A fact of the 1990s culture

Steve Kay reviews Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction'

AS WE come up to the middle of the 1990s, I have no doubt that Pulp Fiction will be remembered as one of the best films of the decade.

Like Tarantino’s first film, the now legendary Reservoir Dogs, this is violent, but then so is the reality of many lives. This is not to say that Pulp Fiction is an example of realism. Most of the characters in its complex plot are outlaws of one kind, at one level hovering somewhere above ordinary concerns. Yet, on another level - and this is one of the film’s charms - its main characters are just like us. For example, the ruthless hitman Vincent (played by John Travolta) is actually tongue-tied and nervous on a date, and whenever something important is happening he is always to be found sitting on the toilet reading Modesty Blaise.

The larger-than-life characters are constantly reverting to human level. Before carrying out a hit, Vincent and his partner Jules (Samuel Jackson) discuss the vitally important issue of the foot massage. Later on, there is the problem of disposing of a dead body but there is still time for the intricacies of a good cup of coffee.

What distinguishes this film above all is that watching it is like taking a steam bath in 20th century popular culture, at least the popular culture of the Western world. This is clear not only from the screenplay, but also from the musical soundtrack, which has converted this reviewer, at the ripe age of 31, into a lover of at least some pop music.

This is to some extent a callous film, yet odd touches of humanity keep showing through all the ills of modern capitalist society.

Steve Kay