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How insane is it that, when putting together a list like this, one of the greatest films of the last five years ends up so far down the list? Perhaps it could place a bit higher, overwhelming the black suit posturing of the otherwise brilliant Reservoir Dogs, and some could argue that its imaginary history hinders an otherwise amazing manipulation of film and our forgotten past. Whatever the case, this remains the kind of creative novelty that Tarantino currently excels in, reinventing genres to fit formats heretofore unconsidered. A real masterpiece.
The one that started it all, that got Tarantino noticed and began his ascent into the upper echelons of post post-modern moviemakers. From its quick witted dialogue and cleverly compact plotting, this tale of a heist turned very, very bad remains an excellent example of style over stereotype. We’ve seen dozens of examples of robberies gone wrong and the hardboiled foils for such criminal chaos, but QT managed something truly special. He reinterpreted the archetypes while celebrating the standards of the genre. An amazing introduction.
Ever since his days behind a video store counter, Tarantino wanted to make the ultimate Hong Kong action film. In love with The Shaw Brothers and their dedication to over the top martial artistry, the filmmaker found an intriguing base narrative (the near death and homicidal rebirth of a deadly female assassin) and fused it to a meticulous recreation of every sword and fist fight he remembered. Then he tweaked things with a melodramatic middle and some insane casting. The results remain his craziest, and most commercially accessible work.
This was a tough call. Even two decades removed from its heralded heyday, Pulp remains pristine. It is everything that got film fans excited about Tarantino wrapped up in a skillful combination of narrative twists and character turns. In light of its continuing presence and influence, it’s important to remember how groundbreaking it all was. QT was testing the boundaries of the medium, wondering if cinema could stand the masterful mixtape treatment and remain intact. Like a dedicated DJ, he made his mash-up…and the rest is certified celluloid history.
Since it’s not based on his own material (it’s a bastard child of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch) and features a relatively straightforward storyline, it seems odd to make this Tarantino’s best. After all, by requiring the director to reel in his own imagination, one would envision a shadow of his former wunderkind self. Instead, we get one of the most amazing movies of the last 20 years, a true triumph of narrative and approach. In fact, instead of holing up in his own homage-laden domain and crafting originals, Tarantino should do more adaptations. When they’re as good as this, there’s no reason not to.
// Notes from the Road
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