28/05/2016

Pulp Fiction - Writing Evil That Immerses

First off, sorry for the title, it kind of makes sense, but not really. The following is conglomeration of three essays on Pulp Fiction, so, enjoy...


Pulp Fiction - Writing What You Know

A disjointed run of events over a few days following criminal activity across L.A.


I've talked about the difference between movies and films before. Films take narrative drama over entertainment whereas movies take entertainment as the primary factor. (All in a very rough sense). Pulp Fiction may be the quintessential movie, most probably the greatest movie of all time to an awful lot of people. But, in truth, there aren't just movies and then films. There's always going to be a blend of both inside a picture. We all assume, myself included, that Tarantino's films are just fun movies, pure entertainment. I could agree with this across the majority of his filmography, but Pulp Fiction has always stood out to me as something more than things happening. We'll get into the dichotomy of the film later on, but I'll say for now that this is a picture designed to be both a film and a movie. Before we get into that I always like to assess a film before praising it as no film is truly flawless. The flaws in our favourite films are easy to ignore, and usually not worth anyone's attention, but with Pulp Fiction we find a central critique that does split Tarantino's audience. So, what we'll do is analyse Pulp Fiction in three parts. Firstly we'll look at Tarantino, then the film aspects of Pulp Fiction, after that the movie aspects, before rounding everything off. That said, let's go...

Ok, we'll start with critique. In short, Tarantino is the star of the movie. This in itself isn't particularly bad, I mean, Scorsese is usually the star of his movies, but not to their detriment. We all know Tarantino quite well from interviews T.V, DVD extras and such. He's quite the personality - and that doesn't help the character of his movies. What I'm talking about here is his dialogue. Everyone knows this is the staple of his movies, but if you pay attention to the structuring of character's sentences you can without a doubt hear Tarantino. This is one of the biggest faults in the film. Most of the characters, save accent, dialect and pacing, all sound more or less the same. This however is criticism I frankly hate to give because I write myself. Now, don't worry, I'm not going to tell you how hard it is to write and so we should just give him a break. The real task of writing comes with an idea of authenticity, which dilutes everyone else's ideas of wanting all your characters to sound different. A famous adage of writing is to write what you know. We have all heard this before and have probably all been frustrated with it when trying to write ourselves. It's easy to ask, 'well, what the hell does that mean?' as it seems like we're being asked to write about our personal experiences, which, to a certain degree, we are, but that makes little sense as no one wants the life of a writer, they want heroes, fantasy, and a myriad of other things we can't know. And that's why personal experience is not the crux of the idea. The real truth of this statement is that we're to write what we are good at. Keeping that in mind let's return to writing characters with individual voices. To do this you must call upon one of two things. You can call upon your voice in all its variations as implied by situation. Or, you can rely on the archetypal stock voices we have in our heads from hearing others speak or seeing movies. The latter is the real danger in trying to create individual characters though, as when we do this we aren't writing exactly what we know. We may have a good idea of what the guy running the corner store sounds like, thinks like, acts like, but, we only have the real insiders information on ourselves. To climb this wall you have to be a good character writer. You must be able to do what the actors do in that you embody new mannerisms, turning yourself into your characters so you believe that you are them, staying true to the adage write what you know. The trouble of this comes with you and what you are best at. If you are not the best character writer, or you aren't too great at capturing a wide range of voices, let alone embody them, then you can come off as an awful writer. Worse case scenario you can come off incredibly offensive, even racist. We see this in many films, new and old. This is linked to 'white washing' in Hollywood, which is a concept a lot of people are paying attention to as of this moment with the new Dr. Strange coming out as well as the up and coming adaptation of the anime, Ghost In The Shell with Scarlett Johansson. I don't want to get too deep into those films and that issue, but talk about where the problem starts.

This all comes back to writing what you know. When an audience wants you to write what you know, but at the same time portray minorities and produce individual characters, you are often being torn in two directions: toward and away from what you know. The most infamous example comes with Breakfast At Tiffany's.


