This Is a Blog: Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Pulp Fiction

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kris and Adam Discuss AFI’s Top 100: Pulp Fiction

Kris Jenson, with whom I've had the best discussions of my life, is an old friend of mine from Boston. We had been talking about the American Film Institute's Top 100 when he got a job at Dig Boston, writing about just that. Instead of letting the conversation end just because he's a big, fancy writer now, I'm going to write responses to his articles. I can't keep up with his movie watching, so I'm only responding to the ones I've seen.

"Pulp Fiction"

It's hard to argue with Kris, especially since he's talking about his favorite movie. He pretty much nailed everything great about this film. Despite what I'm about to say, I really do like this movie. Through the magic of basic cable, I've seen this movie many, many times, and I always end up watching it to the end. My biggest problem, though, is Quentin Tarantino.

To keep things simple, I'm going to stay focused on pacing. What is pacing, really? On a very fundamental level, a scene has a natural speed to it, both in terms of a scene itself and the overall film. Too fast, the audience can't follow and just feels frustrated. Too slow, the audience can get bored and antsy. In a movie like this, I feel like long, drawn out scenes of two people prattling on about how cool they are just make me want to get back to Sam Jackson yelling about the Bible and shooting people. This isn't true for all of the movie's slow scenes, though. If Christopher Walken wants to tell me about the pocket watch he kept in his ass, he can take as long as he wants. Therein lies, what I see as, Tarantino's biggest problem as a filmmaker.

"Pulp Fiction" has too many scenes that seem to be about Tarantino cumming all over himself as a writer. It's almost as though he stops caring about the film as a whole, as long as his cooler-than-you dialogue gets all the screen time possible. No more is this evident than in "Death Proof." A full half of that movie is just characters in a bar talking. The man loves long scenes, and there's nothing wrong with that, but if the longness doesn't serve the film as a whole, it really bothers me.

That big, first scene of "Inglourious Basterds" blew me away, though. By the end, I realized what a lot of Tarantino's endless scenes had been missing. "Basterds" has a lot of moments where someone is hiding something pretty major (he hiding Jews in the floor, he's really a British spy, etc), and Tarantino uses those long-as-hell scenes to draw out the tension. Every moment the scene goes on is a moment where a character we like could be found out and killed. This is what's missing from the Jack Rabbit Slim's scene in "Pulp Fiction" or the whole climactic scene from "Kill Bill." Tarantino loves long scenes, and he used to use them in a way that just stops a film cold so his characters can sit and chat about milkshakes or Superman. Some people like that. I absolutely do not.

I've always sort of liked, sort of hated Tarantino, but after "Basterds" I'm on board. He has shown that he can see a major flaw in his filmmaking and instead of not doing it anymore, he's found a way to make it work for him. A lot of directors with his kind of creative control would just go further out into self-indulgence, but in my eyes, he has actually gotten stronger.

The more I think about it, the more I find myself wondering how he would have made "Pulp Fiction" today. This movie is full of great characters, great scenes, and an endlessly captivating structure. I really think if Tarantino made this movie today instead of 2 decades ago, I'd love it as much as Kris already does.

But would Kris love it?

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts