RECORD REVIEW | "MUSIC FROM THE MOTION PICTURE PULP FICTION" BY VARIOUS ARTISTS
photo & text by nacrowe
usually film soundtracks are a cash-grab, but the iconic use of class AMERICAN GOSPEL, R&B, ROCKABILLY and even SURF MUSIC in PULP FICTION (MIRAMAX, 1994) by director QUENTIN TARANTINO transcends this sad industry practice. and i mean right from the jump with opening credits utilizing DICK DALE's "MISERLOU" to genius effect. it is probably the most effect use of music in film since JOHN WIILLIAM's score in STAR WARS (TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX, 1977) and even BERNARD HERRMANN in PSYCHO (SHAMLEY, 1960). i'd put it right up there. full disclosure: my favorite score of all-time is PETE GABRIEL's evocative and global tapestry of score for THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST (UNIVERSAL, 1988), but in terms of popular appeal and cultural impact i will yield to WILLIAMS and HERRMANN.
in a film that is high referential and more than subtly tips its hat to multiple genres, most prominently FILM NOIR and FRENCH NEW WAVE, the fact that such a wide-range of music styles feels authentic to the narrative and the chaotic world it inhabits is a testament to TARANTINO's skills as both a director and a curator. not once in the film does the music take you out of the moment, if anything it transparently embeds you further within the dark seductive depths of depravity that these four concurrent storylines regarding hitman, boxers, gangsters, petty thieves and hangers-on spiral around. it is a real sonic achievement. the only other director that i feel has a similar gift for effectively utilizing popular music in way that transforms it from its original context and bends it completely to the will of multiple memorable scenes is DAVID LYNCH and films like BLUE VELVET (DE LAURENTIIS, 1986), MULHOLLAND DRIVE (ASYMMETRICAL, 2001) and LOST HIGHWAY (ASYMMETRICAL, 1997).
TARANTINO's music curation is also a key part of an overall cinematic aesthetic that has a sense of play in how it thoughtfully re-contextualizes the cultural baggage associated with disparate elements that also include dialogue, set design, editing, camera movements and even casting decisions. his movies are almost just as much about his love and meta involvement in the process of filmmaking as it is about the actual film itself. and that nerdom and intensely interior nature of his films are what make them so much fun and invigorating for movie junkies. and his use of music in PULP FICTION is a master class in said genius
id recommend the music of this soundtrack, but my inclination is to encourage anyone to see their use in the film first.
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