This is not the product of racism. This is the product of bad acting, writing and make-up. When I say bad, I don't mean jarring and awful, but substandard. In short, it's not good enough to not be obvious. This is what I mean by writing what you know. When you can push the illusion, when everything flows, you are doing something right. To ensure this you might just hire people of the same religion, nationality, skin colour, culture as the character - an easy fix (maybe). But this is nobody's obligation. If I'm honest, which I have no qualms in being, I'm only interested in Ghost In The Shell because Scarlett Johansson's in it. She's a great actress, I love many of her films: Lost In Translation, Don Jon, Under The Skin, Her, even Eight Legged Freaks - not a great film, but I grew up with it. Why? I don't know. We're getting off point though. The central idea here comes with paying your way, of proving your worth. The reason why indie films don't do as good as block busters is, quite obviously, linked to star power and being known. Stars are almost always incredibly talented, impossibly rounded, people. Think Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Emma Stone, Will Smith, Mila Kunis, Brad Pitt, Natalie Portman. We go to see their films because we know there's a very good chance they will be good. If I say Lubna Azabal, Mads Mikkelsen, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Matthias Schoenaerts, Leila Hatami, Dominique Pinon you may not know who I'm talking about. And when you don't know these names you don't know if their films are worth seeing. This isn't about just about star power or hidden talent though, this is all about writing what you know. We know when Leonardo DiCaprio does what he does, he's going to blow it out of the park. In other metaphorical words, when he writes what he knows we get his true artistic character.

So, to bring this back to Pulp Fiction, to ask Tarantino not to write what he knows, to give his characters individual voices, is quite possibly asking him to be a worse writer. This is why I have no qualms with his style for almost every single second of his movies. However, in Pulp Fiction Tarantino's style betrays him and he comes off as a bad writer in a small sections. This comes back to Tarantino being the star of his movies and is mainly about the use of the word 'nigger'. This is by far the most polarising aspect of his movies and style. This was really emphasised with the release of Django Unchained. In Django I can see Tarantino's argument pertaining to temporal verisimilitude, meaning, people were likely to say nigger around slaves in the South in the mid 1800s. The real reason no one likes to hear this and questions its usage in the film though comes down to Tarantino himself. We all know he's a white man with a big personality who seems to be infatuated with black culture, quite specifically, 'nigger'. I haven't got an issue with this, but can understand those who do. To feed this into the narrative of the film and bring it all together with the central idea of write what you know, let's zoom in on Tarantino's cameo in Pulp Fiction. Now, I know I just said I haven't got an issue with Tarantino's use of the word nigger, but in this scene... I'm not even going to say it's unnecessary or frivolous, it just makes him look stupid. Tarantino can sit at his desk and type nigger a thousand times for the same reason he can type motherfucker, shit, cunt, asshole, dick and so on all he wants. He's feeding a narrative, a fantasy external to him. When you read said profanities on the page a good writer will not have you visualise themselves writing or saying them when it is not right to do so. The same goes for an actor, we're not seeing them saying cunt, nigger, asshole, but their character - and only if they're good. Tarantino is not a great actor. He's the weakest element of the film in terms of screen presence. Moreover, Jimmie is the worst written character. It makes absolute sense that he'd be pissed when the two gangsters invade his house, but let's pay attention to gangsters. No one, no one, in their right mind would stand in front of Jules, who has a gun, who has just killed a bunch of kids, who is equally pissed, who could easily kill you and your girlfriend, and say nigger. This is why Tarantino looks and sounds like a fool when he stands in front of Samuel Jackson, in his bath robe, holding a cup of gourmet coffee, saying nigger over and over and over. It doesn't matter if Jackson hasn't an issue with this, what matters is character choices. Jimmie, who is afraid of his girlfriend, does not hold the power or stature to say nigger to bloodstained gangster with a gun. As a result what the audience is inclined to do is assume Tarantino just wanted to say nigger, to seem cool, hip and a whole load of other nonsense.

What does this all mean? Well, it all comes down to Tarantino apparently not writing what he knows as both a screenwriter and actor. He should not have been in the roll of Jimmie. This is a major casting issue we will look back on as another...


Which is ultimately quite the shame, but all we can say is bad writing and bad acting. Bad choices. The truth in all of this is that Pulp Fiction is nonetheless a great film, just like Breakfast At Tiffany's is. It's faults are obvious, but easy to look past, but what remains is a lesson we should all try and learn something from. And what's the lesson... write what you know. Get good and doing certain things, practice, know what your strengths and weaknesses are and play to them. This is what good writing is, what it is to produce anything great, it's knowing your version of things, it's knowing the best way you can tell a specific story. The ultimate goal here is also not looking like and asshole. When you write what you know you are writing what people expect of you - in a good way. This is not pandering to an audience. It's trying not to be the class clown with so much potential that he seems to just be wasting. Either way, there's a lot more to learn from Pulp Fiction...



