'Pulp Fiction' Netflix: Will This Kill the Classic?


On Monday morning, the streaming and rental service Netflix debuted the 1994 Tarantino classic Pulp Fiction. Considering the slow transition of internet-film viewership, contractual partnerships of this magnitude are more rare than one might think. Just try to find any number of American classics from the last thirty years streaming on the Internet. For whatever reason, whether money, low viewing quality, or good old fear of change the Spielbergs, Scorceses, and Ford Coppolas from the esteemed pantheon are not wont to be in bed with Netflix, and then, subsequently, me and my iPad.

This streaming of Quentin Tarantino’s game-changing movie will not last forever — no Netflix contract ever does — but while it lasts, what will happen? Well for starters, the proverbial “folks” of America will have access to the film in its pure theatrical form, at their fingertips. Pulp Fiction was readily accessible, but on network and cable TV, where the more violent and crucial scenes were effectively neutered by censorship. Never mind crook narrative on screen, the dubbing over the curses and cutting around the naughty sort was the true crime. In this spiraling, chaotic misadventure, so much is left on the cutting room floor by censors that it’s downright confusing without the trademark gore, racial slurs, drug usage, curses, and rape.

Manifest in the crowd-pleasing might of Pulp Fiction is the seminal root of the “indie” film. As an industry wide standard, Pulp convinced the heavy hitters that they could buy an independently-produced feature for less than 15 million and flip it for 200 worldwide. The promise of attaining Tarantino’s household name-status brought all types of iconoclastic figures into the game. At one point in time or another, Paul Thomas Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, Martin McDonagh, the insipid Troy Duffy, Harmony Korine, and Alejandro González Iñárritu have all been called "the next Tarantino." Countless others, despite living without this dubious distinction, owe their brass to Tarantino and his producers’ risky vision.

Digging deeper, people might spiritually revisit this film, and in it they will understand Pulp Fiction as it exists in the context of Quentin Tarantino’s much-debated ouvre. Much like one of his anti-heroes, or even his anti-villains, Tarantino’s greatest strength is also is greatest weakness; Quentin made a film so good in Pulp, that he will never, ever top it, and it was only his Sophomore effort. Let’s break this claim down by process of elimination, starting from the bottom: Four Rooms and Death Proof are shit, even QT knows that. Django Unchained, even if you enjoyed it, is a largely unsurprising and slow revisitation of the ethnic minority historical fantasy in Basterds.

Reservoir Dogs, though strong as a directorial debut, is basically a shameless carbon copy of John Woo’s Hard Boiled. I love the Kill Bill diptych, but, it pains me to say: they’re just kung-fu films. The underrated Jackie Brown is considered a disappointment by most, despite its heartfelt earthiness. Inglourious Basterds is fantastic, but even that piece of cinematic gold is marked by pacing and editing issues; when audiences were split over the festival cut at Cannes it was considered too long and subsequently recut, and hit theaters one minute longer, somehow (Pulp Fiction, in its year of submission, won the top honor, the Palmes D’or for the record).