Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Inducted to the National Film Registry in 2013
I first watched it on Jan. 27th, 2021
What It’s About:
A collection of three intersecting stories: two mob hit men who must collect a mysterious briefcase for their boss, the wife of the mob boss who spends an evening with one of the hit men, and a washed-up boxer who is on the run from the mob boss.
My experience with the film:
This movie was … an experience. Much has been said about the film’s artistic merits and its continuing impact on cinema (see several of the resources that I’ve linked below). And I have to agree with a lot of it: the acting is fantastic and the writing is both incredibly witty (there is a reason that this film is the source of many memes and other pop culture references) and incredibly engaging (it manages to make you care about a cast of characters that are, let’s say, “less-than-virtuous.”)
However, my personal enjoyment levels of the film felt somewhat like a roller coaster. The film opens strong, with a great conversation in a diner that leads directly into the start of a robbery before the film freezes and goes into some incredibly fun opening titles music (at this point, my thoughts were essentially “I think I’m going to love this film.”) Then, this high of enjoyment continued with two absolutely iconic scenes involving fantastic dialogue that starts in a car ride and continues in an apartment (not to mention the fact that the somewhat supernatural glow of the briefcase’s contents had me intrigued.)
Then, my enjoyment started to dip, as we moved into the first major segment, since there was some extensive drug use throughout the storyline (call me a “boy scout” if you want, but pretty much all of the drug scenes made me uncomfortable). For me, the dancing scene was a major highlight during the otherwise uncomfortable and/or tense Mia and Vincent segment.
Once we shifted to the Butch segment, I was hooked by the opening performance from Christopher Walken, and even the brief scene with the Colombian taxi driver was enough to make me think “wow, Tarantino excels at making interesting characters.” Eventually, once Butch realized that he had to go back for his father’s watch, I found the segment delightfully suspenseful … until we came to the pawn shop. From there, the rest of the Butch segment became intensely uncomfortable for me to watch, and I was quite glad when the story was over.
As we came back around to Jules and Vincent, I again found myself engaged with their story (and I quite enjoyed the character of The Wolf), but I was also somewhat grossed out by the gory gag at the center of the segment.
The film ends on a high note though as we find eventually ourselves back at the diner that opened the film. I quite enjoyed this final scene, which I also found to be “delightfully suspenseful.” Overall, as the film ended, I found my general thoughts to be “wow, parts of this were great, but other parts were pretty dang uncomfortable to watch. I don’t know that I’ll rewatch this any time soon.”
However, as I started researching this film, and reading/watching all of the resources that are mentioned below, I found my appreciation for the film increasing (especially as I was reminded of all of the aspects that I enjoyed.) As I approached the end of my research, I found myself wanting to watch the Blu-ray commentary so that I could experience the film a second time. … And I was surprised that I was genuinely disappointed when I realized that the Blu-ray had no such commentary. However, on further examination, I saw that there was a text-based (rather that audio) trivia commentary track, so I decided to use that as my excuse for a second viewing … only to find that a second viewing left my feelings on the film mostly unchanged. The great parts were still great, but the uncomfortable parts still weren’t my cup of tea. This was an interesting film, and I’m glad I watched it, but now I think that I can say (with certainty this time) that I probably won’t re-watch it any time soon.
Also, a disclaimer-ish statement that I should probably put in here somewhere: Prior to this, I had seen three other Tarantino films: The Hateful Eight (which I similarly enjoyed several aspects of, but ultimately didn’t enjoy the violent end of the film), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (which I also enjoyed … except for the violent ending), and Inglourious Basterds (which I genuinely enjoyed, with no reservations.)
Pulp Fiction (1994) is available to stream on the services listed here: https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/pulp-fiction
To learn more about the history and significance of this film, I recommend the following resources:
- The Blu-ray version that I obtained from DVD Netflix had quite a few special features (including some text-based trivia commentary, as I mentioned). It looks like most (if not all) versions of the Blu-ray that are available for purchase have those same special features.
- The official National Film Registry essay for Pulp Fiction: https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-film-preservation-board/documents/pulp_fiction.pdf
- A blog post about Pulp Fiction on another site dedicated to watching the NFR films, The Horse’s Head: https://thehorseshead.blog/2017/03/06/25-pulp-fiction-1994/
- The original 1994 review from Variety: https://variety.com/1994/film/reviews/pulp-fiction-1200437049/
- The original 1994 review from Roger Ebert: https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/pulp-fiction-1994
- The original (somewhat negative) 1994 review from The Los Angeles Times: https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1994-10-14-ca-50020-story.html
- An analysis of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE7RM-Pymdg
- A humorous review/discussion of the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ulbvs-DMriM
- A discussion of the significance of the briefcase in the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKhJzP8cAmI
- “How Pulp Fiction Should Have Ended”, a humorous video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASs8odtJjLI
- The Honest Trailer for “Every Quentin Tarantino Movie Ever” (another humorous video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=of-F44HGa2k
- An in-depth article about the making of the film from Vanity Fair: https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2013/03/making-of-pulp-fiction-oral-history
- 20 interesting facts about the film: https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/58994/20-things-you-might-not-know-about-pulp-fiction
- The Wikipedia page for Pulp Fiction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulp_Fiction
For the complete list of films in the National Film Registry, including information on how you can view each film, and links to every entry that I have written, please see my NFR Directory.