Pulp Fiction 1994 ★★★★★
Reviewed May 16, 2012
This review reportedly contains spoilers.
I can handle the truth.
The Wolf is the shepherd.
"Blessed is he who in the name of charity and good will shepherds the weak through the Valley of Darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."
When Jules and Vincent need to get off the road, what does Jules say: "This is the Valley, Vincent. Marcellus ain't got no friendly places in the Valley." They were in the valley of darkness. They needed someone to help them out. "If Jimmy's ass ain't home, I don't know what we're going to do." They were hoping Jimmy would be their brother's keeper. Of course, what was the first thing Jimmy told them: "Storing dead n$%$#*( ain't my business." If he was truly his brother's keeper, storing dead n$%$#*( would be his business, in a way.
Enter the Wolf. He takes the brother, promises to be his keeper. He does say Marvin is someone who won't be missed, and, truly, who is going to miss Marvin? He sold out his three friends, then sold out the people he sold them out to, then didn't even have an opinion. Who's gonna miss him? The Wolf's final words of advice: "Stay out of trouble you crazy kids." The finder of lost children.
Jules thought he was cool. Said it three or four times in the diner. Totally fucking cool. Even when Vincent was messing with him, he didn't get upset. Later in the scene, Jules decided he wanted to be the shepherd. So, when the opportunity presented itself, he told everyone, "We're all gonna be like three Fonzies. We're gonna be cool." But Jules isn't the shepherd yet, he's "trying real hard". Which is why, when Vincent fucks with him, he loses it momentarily, then tries real hard to be cool.
The "just because you are a character..." line is a reference to one of the major underlying themes of the movie: that Hollywood is a cesspool and the characters in movies that we worship are usually devoid of character. Considering that Tarantino is Italian, and if there's one stereotype that Hollywood has shown no signs of letting go, it's that Italians are perfect for roles as gangsters. The Wolf also says another corny line that actually describes the movie: "A few twists and turns aside, we're gonna be going straight up Hollywood way."
Everyone notices the Vincent in the bathroom thing, but does anyone recall what Vincent did the first time he went into a bathroom in the movie? The first time, chronologically, that is? "You watched me wash them!" "I watched you get them wet." What was Vincent trying so carelessly to do? Wash the blood off his hands. Every time he went to the bathroom after that, he was given an opportunity to wash his hands. And everytime, he failed. In fact, everytime someone else went to the bathroom in his presence, he did something to further his guilt. First, he ignored the miracle. Second, Jules left to take a piss at the strip club. While he was gone, Vincent insulted Butch. Third, Mia went to the bathroom at Jack Rabbit Slim's. When she got back, she commented how nice it was to have the food. His response? "We're lucky we got anything at all. Buddy Holly's not much of a waiter." He wasn't even thankful for his food.
He should have listened to the shepherd. "I'm not here to say please. I'm here to tell you what to do, and if self preservation is an instinct you posess, you'd better do it and do it quick." Vincent also was given a warning while in the bathroom. The book he read, Modesty Blaise, is about a girl who quotes Bible verses and leaves the "life". He was basically reading Jules's story on the can.
Vincent doesn't know how they say Whopper in France, but he may know how they say the king in Burger King. Roi. They say room as "salle". The strip club they went to was "Sally Le Roy's" - the room of the King. (where else would you find the throne?) That is where Vincent made his biggest mistake. Jules tells Vincent he doesn't respect anything that doesn't have enough sense to disregard its own feces, and Vincent dies after taking a dump and not washing his hands.
The character of Vincent Vega was originally supposed to be named Vic Vega (obviously the same name from Reservoir Dogs). The city of Las Vegas, loosely translated, is something like "the flat, grassy places" or "the flatlands." The flat grassy places...well, that's a field. And Vic is short for victor, a synonym for win. In Italian - Tarantino's last name is Italian - Vinci is also a synonym for win, I believe. So, roughly translated, Vic Vega means Win Field. Vinci Vega means Win Field. Jules' last name was Winnfield. When Jules was leaving the life, Vincent told him he would be a bum. Jules' reply: "I'll just be Jules. No more. No less."
Butch's story kind of goes like this: He is in the fight, he takes the cab back home to Fabianne, he has to return to the apartment to get the watch, goes to the pawn shop, saves Marsellus, gets to return to Knoxville. It almost follows the story that Christopher Walken told him.
Then Butch returns "home" to Fabianne. The watch is forgotten while he is with Fabian. Then Butch has to go back to get the watch. In the script, he compares this to his grandfather at Wake Island. The Japanese killed his grandfather. He destroys a symbol of Japan (the Honda) after he leaves. He even says to Fabian "Sorry, I had to crash that Honda." Then, he goes to the Mason-Dixon pawnshop. When he has a chance to escape, he returns to what basically was a pit of hell, to save his mortal enemy. Or, was it his father he was saving? Notice the Dad's Old Fashioned Root Beer sign on the wall. There are some more obvious symbols in this segment: Butch leaving with Grace (the name on the motorcycle), the samurai sword representing a true symbol of manhood and honor, rather than the watch, which was, quite literally, a piece of shit.
