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March 1995, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 22 Mar 1995 19:41:52 CST
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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----------------------------Original message----------------------------
On Mon, 20 Mar 1995, chris wrote:
>Do you think Butch Coolidge was a hero?  Let's
>list the actions we know Butch has undertaken in Pulp:
(...chris lists all of the rotten things Butch does in the film)
>Now does this sound like a hero?  I don't think so.  But there's no question
>in my mind that Butch's rescue was a heroic act.  He could have left
>to be raped and probably killed but he didn't even though saving Marcellus
>might mean more trouble for him.  That was brave and compassionate from a
>who has demonstrated neither quality in abundance elsewhere in his life.
It seems to me that you're so eager to believe Tarantino different than all
who have come before him that you're willing to rewrite his films to prove
your point.  First off, you're conveniently forgetting the tenderness,
compassion and forgiveness he clearly shows to his girlfriend throughout the
film, long before the he rescues Marcellus, as well as the bravery he
demonstrates by returning for the watch.  Furthermore, you and I are not
using "hero" in the same sense, apparently.  When I say so-and-so is the hero
of a narrative, it doesn't mean he does only good means he is the
focal character of the narrative, the character with whom the audience
relates and for whom the audience roots.  Butch is surely a hero in the
classic literary sense; Louis L'Amour used to say something to the effect
that drama was the story of a good man going bad or a bad man going good, and
Butch is clearly cast in the latter mold.  There have been dozens if not
hundreds of books and films that have depicted characters who have done bad
but are redeemed by love or honor, just like Butch.  Again, I enjoy well-done
conventional narrative, so I mean it as no insult when I say that Tarantino
is *perfectly* conventional in this sense.
chris continues:
>Non-heroes.  Similarly, I would call much of Tarantino's work
>a-conventional rather than un-conventional.  The point is he isn't
>_concerned_ with what is conventional either in trying to be conventional
>or trying to NOT be conventional.  You know, like the difference between
>amoral versus moral-immoral.
I still don't understand why you see it as a *strength*, this alleged
"amorality" in Tarantino's work.  I would argue that his work is not amoral,
but even if I hypothetically grant you that it is, why do you think that's
admirable?  Because it's novel?  It's not, of course, but even if it were, is
novelty the most important characteristic of a director's work?
Finally, on Tue, 21 Mar 1995, Marc Leroy wrote:
>Funny thing is, Tarantino has more classical structure to his screenplays
>than most writers.  He just disguises his plot points by switching the
>chronology of the story.  In fact, the real plot of PF, the story of Jules
>redemption, is very linear and follows those plot points exactly.  The same
>sort of thing goes for Reservoir Dogs, where we think it's about figuring
>out who the cop is, but it's really about the cop's predicament..  My point:
>the best structure these days is that which seems to be without structure.
Well, you're right of course, and I apologize for not being more clear.  What
I liked in PF was the shuffling of those plot points.  I know it's not a big
thing; obviously, Tarantino didn't originate this technique, and I would
never argue that it somehow makes PF's narrative any less conventional, just
a bit more clever.  S'okay -- I like clever.  Doesn't substitute for genius,
but it beats the usual dull bludgeoning of the senses.
Finally, to bring an overdue international slant to this thread: Has anyone
seen the documentary that gives a shot-by-shot analysis of RESERVOIR DOGS and
Ringo Lam's CITY ON FIRE?  I had heard that RD owed a lot to this Hong Kong
film, but from what I've read, this documentary makes it sound like
out-and-out plagiarism.  Maybe Quentin Tarantino is to film what Pat Boone
was to pop music, stealing the little-seen inspiration of the ethnic "Other"
and making it palatable for young, white America.
Any thoughts?
Arn McConnell
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