Pulp Fiction -- 20 Years Later

Twenty years ago, I was invited to see an early test screening of a movie I hadn't heard anything about.  I went with friends, our expectations were low, and we were thrilled by what we saw. That movie was Pulp Fiction and it launched an independent film wave that reignited my faith in cinema.

It would be wrong of me to say that Pulp Fiction was unlike anything I'd seen before, since writer/ director Quentin Tarantino freely admits to being inspired by and paying homage to certain movies of the past. Glimpses of 1960s and 1970s exploitation flicks can be seen in his work.  He didn't invent non-linear storytelling, and the gritty realism and ultra-violence were familiar to folks who had seen international art house cinema.

Nevertheless, Quentin did it well and Pulp Fiction struck a nerve not just with me and the early screening audience, but with millions of moviegoers afterwards.  I became a fan of Tarantino's work because of this movie that starred Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Ving Rhames, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Rosanna Arquette, Eric Stoltz, Christopher Walken, Harvey Keitel, and Quentin himself in memorable roles. It also made Samuel L. Jackson a star and revived John Travolta's career into the stratosphere.

Beyond the violent plot, I saw a story about redemption in the character of Jules Winnfield and heroism in the tale of Butch Coolidge.  I witnessed what can only be described as a master class of storytelling and dialogue writing, as Tarantino unraveled his plot points in his own fashion, his character details and action nuances building on what we had seen before, like pieces of a puzzle, until that final scene perfectly wrapped it all together.

I gush because the movie meant a lot to me when I first saw it, inspiring me to continue trying screenwriting and playwriting myself. I enjoyed other films by Tarantino that followed, and was disappointed by others.  Still, Pulp Fiction remains a grand achievement that not only put Quentin on the map as a filmmaker to be reckoned with after his critical success with Reservoir Dogs, but also proved to Hollywood that a little film with little to no fanfare could take over the box-office and launch hundreds of imitators.

If you've never seen it, hunt it down and watch it one night.  Hopefully you'll forget everything you may have heard about it and approach it as I did back in 1994, unspoiled and unsure of what to expect, letting the characters appear fresh and new, and allowing the story's secrets to reveal themselves to you scene by scene, until those perfect last two lines: "I think we should be leaving now." "Yeah, that's probably a good idea."



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