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Quentin Tarantino is known for reusing popular films and repurposing them in his own stories. Both ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’ are the sum of parts gleaned from Tarantino’s extensive movie watching in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And both are great examples of the filmmaker’s skillset. ‘Reservoir Dogs’ introduced him to a wider audience, but ‘Pulp Fiction’ cemented his place in contemporary pop culture.
‘Reservoir Dogs’ borrowed deliberately from Stanley Kubrick’s heist thriller ‘The Killing’ and the Hong Kong Ringo Lam movie ‘City of Fire.’ Tarantino has been open about these influences and they helped him shape his twisty crime thriller.
It’s the story of the aftermath and it focuses on the effects of a crime on those who committed it. Tension is added to the narrative when its misfit collection of bad guys hole up in a warehouse and discover that one of their own is a police informant.
What stands out in Tarantino’s sophomore directorial effort is the dialogue, something that the filmmaker is well known and respected for now.
The use of dialogue in ‘Pulp Fiction’ is even more important to the story than in Tarantino’s earlier film. There are similar sorts of characters in both movies but ‘Pulp Fiction’ has a far more developed narrative and arguably better characters. But the thing that stands out in ‘Pulp Fiction’ is its use of a non-linear narrative.
Events are muddled up and there are plenty of enticing mysteries in ‘Pulp Fiction.’ It’s a more rounded narrative and Tarantino’s good use of setting and context in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is magnified and expounded upon in ‘Pulp Fiction.’
There are some superficial parallels to be drawn between the two films but really they’re more different than not. Both however contain a lot of violence but ‘Pulp Fiction’ has more weight to the brutalities it visits upon its characters.
I think what stands out the most is the fact that ‘Reservoir Dogs’ is a toned down version of a Tarantino movie, at least in retrospect. All of the hallmarks are there, the use of music, dance, and pop culture tropes but it’s just not on the same level as his later work in ‘Pulp Fiction.’
‘Reservoir Dogs’ introduced Tarantino’s eclectic filmmaking style but it wasn’t until ‘Pulp Fiction’ that he revealed just how creative he could be when it came to telling a cinematic story.
For me ‘Pulp Fiction’ stands out as Tarantino’s most overt film. Many directors change genres, they show their aptitude for telling stories, but they do so subtly. Not so with Tarantino. He’s a filmmaker who is happy to be defined by his work and regardless of the type of story he tells, his influence is always apparent.
Of course there are great moments in ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and it’s an excellent low budget crime movie. But in a comparison between it and ‘Pulp Fiction’ it’s clear (in my mind at least) that Tarantino’s work has bettered with age.
‘Pulp Fiction’ is worth repeat viewing; there are plenty of sub stories, and moments that are missed the first time around. It’s a ‘90s classic and its all-star cast makes it into a sort of catalyst for film and storytelling that has shaped so many films since. Even Quentin Tarantino has struggled to write such a developed and nuanced screenplay in the years that have passed since ‘Pulp Fiction’s’ release.
While ‘Reservoir Dogs’ will always be one of my favourite films, ‘Pulp Fiction’ is simply far more developed. The characters are better, the story bigger, and Tarantino’s distinctive stylistic choices are difficult to ignore. Although it’s a film that reflects a collection of ‘90s sensibilities its still just as good today as it was on its release.
Quentin Tarantino is one of the last auteurs. His work reflects his personal vision of the movies, and of course his love of the silver screen too. Cinema shaped the way that Tarantino sees the world and his films reflect that legacy – ‘Pulp Fiction’ is a story of the movies, condensed and repackaged by Tarantino into its own filmic sort of tale.
Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs? Let me know with a comment below.
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