My name is Mickey Mouse
I built a house of clay
Donald duck came over and said
What the fuck let's smoke it all away

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pulp Fiction (1994)

What is the caliber of action?
I would say a Walther PPK
But the subtleties of the spy game are absented from Quentin Tarantino’s films. Violence is always hiding in plain sight.
It is not, though, the quality (the caliber) of the action that makes Tarantino’s films such a thrill. It is the sheer momentum, the force of storytelling that pushes the pulp through the sieve that is the barrier between good and great. And Pulp Fiction is a great film. It is a great film because of the way it tells its story. The pulp, the violence, is strained out, and what is left is a smooth fiction (shaken, not stirred).
Time loops, in Pulp Fiction, it comes around, at the end, to the end of the beginning. That’s the kind of loop that I dig. The violence at the end and the suggestion of violence (to come) at the beginning, are both deferred.
The fates of, ultimately, all the characters in the film, hinge on a single passage that Jules quotes twice. In film, the flow is bewitched by doubles, pairs, and twins. They suggest a mnemonic hallucination, collectively oriented towards a sublimated message. The passage is Ezekiel 25:17, and the passage that Jules quotes is only the same at the last sentence (17). This is the key that suggests that what Jules is really quoting is a formula for transcendence. Sentence 17 reads: “And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.”
The ending informs the meaning of Jules’ passage. Once Jules has been saved by divine intervention, he has seen the hand of the Lord. The contents of the suitcase, which are never revealed, could then be satirically interpreted as divine. So, Jules, sent to retrieve the ‘divine’ is spared, while the hand of the Lord lays its vengeance on those that have stolen it. The hand flaps in both directions.
At the end, once Jules has been saved, and the serpent comes around to bite its own tail, he finally reaches interpretive depth. Up until this point when he no longer kills, he pulls the trigger inwards.
The question of Butch, the only other central figure to escape unscathed turns on two points: going for the watch, and saving Marsellus. He is saved on a whim (poor Vincent taking a shit, and dying like a shit, because he refused the hand the Lord offered him) and saves in return (with a samurai sword no less), and thus is granted absolution.
To get back to Jules: the pulp of Pulp Fiction has to do with an absolute arrogance— Mia’s episode snorting horse—and Fiction plays and pays only as temporal breaks, as splits and schisms in the endlessness of violence. That is the jewel of the film: that in the empty links of the chains that bind the film together, in the empty space that goes “clink” the story of passivity, of the shepherd and the lambs, truly unfolds.  
When Jules refuses to kill Pumpkin or Yolanda, when he sends them off with all the money from the café, what has he done? He hasn’t done a favor for all the poor people who lost their wallets, but he has beaten the pulp against the sieve and finds it far smoother.  He is not really a shepherd, only one of the sheep, but it is a notch below where he had imagined himself before.
There is no transcendence without descent, and violence is the fight for ascendance; it is the effort to let go (of that $1500 dollars, for example) that suggests how deeply Jules splits from Vincent. The irony is that in the last frames of the film, Jules and Vincent side by side, there does not seem to be a difference. Only, that Jules holds the case, and Vincent does not.
So Anna, can you dig the relativity necessary for contrast?
There is nothing to distinguish the caliber of action except inaction.


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