Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"In the Fifth Your Ass Goes Down": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part V

Go to Part IV: "Does he look like a bitch?"

The scene opens with a medium-close on Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis). Although we don’t know who it is yet, we hear the voice of Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) off screen giving Butch a speech about boxers who never made it getting on in age. Butch is about to be paid to throw a fight.

The close up on the back of Marsellus's head reveals a large bandage on the his neck.

After Marsellus hands off the money, cut to a close-up on the back of his head. Marsellus has a large bandage on the back of his neck. I have read in a number of sources, including the trivia subtitle track on the DVD, that Ving Rhames has a scar on the back of his neck and so the makeup people put the bandage over it so as not to distract the audience. This seems counterintuitive to me. Why would you place a distracting bandage right in front of the camera to keep people from being distracted by what’s underneath the bandage? I simply do not buy that argument, it makes very little sense. I also believe Tarantino to be a careful filmmaker who would not allow such a distraction to exist without cause. Why would he place the camera right at the back of Marsellus’s head unless he wanted the audience to specifically see the bandage? I do believe that Tarantino takes many opportunities to play games with his audience and I believe it entirely possible this is one of those times.

Vincent and Jules arrive at the bar wearing T-shirts and shorts. Jules carries the case from the previous scene. We know it's later that morning, but what's the story with the clothes?

We cut to outside the bar where English Dave opens the door to greet Jules and Vincent, now dressed in shorts and T-shirt, still carrying the case. The case in Jules’ hand provides a temporal link between this scene and the previous scene. We know it must be the same day, but leaves us wondering why they’re clothes are different. Dave asks them why they’re wearing the clothes they have on and Jules simply replies, “You don’t even want to know.” The audience should be wondering the same thing and we will find out by the end of the film. The three step inside and wait at the bar until Marsellus is finished with Butch. Dave asks Vincent about taking Mia out on a date and Vincent has to defend himself again, denying that it’s a date. But now we really start to sense the sticky situation Vincent is getting himself into by taking out the boss’s wife, even though it is at his request.

Butch and Vincent share an immediate and inexplicable dislike for one another. Notice their equal positioning within the frame.

Butch approaches the bar and stands next to Vincent, who stares at him.

BUTCH: You lookin’ at somethin’ friend?
VINCENT: You ain’t my friend, Palooka.
BUTCH: What was that?
VINCENT: I think you heard me just fine, punchy.

Butch can’t believe what he’s hearing and he’s ready to knock Vincent on his ass were it not for the fact that Marsellus has just called Vincent away. These two guys have an immediate and irrational dislike for one another.

Part VI: "It's a sex thing. It helps fellatio."

1 comment:

  1. I was recently watching "Mission: Impossible II" and there is a shot of the back of Ving Rhames' head that reveals he does, in fact, have a scar in the position that the Band-Aid covers.

    However, I still don't believe that is the reason for the Band-Aid's presence.