Film Review: Pulp Fiction at the Duke of York’s

By Jamie Stilgoe

The Duke of York’s November film of choice still divides critics and audiences alike, but, not many directors can produce work which is as gratuitously violent as it is ‘cool’. For one night only Duke of York’s presents Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

minifig films # 1: Pulp Fiction I
Photo used under Creative Commons from: minifig

When Tarantino burst onto the Hollywood scene with Reservoir Dogs he changed cinema forever. He lacked classic training or a film school education, and aside from a couple of scripts he had sold (Natural Born Killers and True Romance) there wasn’t any industry experience: unless working in a video rental store counts. Except Tarantino was no Blockbusters shelf-stacker. What he lacked in experience he made up for with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Cinema. He was self-taught in every genre from Spaghetti Westerns to Grindhouse. Reservoir Dogs may have made the splash: Pulp Fiction made waves.

Much has been made of Pulp Fiction‘s structure with Tarantino being especially precious. He adamantly denies the use of flashbacks and instead refers to the non-linear plot of Pulp Fiction as like “chapters from a book.” There are three of these chapters with common themes of violence, humour, vengeance and mercy laced throughout in Tarantino’s own unique style.

If His Girl Friday had a bastard child with a 70’s Blaxploitation movie Pulp Fiction would be it. Tarantino’s script is as quotable as it is offensive. Years of pillaging by other filmmakers may have made Pulp Fiction seem a little tired and the dialogue dated, but in terms of impact, it was revolutionary. The first rule of scriptwriting is to enter a scene as late as possible and leave as soon as possible, yet Tarantino’s camera lingers, he was more interested in what happened before and after the violence – not the violence itself.

Though there are many flaws to his work, there is no denying Tarantino had style. His use of music turned classic pop songs into classic soundtracks. Even 17 years later, the riff of Misirlou is synonymous with the opening credits of Pulp Fiction. Also, at the time, films like Boyz n The Hood had moved gangs into the ghettos. Tarantino chose to dress his gangsters in smart black suits, looking back to Stanley Kubrick’s end scene in The Killing or British films like The Long Good Friday for inspiration.

Tarantino wore his stylistic influences on his sleeve and made films which stand alongside the likes of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange or Scorsese’s Goodfellas in terms of imagery, violence and sheer style. Who else could have imagined John Travolta from Grease would look good dancing the twist? Pulp Fiction may crave the bad old days of Grindhouse cinemas showing late night films in shady back alleys but in a world of sanitised multiplexes the Duke of York’s chequered history is probably as close as we will get.

United States 1994, 154 mins
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Roth, Uma Thurman
Pulp Fiction is showing at the Duke of York’s Cinema, Brighton, Saturday 12th November 23.30
Book online by selecting a time or call the Box Office:
0871 902 5728 (10p a minute from a landline)

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