At this point of the bleak midwinter, you’ve made your way through the entire Netflix catalogue (there’s only so many ‘Witty Films with a Strong Female Lead Based on a Book’ you can handle) and are looking for a different, more varied streaming experience. With that in mind, let me guide you through some lesser known movie streaming sites, taking you through what you can watch in your free 30 day trial membership and beyond. We start with Mubi, the curated art and classic film site.
Now to our feature presentation. Everybody be cool this is a robbery. Any of you motherfucking pricks move and I’ll execute every motherfucking last one of you.
If you’re into cinema to the extent that you’re trawling the internet for any blog that will get you a fast film fix and you’ve come to Samuel Spencer Writes, then I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what’s great about Pulp Fiction and how influential it is. Instead, let me talk about it another way: how watching Pulp Fiction has confirmed my transition from film liker to film fanatic.
Weirdly, I came to Quentin Tarantino’s second film from two of what are fairly universally agreed to be the worst films of all time. Firstly, I found out it was the source of one of the weirder tangents in a film made up almost entirely of weird tangents, Spice World the Movie. When pitching movie ideas to the Spice Girls’ boss, a writer pitches Spice Force Five, a rip-roaring action film featuring the girls as a Charlie’s Angels-like team. Yep, that’ Spice Force Five like Fox Force Five, the failed pilot that was Mia Wallace’s (Uma Thurman) brief moment of fame. The film even continues the homage by having the black Spice Girl Mel B be a demolitions expert in the imagined film. Sadly, no girl is a knives expert with a repertoire of old vaudeville jokes, although that feels like a very Geri thing to do.
Then came Batman and Robin, of rubber nipple, plastic lips and freeze puns fame. Attracted to the weird beauty of Thurman (likely due to her Ginger Spice-like red hair), when I saw the classic poster of her vamping it up on a bed with a cigarette, I knew this was a film I wanted to see. So one day before my Mum came home from work (latchkey kid problems), I watched my stepdad’s VHS tape version, finger lightly touching the turn off button at any moment lest someone should come in and catch me watching an unauthorised 18.
I did not understand the film at all. Of course I didn’t. I was twelve. My only cinematic references were the Toy Story films, Spice World and Batman and Robin. I didn’t even know what pulp fiction was, so how was I ever going to understand a film that is all about aping its tropes and playing on the lurid crime stories that figure not at all in the films featuring Buzz, Woody, Baby Spice and Batwoman.
Since first seeing it, I have probably seen at least a 1000 other films, encompassing everything to the very earliest Edison and Lumière films of the 19th century to the best of 2015’s foreign arthouse. Everything from Alien to Zéro de Conduite. And rewatching Pulp Fiction for the first time today a decade later, I can see that it is the work of a genius. A deeply cinema literate genius who writes perhaps the best dialogue ever.
But what really grabbed me about the film were the tiny moments, where the intricate details of this film are exposed. Scenes like Mia and the adrenaline, Butch, Marcellus and The Gimp and the watch monologue feel like old friends who have never left me, cropping up in thousands of other cultural artifacts. But new details I noticed kept the film fresh.
Consider the scene where Butch (Bruce Willis) has escaped from The Gimp and rummages around the pawn store looking for a weapon. Screenwriting rules dictate that if you are going to do a joke based around escalating circumstances, you should repeat three times, as this is supposed to be the funniest. This is not just modern screenwriting; that’s a rhetoric trick straight from Aristotle. Tarantino has Willis pick up a hammer, a baseball bat, then a chainsaw. We expect the rule of threes to be respected, and laugh at the idea of him seeking revenge with the saw. But Tarantino goes one better. There is a beat, and Willis gives us the look of someone filled with glee. Then we see it. The samurai sword. The joke should peak at the third according to every rule of writing, but Tarantino knew he could get away with four. That’s genius right there. Then Willis takes the samurai sword from its sheath on the wall and very briefly its curve aligns exactly with the curve of the body of a fish mounted on the wall. That was a moment of pure cinema that I was so excited by that I nearly fell out of my chair. Multiply that attention to detail by a thousand and you have the 150 minutes of Pulp Fiction, the most influential film of my lifetime.
Note: an apology. Unfortunately, circumstances meant I was unable to finish yesterday’s piece before the end of the day. For those who can’t possibly cope without knowing some guy’s views on the debut film of a lesser-known director working in Portuguese, then firstly your patronage is appreciated and secondly I will catch up with it some time in the next week.