'place their bets'.

What was the book that Vince was reading on the toilet? "Modesty Blaise", a pulpy novel written by Peter O'Donnell in 1965 which is very much in keeping with the film's title.

How does a guy like Jimmy know a gangster like Jules? Why does Jules refer to him as 'his partner'?

Quentin has said in an interview (Denver Post) that Jimmy used to work for Marsellus, but when he married Bonnie she made him quit, and Jules respects that.

Who was Marvin and why did Jules and Vince take him with them?

I think we can assume that Marvin also works for Marsellus as Vince refers to 'our guy' before they go up to the apartment.

Why is there a band-aid on Marsellus' neck?

Rumour says that the actor Ving Rhames simply had a rather ugly looking scar on the back of his neck and so the make-up artist covered this up with a band-aid so that the scar didn't distract the audience too much.

There's bullet holes in the wall behind Jules and Vince before 'The Fourth Man' empties his gun. Was this an editing error?

It seems to be possible that the holes might have been there for other reasons, it's not a great apartment, but it could be a mistake in editing.

Red Apple cigarettes appear throughout the film, what are they?

Tarantino seems to have invented this brand presumably to minimise the amount of product placement in the film. This is also done by using other brands which were around in the 1970's but are no longer available (ie Fruite Brute cereal).

What happened to the Gimp? Did Butch kill him, or was he just knocked out?

The script explains that Butch hitting the Gimp caused him to hang himself to death on his leash.

06-26-2008, 08:44 AM
why you wrote all that shit ?

06-26-2008, 02:21 PM
one of my favorite movies of all time

Edgar Erebus
06-26-2008, 02:28 PM
I always knew Tarantino makes films complex as hell. At first it looks like they're just good ol' lo-budget looking slaughter movies, then you realize it's actually a very intelligent parody of such movies, then you realize it has a lot of real and fake symbols in it... I love it, one of the rare today's directors that aren't scared of fucking with viewers' heads.

Did you know that he's dyslexic? Sorta like Big Dane.

Edgar Erebus
06-26-2008, 02:30 PM
My favorite "Pulp Fiction" scene is that one at the beginning: two bad mafioso motherfuckers come to your hotel room, eat your breakfast, tell you a biblical lecture and kill you in the end. Amazing.

Favorite quote:

"Will you give me oral pleasure?"

06-26-2008, 02:38 PM
My favorite "Pulp Fiction" scene is that one at the beginning: two bad mafioso motherfuckers come to your hotel room, eat your breakfast, tell you a biblical lecture and kill you in the end. Amazing.

Favorite quote:

"Will you give me oral pleasure?"

^ hahah http://img5.allocine.fr/acmedia/medias/nmedia/18/36/02/52/18876703.jpg

06-26-2008, 03:20 PM
i love this movie but god damn its just too much reading material! peace crust

06-26-2008, 04:27 PM
My favorite "Pulp Fiction" scene is that one at the beginning: two bad mafioso motherfuckers come to your hotel room, eat your breakfast, tell you a biblical lecture and kill you in the end. Amazing.

yeah haha thats pretty fucked up. not only are you going to grub on my f00d but your going to kill me after. LOL! if that aint a kick in the pants then i dont know what is? haha.

^peace skamp. yeah its mostly shit people who love the movie already know :b

i think its pretty crazy how theres so much more than meets the eye with tarintinos films. i love tha shit. he needs to go back to the old days and make another resivour dogs/pulp fiction/jackie brown type film again. that would be dope!

06-26-2008, 04:29 PM
i love this movie but god damn its just too much reading material! peace crust

agree haha

my eyes hurt

Ghost In The 'Lac
06-26-2008, 04:35 PM
one of my favorite movies of all time

thats nice for you.

Edgar Erebus
06-26-2008, 04:37 PM

Me and my friends cried our eyes out laughing at this scene.

First he had that shocked look... then he put the chainsaw away.

And all that happened in pawn shop!

06-26-2008, 04:58 PM
the katana he used is probaly the Hotori Hanso sword that was "pawned" "you pawned a Hatori Hanzo sword" "yep"

06-26-2008, 05:17 PM
^holy fuck

06-26-2008, 07:27 PM
thats nice for you.

i know right?

06-26-2008, 11:37 PM
the katana he used is probaly the Hotori Hanso sword that was "pawned" "you pawned a Hatori Hanzo sword" "yep"

wow...i never even thought of that.