"I'm tryin' real hard to be the shepherd."
That's 4/4, and with a more recent movie as well. Quentin Tarantino directs this movie, and he's one of the directors I was most excited about watching a movie from. I felt like I haven't really pinpointed my focus on directors so far, because I've been kind of confused on what their role is still. So I've decided to mention Tarantino as much as possible in this analysis, to try and connect decisions that he made with the story, actors, etc.
As a reminder of what a director does, here's a list of director's roles from creativeskillset.org:
"Directors are responsible for creatively translating the film's written script into actual images and sounds on the screen. They are ultimately responsible for a film's artistic and commercial success or failure.Directors may write the film's script or commission it to be written, or they may be hired after an early draft of the script is complete. They must then develop a vision for the finished film and work out how to achieve it.During pre-production, Directors make crucial decisions, such as selecting the right cast, crew and locations for the film. They then direct rehearsals and the performances of the actors once the film is in production. They also manage the technical aspects of filming including the camera, sound, lighting, design and special effects departments. During post production, Directors work closely with Editors through the many technical processes of editing, to reach the final cut or version of the film. At all stages, Directors are responsible for motivating the team to produce the best possible results. Directors must also always be aware of the constraints of the film's budget and schedule and manage the expectations of the film's financiers."
Click HERE for Pulp Fiction Summary
Before I start, I feel an obligation to warn anyone reading this about Pulp Fiction, because it is a pretty gory movie. There's also some other things that someone might not want to see, but I won't get too much into that.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 black comedy crime film. The plot consists of three main storylines, which is split up into 7 parts. It has a "circular narrative" format, meaning we start at end, and make our way back there by the end of the movie. Out of order narratives are always engrossing, because the audience wants to put everything together. That's just one of the many things this movie does well.
The movie starts right off with a conversation between a man and a woman who are presumably in a relationship. They're arguing about robbing the restaurant that they're currently having a meal in. What I love is that we have absolutely no background surrounding these characters, and yet I'm fine just listening to their conversation. The same thing happens when the movie introduces Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta). They're having a conversation about McDonald's in Paris, and I was embarrassingly riveted by this conversation, and paid weirdly close attention to the "Royale" and "Le Big Mac". So first point: the dialogue in this movie is spectacular. Tarantino can make the most mundane conversations seem like masterpieces. For example, Jules and Vincent then transition into a conversation about their boss, Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), and his wife Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman). Someone apparently gave Mia Wallace a foot massage, and Marsellus threw him out a window. Jules and Vincent argue about the intimacy of a foot massage, as they walk through corridors and are framed by tan walls, and seen at inventive angles. By this point, I'm already invested in Jules and Vincent, both separately and together. They seem like two cool characters with a great friendship. Then, when they break into the apartment and Jules gives his whole Ezekiel speech, you really realize just what kind of a movie this film is gonna be, and you settle in for the ride. Next, we see Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) in a bar, staring right at the camera, as Marsellus gives him an iconic speech. Butch looks just about done, and takes the money Marsellus offers him to lose a fight. Vincent and Jules walk into the bar, and there's some collision between Vincent and Butch, but nothing too major. Vincent accompanies Mia to a diner, where they particpate in a twist contest (and win). Then, Vincent and Mia go back to the Wallace house, Mia mistakes Vincent's drugs for another drug, and overdoses. Vincent has to deliver an adrenaline shot right to her heart to revive her, in one of the most cringey yet hilarious scenes of the movie. Next, there's a scene with Christoper Walken, telling a young Butch about how he hid Butch's father's watch in his rectum for two years, just so that he could deliver it to him. This scene needs no words and no explanation, in my honest opinion. Transition to Butch waking up before his fight that he's supposed to lose. But does he lose it? Of course not! He wins the fight, and actually kills the person he fought against. Butch then takes his girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Madeiros) to a motel where they hide from Marsellus's men. But Butch discovers that Fabienne left his watch at the apartment, which sends Butch into a rage. He goes back into the apartment and gets his watch, but sees a gun on the kitchen counter. He hears a toilet flush, and Vincent comes out of the bathroom. Butch shoots him dead. Marsellus sees Butch in the street. Marsellus chases after Butch into a pawn shop, and this is where things get very questionable and I won't really mention what happens, but it's pretty graphic. But Marsellus takes blame off of Butch, and Butch flees Los Angeles with Fabienne. There's another whole sequence with Tarantino in it (who is pretty funny as Jimmie), but I won't really describe it because it wasn't super memorable, compared to the other scenes in the film. It was more of a transition to get back to the beginning/end in the diner. The couple attempts to rob the restaurant, but are half stopped by Jules.
