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Waylon Watson
Waylon Watson

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Tarantino has stated that he originally planned "to do a Black Mask movie", referring to the magazine largely responsible for popularizing hardboiled detective fiction. "[I]t kind of went somewhere else".[171] Geoffrey O'Brien sees the result as connected "rather powerfully to a parallel pulp tradition: the tales of terror and the uncanny practiced by such writers as Cornell Woolrich [and] Fredric Brown ... Both dealt heavily in the realm of improbable coincidences and cruel cosmic jokes, a realm that Pulp Fiction makes its own."[172] In particular, O'Brien finds a strong affinity between the intricate plot mechanics and twists of Brown's novels and the recursive, interweaving structure of Pulp Fiction.[173] Philip French describes the film's narrative as a "circular movement or Möbius strip of a kind Resnais and Robbe-Grillet would admire".[174] James Mottram regards crime novelist Elmore Leonard, whose influence Tarantino has acknowledged, as the film's primary literary antecedent. He suggests that Leonard's "rich dialogue" is reflected in Tarantino's "popular-culture-strewn jive"; he also points to the acute, extremely dark sense of humor Leonard applies to the realm of violence as a source of inspiration.[175]




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The movie's host of pop culture allusions, ranging from the famous image of Marilyn Monroe's skirt flying up over a subway grating to Jules addressing a soon-to-be victim as "Flock of Seagulls" because of his haircut,[180] have led many critics to discuss it within the framework of postmodernism. Describing the film in 2005 as Tarantino's "postmodern masterpiece ... to date", David Walker writes that it "is marked by its playful reverence for the 1950s ... and its constantly teasing and often deferential references to other films". He characterizes its convoluted narrative technique as "postmodern tricksiness".[181] Calling the film a "terminally hip postmodern collage", Foster Hirsch finds Pulp Fiction far from a masterpiece: "authoritative, influential, and meaningless". Set "in a world that could exist only in the movies", it is "a succulent guilty pleasure, beautifully made junk food for cinéastes".[182] O'Brien, dismissing attempts to associate the movie with film noir, argues that "Pulp Fiction is more a guided tour of an infernal theme park decorated with cultural detritus, Buddy Holly and Mamie Van Doren, fragments of blaxploitation and Roger Corman and Shogun Assassin, music out of a twenty-four-hour oldies station for which all the decades since the fifties exist simultaneously."[139] Catherine Constable takes the moment in which a needle filled with adrenalin is plunged into the comatose Mia's heart as exemplary. She proposes that it "can be seen as effecting her resurrection from the dead, simultaneously recalling and undermining the Gothic convention of the vampire's stake. On this model, the referencing of previous aesthetic forms and styles moves beyond ... empty pastiche, sustaining an 'inventive and affirmative' mode of postmodernism."[183]


Adele Reinhartz writes that the "depth of Jules's transformation" is indicated by the difference in his two deliveries of the passage: "In the first, he is a majestic and awe-inspiring figure, proclaiming the prophecy with fury and self-righteousness ... In the second ... he appears to be a different sort of man altogether ... [I]n true postmodern fashion, [he] reflects on the meaning of his speech and provides several different ways that it might pertain to his current situation."[224] Similar to Gormley, Conard argues that as Jules reflects on the passage, it dawns on him "that it refers to an objective framework of value and meaning that is absent from his life"; to Conard, this contrasts with the film's prevalent representation of a nihilistic culture.[225] Rosenbaum finds much less in Jules's revelation: "[T]he spiritual awakening at the end of Pulp Fiction, which Jackson performs beautifully, is a piece of jive avowedly inspired by kung-fu movies. It may make you feel good, but it certainly doesn't leave you any wiser."[226]


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