Blu-ray Review: ‘Pulp Fiction: 20th Anniversary Edition’

It’s hard to believe the film that launched a thousand talky, hipster-inflected indie movies and changed the whole face of the industry is actually twenty years old. The sophomoric effort of a young film geek who had greatly impressed critically (if not commercially) with his debut Reservoir Dogs (1992), Pulp Fiction (1994) has remained a lasting influence over a whole generation of cineastes in the way Star Wars (1977) did for a more populist audience two decades previously. But of late, the film seems to have lost a little of its lustre as the younger horde of Tarantino fans gravitate towards his later work.

While Tarantino’s recent output combines a strong craftsmanship and a deep reverence to their genre forefathers, it’s Pulp Fiction which still wields that adrenalised needle of originality straight into the heart. Lovers of the film will undoubtedly dig this anniversary boxset, complete with prop reproductions, a 1080P director-approved transfer (that delicate noirish palette by DP Andrzej Sekuła has never looked better) and a bundle of retrospectives (both old and new). Revisiting the film is both a delightful trip down memory lane and a reminder of just how supremely confident Tarantino was behind the camera. He’s happy to hold on long master shots with very little coverage, and shows an intrinsic, unswerving trust in his performers, particularly John Travolta, an A-lister long put out to pasture at that point.

Tarantino’s poise and vision is that of someone who has been waiting for that opportunity to step up and parlay an adolescence deeply immersed in the vast spectrum of cinema into a glorious career. His dialogue still crackles with wit and inventiveness, no matter how many snippets of it have been basterdized and mangled in inferior imitations, and you’re also reminded just how unglamorous many of the characters who bring the text to life are. They may live around the peripheries of Hollywood, but they’ve mostly an assortment of slovenly suburban lowlifes and aimless career henchmen who exist on the lower rung of the criminal underworld, over-compensating by bringing a style and posturing to their menial day-to-day work.

To watch the non-linear narrative click into place remains an utter delight, but it’s the small moments which really grab you – the chunky bits of viscera in Jackson’s jheri curl wig after Marvin untimely demise; the agonisingly long time Butch mulls over which weapon to use as Marsellus is suffering the worst kind of hell in that basement (Tarantino is a cheeky sadist, no doubt about it). Even the wondrous intro to Jack Rabbit Slims is a place which now has an almost magical, Gondry-like feel to it, having been ripped verbatim from QT’s pop culture-saturated subconscious. Two decades on, Pulp Fiction remains a remarkable cinematic milestone and has lost little of its power to thrill and entertain. Watch out for those goose bumps as Dick Dale’s blistering surf anthem Misirlou drops over the opening credits.

Adam Lowes | @adlow76