Pulp Fiction - The Line Evil Draws

I've already introduced the essay on Pulp Fiction in the first part where we discussed Tarantino and lessons in writing what we know. Next we're going to be talking about the 'film' elements of the picture. In other words we're going to be analysing the film as to pull apart it's message.


Pulp Fiction is a picture trying to do two things and this is perfectly demonstrated by the two definitions Tarantino gives us in the very beginning:

pulp/'pelp/n.
1. A soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter.
2. A magazine or book containing lurid subject matter and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper.

This film is 'Pulp Fiction' meaning one of two things. It's either fiction for the sake of fiction and entertainment. Or, it's a film with lurid subject matter, but a piece of artwork nonetheless, a piece of art we can assume to be made with intentional messages. This is what I mean by saying this picture has strong elements of both 'movie' (definition 1.) and 'film' (definition 2.) in it. The true depths of Pulp Fiction are found in it's movie elements that disguise themselves as something a little more profound that we can learn a lot from, and so, for that reason, we'll save that for last. What we're going to look at now are the confusing elements of the film, the ambiguity of the case, of the reason why Rocky Horror was thrown out of his window, what the gold watch means, what that bible verse means, why the film ends like it does and what the 'miracle' is all about. This sounds like a lot, but don't worry it's all connected and so won't need extensive work to pull apart. In short, Pulp Fiction is about characters changing, an idea of fate and a question of justice. To understand this we have to focus on Vincent, Jules and Butch as the three main, and most important, characters. Before we start though, I'll also clarify the sequence of events in the film as they can be easily jumbled:

Diner
Collecting the Briefcase
Vincent and Mia
Flashback
The Gold Watch
The Bonnie Situation
Diner

We'll start by jumping past the opening Diner sequence to focus on the briefcase and Marsellus throwing Rocky Horror out the window. In short, there are no answers here, but both concepts do have weight and meaning. Marsellus throwing a man through a window for doing something(?) and possibly to his wife, is all about control and tyranny. Whilst you could argue that nothing happened here as Mia said so, mmm... don't believe her. Why would she tell the truth? I think something did happen, and to symbolise Marsellus' character, set up the 'date' and make clear Vincent's conflict. Marsellus is a very possessive man, willing to kill another for going near his wife, as a result, Vincent's conflict lies in his respect for him. We see this in the hug the two share. (Remember here that Jules is never seen with Marsellus). This indicates that Vincent is immersed in gang culture, whereas Jules isn't so much, and that the briefcase is a symbol for their commitment to both Marsellus and crime. This is reinforced by the end with Jules saying that his boss' underwear are in the briefcase. This might as well be what is actually inside the case, with the golden light being a fabrication, a metaphor for perceived greatness, of respect and stature in the world of crime. The light in the case is the reasoning behind characters respecting and working under a man who, for no explicit reason, would give a person brain damage. The real ambiguity presented to the characters resultantly turns all their actions in and around the briefcase and Marsellus into questions. The primary question comes with the 'miracle' but we'll return to that later. Suffice to say that that question is Jules' whereas Vincent's question comes with the Mia sequence. In short, Vincent is being asked if he wants to walk the thin line for Marsellus. In this Mia is symbolic of the trap of gang culture. She is almost the spoils of success - those that are out of Vincent's reach. She is an archetypal femme fatale. Marsellus throwing Rocky Horror out a window makes clear to him that there are consequences for his pursuit or even involvement with her and crime. This is why when he's in Mia's bathroom he says 'this is a test'. But the truth is, it's not a test of his loyalty to Marsellus, but his own sense. Vincent's association with Mia, Marsellus and gangs is what kills him. All in all, Vincent's character is doomed. He refuses to change, to accept the futility of criminal activity and the looming dangers of gang culture. This is why Vincent is the only main character to die in the film.

