Pulp Fiction follow-up: Soundtrack

from email 6 March 2008

I was toodling around on iTunes, downloading some Fergie songs, and ran headlong into the Pulp Fiction soundtrack (one of the great things about iTunes is that if you forget how you got somewhere, you can hit “back” just like going back on the internet, and retrace your steps.  In this case, the Black Eyed Peas took the surf classic and opening music to Pulp Fiction, Dick Dale’s “Misirlou”, for their hip hop pop).

I was thinking about it, because I don’t usually think of the music in Pulp Fiction when I am thinking about the movie.  But upon reading what Wikipedia had to say about it, I have now realized how truly ingenious the use of music was in the movie:

The Orange County Register described why the soundtrack of Pulp Fiction stood out from all the others: “Unlike so many soundtracks, which just seem to be repositories for stray songs by hit acts regardless of whether they fit the film’s mood, Tarantino’s use of music in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction exploded with a brash, Technicolor, pop- culture intensity that mirrored the stories he was telling.”[9]

Analyzing the success of Tarantino’s marketing, Billboard chalked up MCA’s compilation to identifying the market niche: “Pulp Fiction…successfully spoke to those attuned to the hip, stylized nature of those particular films.” The eclectic “mix-and-match strategy” is true to the film. “In some cases, like Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, which were not geared toward any specific demographic, the soundtracks were still very focused albums,” said Kathy Nelson, senior VP/general manager at MCA Soundtracks. “In both cases, the body of work – both the music and the film – has a specific personality.”

Pulp Fiction is a film you will never forget, and the music certainly helps, though, again, it is not the music that will stay foremost in your memory.  If there is a singular item that occupies that foremost position, it is, probably for most who have watched it, the gimp (now don’t give anything away for those who have shamefully yet to see it!).

Anyway, I’m a big film buff, and interested perhaps of getting into the business myself some day, so this very effective use of music without setting down an original score per se is a good lesson for me.  Of course, the entire film is a clinic on what can be done with good old-fashioned straight-forward story telling.

I also wanted to comment that Uma Thurman fell in love with “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” when Tarantino played it for her.  Her connection with the song greatly enhanced that scene, and a more perfect union could not have been had.  It’s also nice reading criticism such as that which I quoted above, for my own forays in film criticism.


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