Pulp Fiction (1994)

2h 48m / R / Crime Drama

Gather ‘round, younglings, and let Tampa Theatre tell you a story about when independent cinema was a coherent idea and this movie changed the world. Films have always been made outside the Hollywood studio system, notably with the rise of New Hollywood auteurs in the late ‘60s. But blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars drew that curtain almost completely closed; the studios smelled money and focused on commercializing their intellectual property. And then in the early ‘90s, something old became new again: mid-major production companies like Miramax and New Line Cinema developed strings of big hits, the Sundance Film Festival put big muscle behind the independent cinema movement, and creators like Kevin Smith, the Coen brothers, Jim Jarmusch and Quentin Tarantino started making waves.

If there hadn’t been a Pulp Fiction already, it would have to be invented. Tarantino’s formula of snipping elements out of his encyclopedic memory for genre media and pasting them into fresh, gritty contexts has served him well for thirty-ish years, and it appears almost fully formed in his second movie. And his monarchical hand on every aspect of production — from soundtrack, to the film stock used, to his trademark faux-products like Red Apple cigarettes — stretched the possibilities of how fully a major feature film could be the product of one individual mind. Made up of vignettes told out of chronological order, stuffed with bonkers performances and icepick-sharp dialogue, dripping with blood and profanity and reigniting the career of a former star now adrift (John Travolta, in this case), it’s fair to say Pulp Fiction is the movie Tarantino has been making over and over ever since. It’s also fair to say it’s still a masterpiece. And in light of the tragic news that Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder and retired from acting, this year seems like an especially good time to revisit it.

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Immediately after the screening, retired Tampa Bay Times film critic Steve Persall will lead a short discussion and audience Q&A. The session is included with film admission.

Tampa Theatre’s Summer Classics series is presented by Bank of America.

Additional support is provided by WEDU-PBS, the Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Publix Super Market Charities and the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Arts and Culture.