Back in late 1994 I watched Pulp Fiction in the cinema for the first time, and it changed the way that I thought about movies. I didn’t get a lot of the references at the time, and such is Quentin Tarantino’s famed nerdism I doubt that I get them all today, but the director’s enthusiasm for cinematic ephemera – both within the film and within pretty much all of his interviews at the time – made a lightbulb go off in my head; suddenly it seemed like there was so much to explore, to discover, to obsess over, to dislike, to find interesting. Of course I already liked films by this point in time; I’d watched most of the usual things your average 19-year-old male had watched in 1994, but with Pulp Fiction it finally dawned on me that there was a world of cinema out there that went beyond America, that went beyond action and guns and cowboys and Arnold Schwarzenegger and gangsters and aliens… and yet ironically Pulp Fiction is such an American movie all the same… perhaps the quintessential American movie post-1990.
Other than Pulp Fiction, there are few individual works that I can think of that had a similar impact in terms of sparking this long-held interest. Perhaps some of the obvious sci-fi, adventure or gangster movies of the 1970s and 1980s; I won’t list them, you know the ones. I tend to think, though, that Tarantino’s movie aside my current love of film developed as a result of things I was exposed to over longer periods: watching silent comedies with my uncle in the early 1980s, for example, or my first trips to the cinema as a kid (oh, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial left me in bits, and how exciting to feel this emotion as a seven-year-old…books have never been able to compete since). Then there’s Mark Cousins and Alex Cox presenting Moviedrome in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Leading Directors of American Cinema course I took with Neil Sinyard, Emeritus Professor of Film Studies at the University of Hull, as part of my degree in the mid-90s. Blogging and reading Sight & Sound for years. Those kinds of things.
What is there left to say about Pulp Fiction, though, other than ‘thanks’? (*****)