Next we come to Butch and his Gold Watch. This is a very simple concept to understand. Butch, like Jules and Vincent, is trapped within gang culture, but he was raised as the son of a war hero (born into a line of war heroes). He, like his fathers before him, is a fighter and doesn't really want to be associated with crime or evil. This turns the gold watch into a symbol of goodness opposed the golden light of tyranny in the briefcase. Very simple, no? Butch being the good guy is demonstrated throughout the film. He shows no real respect toward Marsellus in the beginning, or his henchmen, he disobeys, he wants to escape them, and is ultimately the real hero of the film. Butch, despite a rough temperament, always does the right thing. As I'm sure you're starting to piece together now, there are three clear characters similar to Leone's Good, Bad and Ugly. Vincent is the bad, Jules is the ugly and Butch is the good. But, Tarantino's characters are strict archetypes of Leone's and that's why the end happens, but, before that we must finish up on the character of Butch with the structuring of the film. The reason why the narrative is so disjointed comes with an idea of consequence. With the first half characters and their conflicts are set up. We've done Vincent's and implied Jules' already. To clarify what Jules' conflict is we only need to look at the moral dilemma he faces with the act of God. He is a character that questions Marsellus' power whilst Vincent defends him. On the other hand, we have Butch who not only disobeys, but literally fights Marsellus - and almost to the death. Here we come the mid point of the film. Butch's conflict is his being torn between good and bad, between freedom and imprisonment - being 'Pulled back in' essentially. Moving past the mid point of the film we see the consequences of that. He's literally pulled into a lair drenched in crime and obscenity, introducing yet another aspect of fate and destiny into the film. Whilst you could argue this scene is just an ex-machina, there are many instances of crazy things happening to facilitate the plot moving forward - the guy in the bathroom, the gun going off, Mia snorting the heroine, bursting into the wrong pawn shop. What is happening is an apparent inevitability, again, more questions. All of them manufactured. The question Butch is faced with is of his own goodness. And as we all know, he decides to turn back, armoured with the samurai sword. But before this, he kills Vincent. So, whilst Butch's response to his life defining question granted him freedom, Vincent going on the date with Mia, deciding to stay with Marsellus, kills him.  This leads us onto Jules...

Jules is a very interesting character as he's the ugly, he's the true antihero of the film. He tries to do good, but the key ambiguity in the film comes with his fate, the consequences for his answers to the question posed by the miracle. He chooses to leave the gang, to speak to Marsellus, but what happened afterwards? In reality, I think it's fair to infer that he was probably bumped off. Why would Marsellus just let him go? However, if this did happen, I feel Tarantino wouldn't mind showing us . Instead, he leaves us with a door swinging shut and a question of our own: what is Jules' fate? In that you probably understand what the miracle moment means. It demonstrates to Jules his probable end - being shot before his time is up. This is why he decides to try and walk. There's a little more to this scene though that comes with an interesting bit of trivia we've probably all heard before. The bullet holes:




The most obvious thing here is that there are already three bullet holes in the wall that miss both Jules and Vincent. This seems to be a mistake, but could also be a metaphorical image. These could be the bullets the two have dodge beforehand, but also foreshadow the failed shooting that's about to occur. However, the bullets shot all seem to have magically passed through Jules which implies that maybe there really was a divine intervention, that Jules should be dead. This gives reasoning for his conversion (and also Vincent's refusal - he wasn't saved). To understand how this all comes together we need to look at the bible misquote/fabrication. Again, another bit of trivia most will be familiar with, Jules isn't quoting the bible, but paraphrasing whilst adding a lot of his own words. Let's look at them:

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.

Let's do a quick translation of this into more basic, understandable terms:

The path of the decent man is always obstructed by the unfairness of the selfish and oppressive man.
[There's always evil people]

Blessed is he who looks after others.

[God] will avenge all off the oppressed, and the oppressors will know who strikes them down.

So, inside here are four characters, there's the decent man (Butch), he who looks after others, the Shepard (Jules, maybe) the oppressor (Vincent/Marsellus (gang members)) and finally God. Jules is faced with the question of where he stands. Is he with Vincent and the gang? Or will he look after his fellow man (Pumpkin, the robber)? This should make his next few words all the clearer...

Now I'm thinkin', it could mean you're the evil man. And I'm the righteous man. And Mr. .45 here, he's the shepherd protecting my righteous ass in the valley of darkness.

