Friday, December 09, 2011

Scene Stealer: Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction could keep me writing for hours. There’s so much to say about the film with its graphic violence interposed with smart humour; its sharply written dialogue; its superb ensemble cast; its awesome soundtrack; its non-linear storytelling; its direction that breaks with convention and its homage to film noir.

Selecting just one scene in a film with so many good ones was a tough enterprise. The scene I selected may not be considered the scene stealer since it’s easy to argue for any number of scenes to steal the show, but for me, the best scenes involve Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta.

They’re hit-men who work for the big, bad crime boss Marsellus Wallace. When they’re not killing, they’re philosophizing and sharing their ideas and experiences. Tarantino’s dialogue is wonderfully sharp, honest and real, and it’s always about something. An exchange about what Parisians call a Quarter-pounder with cheese in Paris might seem irrelevant, but the dialogue establishes character and is relevant to events that have already occurred or that are to come.

The “Royale with Cheese” scene has become iconic. Rather than go with it, I picked another scene stealing exchange between Jackson and Travolta. They’re riding along in a car with Marvin (the informant) in the backseat, and Jules (Jackson) tells Vincent (Travolta) that he’s decided to quit being a hit-man. They just went to pick up a briefcase for their boss and were shot at by a man hiding in the bathroom. Vincent and Jules avoided being killed and shot the gunman instead. Jules views this as a miracle and a sign from God that he should retire as a hit-man. Vincent disagrees with Jules’ miracle theory and asks Marvin for his opinion and accidentally shoots him in the face. The spatter of blood and brains in the backseat is juxtaposed so smartly that the violence is redeemed by laughter because of the way Vincent and Jules react to it. Jules is pissed and Vincent reacts like he’s being unjustly blamed for spilling coffee on Jules’ lap. They seem oblivious to the fact that a person has been killed. They have no idea how to clean up the mess. Their dialogue is ludicrous and amusing and it transforms the violent scene into a dark comedic one. Tarantino uses dialogue to make violence in the film seem less violent.

Later when they’re cleaning the car, Jules is even more pissed because he’s stuck cleaning out the backseat. The exchange that ensues is frickin’ hilarious...

(Warning clip contains strong language)

2 comments:

  1. dEmon4:52 pm

    Sad to say but this is one of my least favourite films. I wanted to like it, but it just didn't do anything for me. Perhaps if I had seen it when it first came out, the result might be different, but viewing it several years after the fact I couldn't understand what all the hype was about. I can appreciate certain performances and bits of dialogue, but it was completely underwhelming, in my opinion.

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  2. @dEmon - I can appreciate that. It's not a film for everyone. I'd file it under "an acquired taste" kind of flick. I had to see the film more than once to fully appreciate it myself.

    I think seeing a film after it's received a lot of hype can also detract from the experience because there's just too much build up.

    The performances and the dialogue are what I like most about the film.

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