Quentin Tarantino’s second feature, Pulp Fiction, is at once ridiculously entertaining and remarkably weightless. Its quintessential scene takes place outside the Jack Rabbit Slim’s restaurant when Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) tells Vincent Vega (John Travolta) not to be a “square.” Forget the irony (after a 10-year acting rut that included three Look Who’s Talking films, Pulp Fiction‘s success made Travolta reputable again), Mia’s line could be the film’s mantra. Tarantino giddily incorporates countless texts (Kiss Me Deadly, Saturday Night Fever, and so on) into this farcical noir Frankenstein that, not unlike Shelly’s legendary monster, eventually turns on itself. More important than the film’s elegant structure is what the creation represents: Jonathan Rosenbaum summed Pulp Fiction up quite nicely as “a couch potato’s paradise”; no one here can access reality unless they are summoning the many ghosts of noir’s past. (Tarantino’s most fascinating creation, Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winnfield is more than a repository of disposable trivia and smart-alecky responses, embodying the film’s surface concern with righteousness and redemption.) Godard and countless others did this kind of thing way before Tarantino, but Pulp Fiction had such a profound effect on older Gen Xers because it spoke to a newer generation’s shared consciousness, which includes an infatuation with movies and, apparently, a fear of penetration. (What is the film’s infamous rape sequence but a projection of Tarantino and his heterosexual, largely white male fanbase’s deepest fears and prejudices?) When the Wolf (Harvey Keitel) makes Vincent and Jules change clothes, Jimmie (Tarantino) calls them dorks for wearing lame sports T-shirts. By pointing out the articles belong to Jimmie, Tarantino acknowledges his own dorkdom. In turn, it makes him “cool” (not enough though to permit his liberal use of the word “nigger”) and a hero to his media-savvy generation. In the end, it’s not that Tarantino has no life, it’s that his life is the movies. Much like his characters, the director can only live by engaging cinema.
The 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on this Pulp Fiction Collector's Edition DVD is serviceable despite some major halos. Contrast is sharp and blacks are adequate. The film has never sounded as good as it does now. Unlike the DVD edition Buena Vista Home Entertainment issued in 1998, this new disc features a crisp DTS 5.1 Digital Surround Sound track that's very good to the killer tunes Tarantino compiled for the film.
Though Tarantino has yet to record a commentary track for Pulp Fiction, two features included on this Collector's Edition may be the next best thing. Though the enhanced trivia track has been seemingly written by the folks behind VH1's "Pop-Up Video," it provides equal amounts of behind-the-scenes info and six-degrees-of-separation tidbits. For the fanatics at home, one of the disc's DVD-ROM features allows you to record your own commentary. Also included on the DVD-ROM is an Enhanced Playback Track that permits one to "watch the movie synchronized with cool content," Jack Rabbit Slims Trivia Twist, a Screenplay Viewer and Reviews & Articles. The Soundtrack Chapters section provides easy access to the film via one's favorite tracks from the film's soundtrack. Also included on the first disc are Sneak Peeks of the Jackie Brown DVD and the remastered edition of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Owners of the Canadian DVD release of the film are already familiar with the deleted scenes provided on this Collector's Edition of the film. All five deleted scenes are included here, introduced by an especially neurotic Tarantino. More significant is the retrospective documentary "Pulp Fiction: The Facts," which traces the film's history from its inception to Cannes glory via an even mix of new and old interview footage. If the two behind-the-scenes montages are disposable, the brief production design featurette is vital to understanding how Los Angeles's "car culture" is embodied in the film's mise-en-scène. Just as successful is footage from the Independent Spirit Awards (watch as Roger Moore and Tarantino do there best Beavis and Butthead impersonations) and Tarantino's Palme d'Or acceptance speech at the Cannes Film Festival (gotta love those French crowds!). For those interested in the instantaneous effect Pulp Fiction had on film culture, check out "The Tarantino Generation" from "Siskel & Ebert At The Movies" and Tarantino's Charlie Rose interview. Also included on the second disc are five theatrical trailers, thirteen TV spots, eight still galleries and eight glowing reviews and articles.
Sans Tarantino commentary track, this may not be the definitive edition of Pulp Fiction but it certainly comes close.