Or this could mean you're the righteous man and I'm the shepherd and it's the world that's evil and selfish. I'd like that.

But that shit ain't the truth. The truth is you're the weak. And I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin'. I'm tryin' real hard to be a shepherd.

At first he puts the robber in the 'bad' category with him in the 'good'. Next the robber's in the 'ugly' (just trying to get by, but not too bad) with Jules in the 'good' again. But, what he accepts is that he is the evil, but can be good, leaving him as the 'ugly'. In the end he accepts that he has a choice to make. However, that's where the credits roll, again, leaving the lasting question: what happens to Jules?

And in that is the 'film' elements of Pulp Fiction, the questions Tarantino is ultimately asking us of forgiveness and fate. So, why don't you tell me? If Vincent is bad, Butch is good, what is Jules? Is he killed by Marsellus, is that why he's not with Vincent the next day? Or did he escape his fate and walk the Earth waiting for forgiveness? Comment below.



Pulp Fiction - Immersive Moments

Ok, we've reached the end of the essay on Pulp Fiction. So far I've covered this film in terms of Tarantino, and then in terms of his message. What we'll now do is explore it's greater truths not as an arthouse movie, but a Tarantino classic that has a lot to say about how films are made and seen.


In the last segment I gave a somewhat in-depth analysis of what the film means and what it's absolute message is. I believe that this message has been designed into the film by Tarantino, but not as a primary function of the picture. His movies are very clearly about both himself and his audience enjoying themselves. In this respect I draw your attention back to the two definitions of pulp he provides us before the film starts:

pulp/'pelp/n.
1. A soft, moist, shapeless mass of matter.
2. A magazine or book containing lurid subject matter and being characteristically printed on rough, unfinished paper.


Whereas the last part saw Pulp Fiction as a magazine or book written with intentions, here we're going to see it as a soft, moist, shapeless mass. This means that I am going to contradict myself, but so what? In the end you can choose to take away the film or the movie, or accept it as is, contradictions in tact. This means that all apparent structuring is designed only to disillusion, all imperfections are manufactured in to ensure you enjoy yourself. We can see this best with the non-chronological form. Tarantino does this to make a plotless film, to take away true cause and effect, to reduce the picture to a matter of moments. We see this best with Vincent's death. It's put in the middle of the film so we forget about it. There are also so many extraneous characters and sequences that pop in and out for the sake of pure entertainment in spite of sense or ex-machinas. What Tarantino manages to do here is what Harmony Korine wanted to do with Gummo. Korine wanted to construct a film that was much like a photo album. There are just snippets of character, events, situations and life. I'm not a fan of Korine's work, or of Gummo. It achieves a few insane images that do stick with you...


... but ultimately just want to forget about. (Click the picture if you want to see the scene depicted). This comparison may seem to come way out of left field, but it really doesn't. All we have here is the same film, or concept for a film, executed with different artistic ethics. Korine wants to create original, think-feely, postmodern, quasi-film. On the other hand, Tarantino wants to create something new, but still reminiscent of the films he grew up with, loves and constantly references. It's in my personal opinion that Tarantino is, as a result, the better artist. With Harmony's films there is an air of pretense. You see this in his interviews too. He's clearly a smart guy with some very interesting ideas, but what he produces is lacking in texture, in depth, in grit, flesh, something to hold on to. Gummo in particular is just a load of empty moments pulled together. It's the equivalent of a splatter painting or Duchamp's Fountain...

  

These are both cool ideas that you could talk about at legnth, but they aren't true art in my opinion. True art takes skill as well as concept, it takes engaging your audience, it takes actually reaching out and affecting them, not obliging them to assign meaning and join the cycle of pretense over something anyone could do without much effort. Returning to the realm of film, this is why Tarantino is the better artist, but I do have to say Korine does demonstrate skill in his cinematography, framing and editing. However, he seriously lacks the power to produce an engaging narrative, an immersive atmosphere or poignant message. This doesn't mean blockbusters are better that arthouse films or that films are better than movies. I cite films such as Eraserhead, The Holy Mountain, Un Chien Adalou or anything by Tarkovsky as films that have grandiose concepts like Korine, splatter painters or Duchamp. What separates these films from Gummo or even the largely empty Spring Breakers (the link is me assigning meaning to it) is clear skill on the grounds of atmosphere, narrative and mood. Yes, Eraserhead might not intentionally mean much, but damn is it captivating. Yes, The Holy Mountain may be pointless, but it says a whole lot of nothing incredibly well. Yes, Tarkovsky is something you just have to stare up at in awe, by there's a channel of respect running between him and the audience in the beautiful images he captures for us or the astounding sense of pacing and atmosphere he creates for us. Artist and audience shouldn't be two people standing on either side of a mirrored window that is their art. Artists and audience work for and with one another to produce pieces that entertain, teach, inspire as to benefit both sides. Wow, we've run a long tangent from Pulp Fiction. Let's bring it back...

