Watching this for the nth time, I tried to screengrab shots and quotes that are not as popular and quotable, allowing me to focus and appreciate other things about Pulp Fiction. Aside from the other things that make it a great movie (i.e. the dialogue, the one liners, music, actors, camera angles and movement), Pulp Fiction is a delight for fans of Film Noir.
Unlike other modern directors of great Neo Noir films paying homage to the classics, QT did something different. The spirit of Film Noir was surely palpable, starting with the movie’s name – the term for the kind of literature that influenced Noir. Then there are the archetypical Noir characters he borrowed from various films - the hitmen on an assignment, the boxer past his prime, the wife of the boss and the dozens of characters helplessly thrown into unsavory situations. Some elements were from specific Noir movies, most notably the glowing suitcase from “Kiss Me Deadly” (he also supposedly based Willis’ character on Mike Hammer).
Refreshingly, he didn’t fall in the same trap that other noir-obsessed directors couldn’t escape – focusing on Noir’s dark and sexy cinematography and mindlessly amping up the violence (like what Miller & Rodriguez did in the unbearable Sin City). His only overt tribute to the Noir aesthetic was how he showed Travolta and Bruce Willis inside cars at night (using rear projection like in “Out of the Past”).
QT took these archetypes and filtered them through his own style and sensibilities. Other Neo-Noir directors updated the pessimism and fatalism with modern values. For most of Pulp, QT made it seem he was going that same route; but eventually he did something very Tarantino at the end, turning the conventions over. When most classic Noir films ended in a bleak manner, with the main characters doomed by fate and/or their character; QT makes Pulp Fiction a story about redemption (or at least realizing the need to change one’s path).