Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction
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Mention of Quentin Tarantino and one of his films brings to mind immediate and automatic instances of striking ‘uniqueness’ in terms of aesthetics, style and the approach to content and form which he incorporates in many of his movies. Such esoteric tastes are reflected and made evident in pictures such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, and so on. Tarantino’s cult movies has spawned him a great following, and the films he’s directed share the previously enumerated qualities, most of them catering to independent and cult film enthusiasts, but recently, to the mainstream movie viewing populace as well. This paper will proceed to discuss similar and contrasting elements in his 1994 film, Pulp Fiction and that of his 2003 well received follow up, Kill Bill.
Apart from the obvious and affecting presence of Tarantino’s professed ‘muse,’ Uma Thurman in both films – in Pulp Fiction as Mia Wallace, and in Kill Bill as the bride, and lead protagonist Beatrix Kiddo – both run in the space of a little over an hour with an assortment of seemingly separate and unrelated cast of characters but whose lives would intertwine at one point or another as the movie progresses. This particular sentiment exists because Tarantino prefers not to approach the plot or story chronologically, the way most movies and plots are conventionally told, instead he re-arranges the sequence of events to create a particular intended effect which these films are able to deliver. Watching both films for the second time allows the audiences to appreciate the course of the plot and the movie better instead of dismissing it as bland and already seen or heard of before. Each of the characters possesses a certain degree of grit and fortitude unique to their personality as well as each other.
Critics make mention of the ‘trashy’ material which exists in Tarantino’s films, in Pulp Fiction this exists in the film’s proclivity to violence, the instance of drug use (and abuse), homosexual rape, the seemingly unecessary use of profanity and foul language, and so on, running rife throughout the extent of the film.
Kill Bill appears tamer by comparison, but nonetheless indulges in the same copious amount of on-screen violence. Fight scenes such as that between Uma Thurman’s character and the Japanese band of asassins referred to as the ‘Crazy 88′ had to be muted in black and white to minimize the amount of gore emanating from severed limbs, an overwhelming pool of blood, and piles of dead bodies resulting from the use of swords and samurais. The other characters’ demise ensued from having their craniums lopped off (O-Ren Ishii), or their foot pierced and head hacked with a mace, blood issuing from their eyes (Gogo Yubari) or in taking a conventional exit by way of gun.
Music is one of the prime aspects of Tarantino’s films, and it exists from opening billing to end credits as a knowing and powerful tool for setting the tone and transition of each frame, In Kill Bill, for instance, Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) dictates the intial sentiment viewers are intended to adjust to before cutting to a frame featuring Uma Thurman’s character in all her bloodied glory, lying on the floor dressed in her bridal gown. Japanese band The 5, 6, 7, 8s also make a live cameo, establishing an Asian tone of casual and cultural cool as well as light playfulness of hip Asian persuasions to contrast O-Ren Ishii’s dragon-lady like characteristics.
Not surprisingly, Pulp Fiction runs in the same soundtrack driven setting. Quentin Tarantino supposedly brought back and rescued Jungle Fever, Misirlou and similar vintage tracks from seeming obsolescence that after the success of the movie, instances of hearing the said tunes would bring listeners to regard and identify them as ‘that Pulp Fiction song.’
The instance of witty and engaging dialogue is prevalent and is to be expected. Characters talk of seemingly dull trivias such as the metric system, fastfood chains and marijuana joints in Europe and audiences surprisingly listen. Whether through these uncommonplace dialogues or that of Samuel L. Jackson’s self righteous bible quoting monologue before executing a victim, and similar instances of equally engaging and intriguing lines, audience interest is piqued.
The ultimate goal and intended effect of a Tarantino film, and that of Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction is of rejecting the conventional and embracing the subversive. This much is evident in his approach to style and content, in the sequence of events in which he chooses to narrate his multi faceted stories indulging in violence, blunt profanity, the underbelly of middle to lower middle class society, and issues, circumstances swept under the rug or regarded as trivial, unappealing, banal or all of the above to be rendered as an artform and captured on film. This is an avenue in which others have failed – or have yet to regard and pay attention to – Quentin Tarantino succeeded.
“Kill Bill.” 2003. The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 12 December 2007. <http://imdb.com>
“Pulp Fiction: Something or Nothing.” World Socialist Website. 24 April 1995. Retrieved 12 December 2007. <http://wsws.org/arts>
“Pulp Fiction.” 1994. The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 12 December 2007. <http://imdb.com>