So, Tarantino has constructed something both entertaining and artful, but how and why? We'll start with how. This is Tarantino's lesson to all you writers, so pens at the ready. Tarantino seems to abandon an idea of narrative to ensure each and every moment of his film engages. What does this means and does it make sense? It does make sense and it works because Pulp Fiction sucks out all the boring parts, not focusing on character arcs or narrative meaning, but the escalating moments of absurdity. The reason why Pulp Fiction isn't put in the same class as Harold and Kumar, Pineapple Express or Dude, Where's My Car? however is because it's manufactured to hide what it almost is as well as the fact that it is what it's trying not to be. To clarify, there are character arcs and narrative meanings in Pulp Fiction. Tarantino just hides them from us. Moreover, this isn't one bad night film like Adventures In Babysitting because it throws away the rule book, intentionally breaking rules of structure and beats. What this all means is that Tarantino is writing the best shorts he can, that can ultimately be pieced together like a puzzle. He focuses all his energy on the diner scene or the one hard day Butch endures to ensure that momentum translates to the film. The lesson in this can be applied to writing chronological, solid narratives. Pulp Fiction teaches us the power of the scene, of the moment. And strangely enough, there's a formula to these moments. Don't worry though, it's not a very helpful one. So, to reinstate what Pulp Fiction is before breaking down it's detailed structure: the big picture is a few segmented moments, in these moments is further segmentation, and in each segment there is a constant cycle of character and conflict. In this you can see how the film may have been planned. I want to make clear this is all speculation - but speculation that makes a lot of sense (in my opinion). So, the film is obviously broken into chapters, simple blocks of action. These blocks of action are then split up. For example, inside the Gold Watch sequence there's the flash back, taxi ride to the motel, night, morning, retrieval of the watch, fight with Marsellus, escape from the S&M dungeon. Inside each moment we'll get a hint of character and then a bit of conflict. This is easiest seen in the flashback. We get to learn who the grandfather is, but then what he had to go through. We then learn about the father, but then what he had to go through. We learn about Koons, but then what he had to go through. Now, character doesn't mean backstory, character means time with a person where they just behave. To understand this look at the Mia/Vincent conversation in the restaurant. The two just talk about meaningless things, they fall into a bit of back story, then there's a bit of conflict with an implied connection brewing before an awkward silence (conflict). Conflict resumes with Mia returning to the table and them having to discuss the plot, but falls back into character with their dance. What's most important is the meaningless, the (at times) philosophical-esque look at awkwardness, at bible versus, at trips abroad, at foot massages. The everyday and the everyday character always comes before conflict.

This is the cycle present throughout the film: character, conflict, character. conflict. This is so effective as it lets us get to know characters. This is VERY important. But probably not in the way you think. Many people think we get to love characters by learning their back story and seeing them go through hard times. This is absolute bull. How do I prove this? I can do this over and over. First, look at yourself. Did you have to learn all about your friends childhood before liking them? Did you have to see them go through tough times before sympathising with them? No. That's nuts. However, have you become friends just by sitting next to someone in a class, living next door, working in the same space as them? I'm pretty sure this is how almost all relationships start. They'll strengthen the more we get to know a person, but without knowing their complete history, or seeing them cry, you can develop a pretty strong bond with them. Why? And what does this have to do with writing? We develop friend this way because we are merely subjected to real characters. You see this all the time. Have you ever not liked what a person was saying, but still felt a sense of respect for them because they seemed honest? Have you ever despised someone because they seemed fake? Therein lies your answer. This comes down to character writing then. If you can convince an audience that your character is a real person, or has traits that ring true, you will create a loveable character. For another example I only need to cite my favourite film of all time: Amelie. I love this film unfathomably because... really? It's just the way I feel. If I were to break it down without going into too many psychological misfirings in me, I just need to point to the opening. This is all to do with Jean-Pierre Jeunet's game: things I like, things I don't like. (Also the title of an excellent short he created). In Amelie, Jeunet gives us a peak into character's minds by giving us a peak into his own mind. The lists of thing his characters do and do not like come from his own nuances. In short we are spending moments watching him throughout the day that reveal who he is. That means, in a weird sense, I don't really love Amelie by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, which isn't me admitting anything exciting, but bringing up another point. Writing is as much about who you are as it is what you create. This is the soul crushing thing about art. You are trying to project apart of you through a medium, and the thing people don't like to tell you is that when you are being told your film or painting sucks, they kind of mean: I don't like you, what you like or the way you think.

