But I'm tryin', Ringo. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.
A review by Mike Shea Movie Rating: ( * * * * * ) DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )
In 1993 Quentin Tarantino changed the face of movies forever. Every twenty years or so a new movie redefines a generation of film. Pulp Fiction defined the 1990s. No other move of its time did as much to change the industry, and change it for the better.
Very few people knew much about independent film back then. Our eyes were all on big budget movies like Terminator 2, Wayne's World and Lethal Weapon 3. Movies were made out of cookie cutters. Paper-thin characters, big explosions, and easy to chew story lines flowed through the night-of-the-living-dead-like audience. And then a punk with no car and a part time job at a video rental store refilling tape holders redefined film for us with a gangster movie like no other. From then on, independent film became one of the strongest categories of movies. Because of Tarantino movies like Desperado are all given proper attention and brought out at the same level as the blitzkrieg of big-budget popcorn movies.
Halfway through Pulp Fiction the story drops thirty years earlier to a memory of a young Butch receiving a gold watch his father kept in the most uncomfortable of areas while being held as a POW in Vietnam. By itself the scene is as funny as they come, but it builds the motivation for an entire third of the movie, just one of the three great stories Pulp Fiction tells. A quote given by the late film critic, Gene Siskel, as originally told by Andy Worhol states that two hours of cut footage would be more interesting than most of what is left in most movies. Pulp Fiction embraces this idea by building seemingly pointless dialog between key scenes. The second scene of the movie, "Royale with cheese", is probably the most famous example of dialog for the sake of nothing other than character interaction. It adds a depth far beyond the heroine junky hit-man stereotype we'd expect.
Pulp Fiction built the new careers of Uma Thurman. Perhaps the career it may have killed is none other than Tarantino himself. To look at one's work and know it is the greatest work one has ever done leaves one in an impossible situation. As stated in the Siskel and Ebert 20 minute special available on the DVD, Tarantino isn't a director, he's a rock star. While Jackie Brown was pretty well done, it wasn't Pulp Fiction, and nothing else Tarantino has done has been even close. We can only be happy that at one time this rock star had no car and wrote Pulp Fiction on a typewriter in his home of the week.
An unfortunate turn for independent movies was the purchase of Miramax by Disney. The heavy moralistic undertones of the parent company ended up doing more damage than good. Independent films like Dogma suddenly felt the door slam in their face because Disney found the subject matter too dangerous for their image. Unfortunately, pushing boundaries of both technique and subject matter is what independent film is all about. Miramax's lack of initial DVD support, based upon the money grubbing suits who run the company in their glass castles of financial beurocracy and hypocritical moralistic policies, did even more damage to the films they bank-rolled.
The latest collectors edition DVD brought back much of the magic of the original film. Five years after the format came to fruition, Miramax finally learned how to do a good DVD. This two disc edition includes a 16x9 enhanced 2.35 to 1 picture and both a Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 soundtrack. There are many extras on the two disc sets including cast interviews, a documentary, a Siskel and Ebert piece on Tarantino's effect on film and a set of deleted scenes introduced by Tarantino. Unfortunately it is missing one of my favorite extras, the director's commentary. A movie this important really should have one.
Nine years later Pulp Fiction has been imitated, quoted and used as a benchmark for modern film noir. While the scenes have been seen a thousand times and the lines repeated by just about everyone at one time or another, the movie still shows fresh details and some moments of excellent acting. Watching it again nine years later, it is no wonder it was a movie that defined a new age of film. This is our Citizen Kane.