By Cunneen, Joseph
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 31, No. 5
The advance hype for Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction was fueled by its best-film award at Cannes last April. That honor was deliciously ironic at a time when the French, defending their beleaguered film industry against the mass invasion of U.S. movies, were denouncing the exploitative violence and meaninglessness of which "Pulp Fiction" is a prime example.
Tarantino's title is accurate: If you don't normally seek out pulp fiction as a means of recreation, there's no reason to spend your money on a movie version, even if it's tricked out with a complex plot that doubles back on itself and adopts a hip stance toward its gangster materials. Those attending out of hoopla-generated curiosity will nevertheless receive massive jolts of energy that had the audience I saw it with charged up and cheering.
A high school dropout who got a liberal education working for years in a video store -- where he obviously watched hundreds of movies with considerable intelligence -- Tarantino has made a movie movie, full of insider jokes, bright stage design and about nothing at all.
More than one critic has called Tarantino fascist but this seems unfair; even if his directorial technique is overbearing, he obviously likes actors, and gets fine performances from Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Bruce Willis and Harvey Keitel, among others. Although many will be offended by the repetitive violence and crude language, the audience is cued in the opening sequence that "it's only a movie."
An effete couple in a diner, Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth), after some desultory chatter, stand up and announce, with mincing theatricality, that it's a holdup. The comic riffs of the gangsters, which usually hold up the action and deal with such subjects as foot massages and foreign naryies for hamburgers, have no connection with the world of film noir but would make superior sequences for "Saturday Night Live. …