Butch was losing Fabian. Although many find Fabian annoying - and she was - I thought this was one of the more realistic relationships in a movie, in terms of their interaction. You could tell Butch really cared for her. But his obsession with the watch was drawing them apart. She said she doesn't speak Spanish, Butch replied that she doesn't speak Bora-Boran, either. Of course, she did speak French, and French is the native language of Bora-Bora. He lost it when she forgot the watch.
Also: when he awoke from his dream, she was watching the "motorcycle movie", and you could see her fading into the screen. The movie: a 1970 B-movie called "The Losers". In it, a leader of the Hell's Angels is forced to enter a Vietnamese prison camp to save a seedy diplomat - a diplomat who had once tried to put him in jail. The diplomat is saved, the Hell's Angels guy is left in Vietnam to die. The review I read didn't say how the diplomat got out, but I assume he got out of Vietnam the way most people did back then: in a helicopter. The Hell's Angels, on the other hand, were left in the jungle and forced to escape on their motorcycles. They all died. Probably why Butch insisted on calling the motorcycle a 'chopper'.
There are a lot of Old Testament allusions in the movie: Jules's discussion about pigs being filthy animals, Jules saying he needs to get someone to 'bring his people in', Jules telling Vincent he was going to walk the earth like Caine in Kung Fu, which is actually like Caine in the Bible...etc. Jules also referred to Mia's happy place as the "Holiest of Holies", the name of the room under the temple of David where the Ark of the Convenant was legendarily kept. Also, in the Jewish religion, when one wanted to become one with the Father, you would rip off the sash that covered the entrance to the Holiest of Holies, and descend into the depths - much like Butch ripped down the curtain and descended to the basement of the Pawn Shop, where he finally connected with the father he never knew.
Zed (not a security guard, but a WATCHman) is up Marsellus's ass in the pit of hell in the Mason-Dixon (allusions to American Civil War between North and South) Pawnshop, much like the watch was up Butch's father's ass in the pit of hell in Hanoi, during another civil war between the North and the South. Marsellus says he is going to go after Zed with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, a method that would be very effective for destroying an uncomfortable hunk of medal.
Additonal points of interest:
-Ringo says nobody ever robs restaurants, but (allegedly) Vincent and Mia stole the trophy from Jack Rabbit Slim's.
-Both Jules and Vincent are put in situations where they have to drive to a friend's house while making a frantic call on a cell phone. Jules even tells Vincent "you don't go to your friend's house and tell him what's what", advice Vincent does not follow at Lance's.
-Fabienne says that any time of the day is good for pie. Jules says that 7:22 in the AM is not quite time. Written as a fraction, the ratio 7:22 is 22/7, which is pi.
-Jules complains how wrong it is for Marsellus to send a couple of cats up to Tony Rocky Horror's fourth story apartment to fuck his ass up in the midst of going to Brett's fourth story apartment to fuck his ass up.
-In a deleted part of the cab scene, Butch says that he's a boxer, and that's pretty much all there is to him. He says, "that's how your gonna beat him Butch, they keep underestimating you." Then, he beats his demons by learning that he is much, much more than a boxer.
Okay, here's the secret...all three stories are the same story.
Vincent, Butch, and Jules represent the three aspects of the human psyche: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is the pleasure-seeking selfish animal inside all of us (Vincent). The ego is the down to earth, the self, the conscious human that we show to the world, who struggles between what is right and wrong (Butch), the superego is the religious, moral aspect to our psyche (Jules).
The original script says that Pulp Fiction is really "Three stories...about one story". Rumors abound that there was a window left open in the production for fourth tale, but for some reason, the studio head got rid of the last story. Now, to figure out who the last story was supposed to be about, you have to look at the first three stories, in the order in which they appeared in the film:
Story 1) Vincent and Mia. Vincent is given a challenge of saving Mia. He does it, but he fails to save himself in that he only did it to save himself (the irony). One of the key moments in this story is their appearance on stage to try and win the award.
Story 2) Butch, a struggling boxer, sees an opportunity, goes for the money, thinks that will be his salvation - but, even though he has saved himself, realizes he cannot save himself unless he saves his worst enemy, who becomes his friend.
Story 3) You can see the frenzy in Jules's eyes give way to the realization of what he was doing. But even so, he doesn't fully learn what he is doing until he sees The Wolf in action, and realizes that if he does not follow the Wolf's example, Monster Joe will be hiding two bodies.
Now, answer these questions about each of the stories in the entertainment world:
1) What kind of award is won for a performance on the stage?
2) What is a tale of a boxer who finds redemption and meaning by becoming in the place he didn't expect it?
3) Which genre of movie would have a Wolf and a Monster disposing of bodies?
Answer these three questions and you'll figure out who was thrown out of the fourth-story window.