The second film by Quentin Tarantino came with a lot of expectations. The indie director had found fame with Reservoir Dogs, and he had delivered a film for the ages. His sophomore film needed to live up to the hype, and Pulp Fiction did not disappoint.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 satirical black comedy crime film written and directed by Tarantino. The project arrived as his second feature following 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, and was just as big a hit as its predecessor. The film famously stars John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson; the latter would appear several times in Tarantino’s filmography.
Travolta and Jackson play two assassins carrying out crimes alongside several other activities in Los Angeles. Tarantino’s screenplay has a non-linear narrative structure with seven narrative sequences. Other characters are introduced alongside the two assassins, including Uma Thurman‘s Mia Wallace and Christopher Walken’s Captain Koons.
Pulp Fiction is cited as Tarantino’s masterpiece. It won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1994 and was a major critical and commercial success. Due to its structure and subject matter, critics consider it a staple in postmodern cinema. Even its poster holds status in the film industry. Every film buff has it plastered on their bedroom wall or wore it on a T-shirt in their first film studies class to signal their “sophisticated” film palette.
However, Tarantino offers one counterpoint to his second film being deemed a masterpiece. During an interview with the ReelBlend Podcast, the director revealed his biggest problem with Pulp Fiction from an auteur’s standpoint.
During the interview, Tarantino was asked about Jackie Brown, the film that succeeded Pulp Fiction in 1997. He describes the movie as “opposed to Pulp Fiction, it wasn’t trying to blow your mind”, and instead, “It would become more like your comfortable friend”.
Following this comparison between the two films, Tarantino reveals he has developed an issue with Pulp Fiction when he looks back on it nearly 30 years later. “My biggest problem with Pulp Fiction is that I just don’t care for the direction of it that much,” he said. When aligning this element with others, Tarantino specified he does hold a personal love for the script and production design. However, he is self-critical of his actions as a director.
He informed the podcast that he now feels he was “just capturing” what the actors were portraying rather than having any deeper investment in his sense of direction. He eventually found some positivity in what he did at the time, claiming: “I hold on to things longer than other people would have because they wouldn’t have the confidence in my material that I have”. This can ring true when reflecting on the film’s subject matter and most infamous events, ranging from a youngster accidentally having his brains blown out to a gimp suit.
Tarantino concluded with another comparison to Jackie Brown, one that references his journey as a filmmaker. “Jackie Brown is where I started becoming more of a filmmaker…the first of my worked out cinematic shots”.
Here, Tarantino displayed that self-criticism and doubt that all artists of any medium feel, even towards their most loved and acclaimed creations. Rather than dwelling on where he felt he went wrong with one artwork, he situated it alongside the strengths he found in it and then ended with discussing how his subsequent work reflected his artistry better as a lesson learnt.