The epitome of modern gangster cool, Reservoir Dogs was a minor success the world over, but a phenomenon in Britain. Writer-director QUENTIN TARANTINO tells Alan Morrison how he went to work on its follow-up, Pulp Fiction.
THE FAGTS 0F FIETION
here‘s a disease that strikes many film directors early on in life: Second Film Syndrome. While rarely terminal. it‘s enough to force careers into long periods of sick-bed convalesence. The surest symptom is cockiness. brought on by universal praise for the debut. resulting in over-reaching in the follow-up; other victims throw their originality into question by trotting out the same tricks for a second showing or. alternatively. opting for a bland. formulaic approach in an attempt to ensure that bigger- bucks mainstream appeal.
Early in 1993. Quentin Tarantino debuted with an inventive crime thriller called Dogs. Bloody and intense. it thrust itself into a media arena that. at the time. verged on hysteria
in its attitude to screen violence. The majority of
critics went wild. hailing him as the most exciting new talent since Martin Scorsese; audiences responded. allowing the film to build a reputation that widened from the arthouses to the late-night multiplex slots. Even the British Board of Film (‘lassilication‘s refusal to give the film a video certificate did no harm. as the only genuine cult item of the 90s continued to pull in twice as much at the [K box office as in the whole of America.
One of Ri'svl't'nil' /)()g.\"S strong points is its cohesiveness. the way that Tarantino packs just enough character background and plot twists into a tight l(l() minutes. Early word on his second feature. Pulp Fiction. had fans in a swirl of anticipation and trepidation: this one would
John Travolta: “I’ll have the Douglas Slrk steak.”
spread and thread multiple characters and narrative lines through three distinct stories (plus prologue) over an indulgent two-and-a- half hours. Was Tarantino about to stumble through his second outing, believing he could do no wrong?
When the film won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. there was an audible sigh of relief from the Tarantino camp as it became clear that the 31-year-old had delivered the goods. But thejury’s controversial choice is hardly grounds for complacency: it follows in the Cannes prize-winning tradition of WildAt Heart and Barton Fink. neither Of which went on to make any serious dent on the world- wide box office. And while some critics went into a superlative frenzy. others — even those
Who’s who in the world of Pulp Fiction
6 The List 21 October—3 November 1994
4 Vincent Vega (John Travolta) Brother of Reservoir Dogs" Vic. aka Mr Blonde. Vincent‘s a professional hitman asked by his boss to do a little wife-sitting while he’s off on business. It‘s a strictly hands-off affair. even when the electricity crackles between them as they boogie-on down at 50s retro restaurant. Jackrabbit
F Mia Wallace (Lima
Thurman) Wife of gangland boss Marcellus Wallace. her last chaperone had an ‘unfonunate’ fall after a friendly foot massage. Her evening with Vincent is going perfectly until she discovers his drug stash and fixes up a coke and heroin cocktail.
F Jules Winnﬂeld (Samuel L. Jackson) Teamed up with Vincent to retrieve a black briefcase from a bunch of double-crossing