This all of course calls back to writing what you know. But, I don't want to leave the point essentially saying you suck and nobody likes you or your art. Whilst there may be parts of you, the ideas you have or the things you try that don't work, there may be some things that do. There may be an aspect of your own character that really resonates with people. What that is, I can't tell you. This is why actually creating work (at a high volume) and actually failing (a lot) is so important. We aren't really trying to find ourselves as artist, but the part of us everyone is willing to accept. That is why Pulp Fiction is so great (apart from that little moment of near racism discussed in the first part). Tarantino demonstrates great character. And this great character is what entertains. I want to pull back a moment to ensure I don't leave you in a mess here. What I hope I've demonstrated is Tarantino's manifested formula. He segments his films, breaks them down further and then constructs each moment by alternating between moments of character and moments of conflict. Some critique Tarantino for this because it produces films that are quite obviously moment after moment. They are disjointed in other words. This is also why Pulp Fiction is Tarantino's best film. He plays into what he does best: creating moments. By using his formula you too may be able to create an ok film, but one that may be disjointed - especially if you use his formula on a chronological narrative. To tackle this you could do two things. The first is produce a natural, flowing narrative. This was all explained with...


... so I'm going to skip onto the second method. This is narrative that rises and falls. To see this we can stay with Pulp Fiction. As I already hinted at, all of Tarantino's segments escalate. This is his main device used to entertain. Look at the Gold Watch again, he starts with a taxi ride, steps it up with some heated interaction between Butch and his girlfriend, he then flips the switch on that heat turning the seduction into aggression before introducing suspense, then a gun fight/chase, then horror, then catharsis with the escape. Look at almost any great movie here and you can see this aspect of escalation, look at Rocky, Platoon, Goodfellas, Godfather, Back To The Future... in fact, let's stop. The list is almost endless. Films that don't work start good and get worse, or start bad and stay bad. The films you forget are the ones that start good and stay good. Action must rise. This is writing 101. You've probably heard this a million times before and dismissed it or possibly misinterpreted it. Action rising doesn't mean more things happening, or a huge fight, or even more conflict. Action rising means an intensification of everything you set up. Look at Leone here, he rises to a simple shootout. It works so well because he also brings characters closer to the end, demonstrating his best direction as to emote and produce suspense. You can even look at Linklater's Before Sunrise. This is a film in which two people just talk. Action still rises though. What happens is Linklater's, Hawke's and Delpy's character work deepens, intensifies, get's all the better. Action rising just means making the story better. What this truly reveals then is what the best advice is: not very helpful. The best advice is broad and intangible. What you must figure out is how to grip it, make it tangible, something you can use. This is why watching films, reading and so on are the best ways to get better at your own art. You need to figure out how other people do things, what works and what doesn't so you can then learn that all again, but relative to you. The path is long and winding, I know. But...

Let's summarise with actual focus on Pulp Fiction. This movie works so well because it gives itself the room to concentrate on creating escalating moments inside an escalating plot. It gets better, intensifies with each moment that passes. And in each of these moments we are cycling between character and conflict, again, another rise and fall in action. By focusing on moments Tarantino creates an immersive experience and all by abandoning rules. By purposely reducing his narrative to pulp, this shapeless mass, Tarantino entertains making clear to us that the ineffectual is what resonates best, that weightlessness is the best form of entertainment.





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The Dollar Trilogy

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Dumbo - Tolerance Of Self

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