Reviews

Everything You Wanted to Know About 'Pulp Fiction' Can Be Found in This One Handsome Volume

Jason Bailey leaves virtually no stone unturned as he traces Tarantino’s path from being a fellow movie lover to one of the world’s leading directors and the co-creator of one the most influential films.


Pulp Fiction: The Complete Story of Quentin Tarantino's Masterpiece

Publisher: Voyageur
Length: 200 pages
Author: Jason Bailey
Price: $35.00
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2013-11
Amazon

Few film critics have the sense of voice and unswerving passion for their subject as Jason Bailey. He’s contributed to the Atlantic, Slate, Salon and is regular at Flavorwire, but this examination of Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 classic Pulp Fiction is the New York City-based writer’s first book. Across the roughly 200 pages that comprise this handsome volume, Bailey leaves virtually no stone unturned as he traces Tarantino’s path from being a fellow movie lover to one of the world’s leading directors and the co-creator of one of the last century’s most influential films. A different writer could tell this story, but not as well as Bailey does in these pages.

We have to remember that in 1994, as Pulp Fiction began rolling out into theaters, Tarantino was an impressive name but not one that everyone knew. His 1992 debut, Reservoir Dogs had garnered him some critical praise and grown a cult following but it was an extreme film and one that a number of moviegoers (or video renters) categorized as being set in the '70s (perhaps because of the retro soundtrack and the retro look and feel of the film).

A brilliant debut does not a career make. (Ask John Singleton.) So, Tarantino’s second feature, released (as Bailey reminds us) by Miramax (home of The Piano, The Crying Game and other fare that did not involve severed ears or pawn shop owners with a penchant for buggery) was hardly a sure bet. So when it arrived, as Bailey recalls, at Cannes in May of 1994, it “landed like a dirty bomb”, being as it was “big, grand, loud, rude, and altogether thrilling”.

For a film loaded with racial epithets, violence, and a whole bunch of other impolite stuff, it quickly found an audience. Despite Tarantino’s claim that he made films that “split people apart”, Bailey notes that Pulp Fiction “sure felt like a film that brought people together. Young audiences, intellectuals, cinephiles, and popcorn chewers alike were gripped by Pulp fever,” the Kansas native writes, adding that all of the above were “buoyed by the film’s cleverness, rocked by its bursts of violence, endlessly quoting its punch dialogue.” For them, and for Bailey himself, the director “had captured the early-nineties zeitgeist in his triptych of throwback crimes stores and audiences ate it up like a Royale with Cheese”.

In the years after Pulp Fiction arrived it was easy to find films that toyed with non-linear plots. Some brilliantly (see Memento) and others less so (the VHS shelves were lined with ‘em). College professors talked about the film’s debt to Jacobean tragedy and budding filmmakers like Bailey himself wanted to make something that would send film through its next revolution.

Because Tarantino is such a vocal fan of film—and not just the stuff you’d expect a topflight director to be: his tastes run from the refined to the base and you know which he’s most vocal in his enthusiasm for––it’s appropriate that Bailey traces QT’s roots and provides a chart listing the director’s favorite flicks, including Blow Out (starring John Travolta), Switchblade Sisters, and Badlands. (There’s even a column that demonstrates each film’s direct influence on Tarantino and his work.) We also learn about his apprenticeship in filmmaking and writing and the road to what Bailey refers to as “The Script That Changed Everything”.

There’s a detailed analysis of the archetypes evident in the film and their archetypal predecessors (kudos to Bailey for having watched Sharkey’s Machine so we don’t have to, again), stills from the picture itself, and a chart that graphs the story in linear fashion. We learn about the actual shooting of the film, the products that populate Tarantino’s world (Red Apple cigarettes, for one) and, that most holy of holies, the film’s soundtrack. We follow the film to its release and its subsequent issue on video and its legacy to this point and not a word is wasted or misplaced. (The author’s tendency to refer toTarantino by first name which seems here, as it does in other places, overly chummy, aside.)

A series of well-written guest essays also pop up in this volume, including ones from Mark Peters, Aisha Harris, and Gary Graff, each adding special dimension and awesomeness to a volume that is over all too quickly. This is an impressive book—debut or otherwise—and many readers will no doubt become as enamored of Bailey’s writing as they are of the film about which he writes.

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How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

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Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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