Saturday, December 16, 2006

Freeze Frame #19: Pulp Fiction

The soul of Pulp Fiction lies in its dialogue - profane, literate, whimsical and incredibly well-delivered. In fact, the dialogue is so important to the movie, its characters are a lot more interested in what they're saying than who they're shooting (or being shot at by, for that matter). This is an extremely interesting choice, in my opinion. It has been my experience that most people with a loaded gun in the movies have nothing to say other than plot points. The chief pleasure of Pulp Fiction is in listening to its characters talk. What happens is besides the point.

The scene that encapsulates this particular value for me comes early in the film, when two hitmen named Jules and Vincent (played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta respectively) have a conversation on their way to a job. The topic is their boss Marsellus Wallace's wife Mia, whom Vincent is supposed to take out to dinner that evening. Jules tells him about one of their acquaintances whom Marsellus threw out a window because he caught him giving Mia a foot massage. They're right in the middle of an argument about whether or not a foot massage means anything - whether touching his wife's feet and sticking your tongue in her holiest of holies are in the same ballpark, to use Jules' words - when they reach the door of the apartment they're supposed to enter. Jules looks at his watch, figures they still have some time, and they go down the corridor to finish their discussion.

Think about this:

a) They have a fairly long conversation about something that has nothing to do with the job they're there to do. The purpose of the exchange is to set the scene for Vincent's date with Mia later that evening, but that would've been achieved by simply mentioning what Marsellus did; the argument thereafter served no real purpose.

b) There's nothing that happens in that apartment after they enter, that they couldn't have done earlier. They just took their time about it, so they could finish talking. I especially love what Jules says when their discussion is over: "Come on, let's get into character." Then they go into that apartment, play the hard men, and kill a few people.

Exactly how often does this happen in the movies?

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