Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week we examine Pulp Fiction, a film directed by Quentin Tarantino and starring John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson.
Pulp Fiction (1994) | Directed by: Quentin Tarantino | Starring: John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson
Written by: Ben Steiner
Analysis & Directed by: Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Producer & Additional Artwork by: Jacob S. Salamon
Pulp Fiction Through Alien Eyes
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once proud culture, and try to understand what their lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film is Pulp Fiction, directed by acclaimed foot fetishist Quentin Tarantino.
The film is made up of three interconnected stories about the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, a city with an otherwise sterling reputation. First we meet Vincent and Jules,two hitmen sent to retrieve their kingpin boss’ briefcase, which contains his favorite orange lightbulb. Jules consume processed animal carcass [15:56] — eicch — reads from the Bible, then does some team-building exercises with Vincent.
Next, we follow Vincent as he takes the kingpin’s wife, Mia, out for some food paste and engages in some sort of bizarre wordless courting ritual.
He promptly ruins the mood by leaving his poison for Mia to find, then stabbing her in the heart with a tiny sword. Ordinarily this would kill a human, but Mia’s character is immortal. Finally, we have Butch, an over-the-hill boxer with too much pride and a jewelry fixation.He and the kingpin go to a pawn shop together, but they decide not to buy anything.
Taken individually, these stories would not be long enough to charge full admission at most movie theaters. But combined, they form a feature-length film that upends traditional gangster and action films by trivializing their macho image.
Much of Pulp Fiction’s humor comes from a cavalier attitude about human-on-human violence. At the beginning of the movie, Vincent and Jules are on their way to do some “conflict resolution” with a few of their boss’ associates. They are undermanned and undergunned, which should be cause for suspense, or at least mild concern, but their casual gossip about TV pilots and foot massages makes for a breezy and relaxed scene.
Later, Vincent accidentally shoots Marvin’s head off, rendering him dead, but there is no remorse. Vincent and Jules worry more about bloodying up Jimmie’s towels than about having taken a life.
Then again, Earthlings took their home furnishings very seriously. In the torture dungeon, Maynard says that “Nobody kills anybody in [his] place of business except [him] or Zed,” which is followed by a friendly door chime. Most films would pair an ominous statement like that with dramatic music. Well, most films would forego the torture dungeon scene altogether, but you know what I mean.
The film also takes a cavalier attitude with time. High stakes situations are often undercut by someone moving at a slower pace, like that of a Trilaxian cargo vessel. When Vince is on the phone frantically trying to save a dying Mia, his shots are intercut with Lance calmly ingesting — — wet bread pellets.
Then, as they’re trying to find the medical book, Lance and his wife get sidetracked by petty squabbling, which is completely normal in a healthy relationship, thank you very much. Butch takes his sweet time picking a weapon while we hear Marcellus being raped in the background. Of course, if there’s anyone who knows about sweet time, it’s a man who almost died for a gold watch. Just as serious things are downplayed, so too are mundane things granted special significance. The bathroom is a focal point for many crucial scenes, just as it was in human lives. Jules and Vincent are nearly killed by a man who lives in the bathroom. More notably, every time Vincent uses the bathroom, something bad happens.
There’s the restaurant robbery, Mia overdosing on poison, and finally, getting shot by Butch. Not to mention whatever gastrointestinal problem he has.
With important things trivialized and trivial things… important- ized, the film seems to make a point: we are out of control. Life is random and filled with outrageous coincidence. Honey Bunny and Pumpkin talk about robbing a restaurant because there would be less of a “hero factor,” and yet they pick the very restaurant where two heroes are eating. Butch just so happens to stop at a traffic light at exactly the moment Marcellus is walking across the street to deliver some donuts [1:34:40], and then they just so happen upon the one pawn shop in America owned by dishonest scumbags (alt: depraved sodomites). Vincent and Jules are shot at from point blank range with bullets that can pierce human skin and are miraculously left unscathed. Are these simply freak occurrences, or should we believe that a higher power has gotten involved? Jules says yes. Vincent says no. Butch doesn’t mention it one way or another.
What is apparent is that at the beginning of the film Jules takes a life, and at the end he spares one. Even in a chaotic world, we still have the power to choose. The humans don’t, because they’re extinct. But we do.
For Earthling Cinema, I am Garyx Wormuloid. To learn more about this bizarre planet, hit the subscribe button.