I didn't want to explain every little thing in the movie, or else I would go on for ages. But believe me, this movie is filled with so many cool moments, and surprisingly nice camera work. The acting is amazing, all the jokes hit, and the action is gross but cool. I actually really really liked Pulp Fiction, and I think it's a new favorite.
"If the situations are inventive and original, so is the dialogue. A lot of movies these days use flat, functional speech: The characters say only enough to advance the plot. But the people in "Pulp Fiction" are in love with words for their own sake. The dialogue by Tarantino and Avary is off the wall sometimes, but that's the fun. It also means that the characters don't all sound the same: Travolta is laconic, Jackson is exact, Plummer and Roth are dopey lovey-doveys, Keitel uses the shorthand of the busy professional, Thurman learned how to be a moll by studying soap operas." - Roger Ebert
"Royale with cheese" - Awesome first conversation between Travolta and Jackson.
(Jules trying to convince Vincent that a foot massage means nothing)
VINCENT:Have you ever given a foot massage?
JULES: Don't be tellin' me about foot massages – I'm the foot ***** master.
VINCENT: Given a lot of 'em?
JULES: **** yeah. I got my technique down man, I don't tickle or nothin'.
VINCENT: Have you ever given a guy a foot massage?
JULES: **** you.
Jules (Jackson) giving the insanely famous Ezekiel bible speech before shooting an unreliable associate of Marsellus's dead.
Butch listening to Marsellus in the bar.
Mia and Vincent participating in a twist competition. Got intense John Travolta Grease vibes in this shot.
Vincent administering the adrenaline shot to Mia's heart.
Butch with a katana.
Ending scene of Pulp Fiction.
"There's a passage I got memorized, seems appropriate for this situation: Ezekiel 25:17. 'The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. 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. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.'"
"You shouldn't keep souvenirs of a killing. You shouldn't have been that sentimental."
3/4 movies are done. So far, all of these movies have been on the older side, so I'm excited to watch more recent movies. I think I've built up a tolerance to older movies because of this project, but I've also learned that there's a lot of common themes in older movies (more on that later).
The third movie I watched is Vertigo. It's a film made in 1958, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who is credited as being one of the greatest directors of all time. His movies like Rear Window and Psycho have been praised for decades. I was excited but also nervous to watch this movie, because it's a little scarier then the ones I've seen.
