“Violent Nostalgia”-a new experience by Quentin Tarantino

09 Oct

Inspiration comes from many sources and is a common factor in many different pieces of art. Often times, this inspiration can overcome an artist so entirely that their work is almost a mirror of, or even a perversion, it. Quentin Tarantino is a modern day artist that takes his inspiration from films he viewed in his days as a video store clerk. In doing so, he has earned both ire and admiration from critics and audiences alike. This is particularly seen in instances of violence in films like “Pulp Fiction” as “violence in film is a serious matter, and for some people an inexcusable offense” (610). The thing separating films like “Pulp Fiction” and other films by Tarantino from splatter fests found in grindhouse cinema, is that they hold incredible nostalgia and the genres are infused with new life through portrayal of violence.

As author Alan A. Stone writes in his article sharing the same name as the aforementioned film, “Tarantino is playing with convention rather than rejecting or deconstructing it” and that “there can be no doubt that the self-taught Tarantino intends to shock his audience” by “violating the conventions of action-violence films” (611-12). In spite of that violence, Tarantino has crafted a piece that pays homage to pulp fiction magazines of the 1930’s and 40’s, and fills the film with people who are relatable despite of their characteristics. Like many stories of the pulp fiction magazines, the characters are fighting for revenge and redemption. For example, the scenes with Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta have them behaving “like college sophomores” and “children of over-indulgent parents” who “have no idea how to clean up the mess” (615-16). Unlike college students or teenagers these are hardened hitmen, and is it is not beer that is spilt, but blood and brains.

With this violence, the reality of the situation helps bring a new life to a genre of film noir. Characters in film noir are typically gritty, grief stricken, hardened, and ultimately given a new perspective on life. Characters in “Pulp Fiction” do so, but are filled with humanity, wit, and wisdom. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules, is an example of this archetype that also, interestingly enough defies typical stereotypes from 1930’s film noir. Meaning, he is not a reefer addict or a helpless African-American man, but rather someone who is searching for meaning in a profession that has him destroying life. He is searching for redemption, and may find it as the end of the film predicts. This is where Tarantino for the most part shows his understanding of film noir and pulp fiction and also of human nature and demonstrates an awareness of his audience.

Works Cited

Stone, Alan A. “Pulp Fiction.” Common Culture: Reading and Writing about American Popular Culture.

Ed. Michael Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure. Sixth ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:

Prentice Hall, 2009. 609-616. Print.

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