Sunday, February 13, 2011

"This is Jack Rabbit Slim's.": Pulp Fiction Analysis Part VIII

Go to Part VII: "I'll be down in two shakes of a lamb's tail"

Vincent and Mia pull up to camera in Vincent’s Malibu. Mia refers to Vincent as an “Elvis man.” This is in reference to a deleted scene in which Mia uses a camcorder to conduct a little interview with Vincent. She asks him several questions to learn about his likes and dislikes. She says there are two kinds of people in the world: Elvis people and Beatles people. Vincent is definitely an Elvis person.

They enter Jack Rabbit Slim’s for dinner. It’s a theme restaurant centered on 50s pop culture icons: the host is Ed Sullivan while Ricky Nelson performs on stage and the wait staff consists of Zorro, Marilyn Monroe, Mamie Van Doren and Buddy Holly. The two sit down and Vincent orders the Douglas Sirk Steak. Douglas Sirk was a 50s film director of such melodramas as Imitation of Life and Written on the Wind. The steak named for him is available “burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell,” perhaps a sly reference to the extreme drama of his films. Mia orders a shake which is available “Martin and Lewis or Amos and Andy.” The reference here is to a white comedy team and a black comedy team. She orders the Martin and Lewis (Dean and Jerry) and receives a vanilla shake.

They chat a little and get to know each other. Vincent asks to try her shake and she lets him, indicating he’s free to use her straw. Very quickly they have established a level of intimacy between each other that may foreshadow the inappropriateness to come. Then they have the famous “uncomfortable silence” to which Mia calls attention, saying that people shouldn’t feel uncomfortable sharing silence with each other. Again, there is a level of intimacy that should not exist between a man and his boss’s wife.

When Mia returns from the bathroom, the framing of the scene becomes slightly more conventional. The characters are now dead center in the frame (before they were usually left or right of center). The camera is now a little closer, as well. Before she returns from the bathroom the restaurant scene has only one over-the-shoulder shot, which is over Mia’s shoulder after Vincent offers her his rolled cigarette and a light – a telling first moment of friendliness and implied intimacy. After her return, over-the-shoulder shots putting both characters in frame and thus in placing them in the same physical space are much more frequent. The soundtrack is now the background music playing in the restaurant as opposed to the extra-diegetic (that which is not part of the action of the film) music from before. And the dialogue is spoken in a much more relaxed manner. All this creates the sense that Vincent and Mia are becoming more familiar with one another.
Shot such as this one...

...and this one with Vincent and Mia in medium close and off center frame later give way to...

...shots like this one and...

this one with the camera in tighter and the characters more centered.
Over-the-shoulder shots like this one and...

...this one occur only once before Mia returns from the bathroom. Then they are more frequent.

Vincent asks Mia about the alleged foot massage that caused Marsellus to throw Antwan off a balcony. She lays the rumor to rest by telling him that Antwan has only touched her hand – to shake it at her wedding. She says, “The truth is, nobody knows why Marsellus threw Tony out of that four-story window except Marsellus and Tony. When you little scamps get together you’re worse than a sewing circle.” She is referring to Marsellus’s employees being as bad a gossip mill as a bunch of old housewives. The point here is to demonstrate the fear that everyone has of crossing Marsellus.

Finally, the Jack Rabbit Slim’s scene is closed out by the twist contest in which Vincent and Mia dance to win a trophy.

Go to Part IX: "Is that what you'd call an uncomfortable silence?"

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