Click HERE for Vertigo Summary
Vertigo is an American Psychological Thriller. It's based on the 1954 novel D'entre les morts (From Among the Dead) by Boileau-Narcejac. The first scene of the movie is a chase scene that goes wrong, leaving main character San Francisco detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) with acrophobia (fear of heights). He retires, and his friend Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) attempts to help him get rid of his vertigo/acrophobia, but to no avail. Gavin Elster, Scottie's old college friend, hires Scottie to follow his wife Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak). Gavin says Madeleine has been acting weird, and claims she is possessed by her ancestor Carlotta Valdes. Scottie follows Madeleine around to a bunch of places which point to the possession suspicion being true. Scottie also seems to be infatuated with her. Eventually, Scottie follows Madeleine to Fort Point, where Madeleine jumps into the bay, seemingly attempting suicide. Scottie rescues her, and brings her back to his place. She reveals that she had no idea how she got to Fort Point, and she does not know where she has been the whole day. The next day, Scottie and Madeleine take a road trip, where they express their love for each other. Scottie takes Madeleine to the scene of her nightmare, Mission San Juan Bautista. Madeleine suddenly runs into the church tower, and starts rushing up the stairs. Scottie attempts to follow her up to the top, but his vertigo stops him from going any further. He sees Madeleine's body dropping through the church window, and Scottie is overwhelmed with grief. Later, her death is ruled a suicide, and Gavin does not blame Scottie for her death. But Scottie is still extremely guilty, and is severely depressed. One day, Scottie sees a woman who reminds him of Madeleine. He follows her, and while she attempts to fend him off, she agrees to a date. It is revealed that the woman, Judy Barton, was actually part of a murder plot with Gavin Elster. She masqueraded as Madeleine Elster, and tricked Scottie into believing that it was her body falling from the roof of the church, when in reality, Gavin Elster was waiting at the top with the real Madeleine Elster's dead body, which he merely threw over the edge of the church. She does not tell this to Scottie, and pretends to be a completely different person because of her love for Scottie. But Scottie starts dressing Judy in Madeleine style clothing, and even tells her to change her hair to make it like Madeleine's. She is initially resistant, wanting Scottie to accept her for her. But Scottie insists, and she complies. While preparing for a night out, Scottie notices Judy wearing a necklace that Madeleine wore, that was specifically supposed to be an heirloom from Carlotta Valdes. Scottie realizes that Madeliene is Judy, and takes Judy to the mission again. Scottie makes it to the top of the tower with Judy, conquering his acrophobia. He says the only way for him to get over his madness is for Judy to admit her role in the plot, which she does. They hug and tell each other they love each other. But then a shadowy figure arises from behind Scottie, and Judy gets shocked, then falls from the bell tower to her death. The figure is revealed to be a nun, who says she heard voices, and Scottie is left looking empty again.
Scottie's obsession with Madeline was insane, but the way the movie played it out didn't make that obsession so obvious. We knew that Scottie loved Madeleine, but we didn't realize how creepy and obsessive he was until the final act. This creeps up on you, and makes the movie even more thrilling near the end. Hitchcock did a lot of things well in the movie, and I understand why he he's so good at thrillers. He's amazing at building suspense, and putting in little things that you don't notice till later (which somehow makes it more terrifying). I really liked this movie, and it was probably the first scary type movie that I could actually take, no problem. That's partly due to the good story and captivating on screen work. Both James Stewart and Kim Novak are startlingly convincing in their roles, and also help with the immersion factor.
"Unfortunately, even that mastery is not enough to overcome one major fault, for the plain fact is that the film’s first half is too slow and too long. This may be because: (1) Hitchcock became overly enamored with the vertiginous beauty of Frisco; or (2) the Alec Coppel-Samuel Taylor screenplay (from the novel “D’entre Les Morts” by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac) just takes too long to get off the ground."- Variety
The opening sequence, showing how Scottie developed acrophobia and vertigo.
I didn't realize how undeniably creepy this scene was. I gave Scottie a pass because he was investigating a possessed Madeleine, but looking back even that sounds ridiculous. Another example of how Hitchcock's suspense creeps up on you.
Scottie was completely infatuated with Madeleine/Judy. Stewart and Novak's acting is so subtle yet effective.
Scottie's nightmare about vertigo and his guilt.
There's a whole sequence where Scottie is just driving around in his car, trailing Madeleine. It's a simple scene, but the slow chase is building up suspense, and Hitchcock is creating a foundation for Scottie's obsession. It might be seen as a slow scene, but the surrounding look at San Francisco doesn't hurt the scene at all.
The last scene of Vertigo, where there seems to be some sort of happy ending for Scottie and Judy in store, but instead, Judy is killed off, and Scottie is left feeling vacant and devastated.
This should go without saying.
Kelby Custodio, Junior at Pacifica High School.