Sunday, August 15, 2010


A friend of mine argued that Quentin Tarantino's insertion of the book MODESTY BLAISE in PULP FICTION makes little sense in Tarantino's cinematic world.

However, MODESTY BLAISE, a spy fiction novel published in 1965 and written by Peter O'Donnell, completely fits within Tarantino's subreferenced mash-up canon.

In PULP FICTION, John Travolta's character, Vincent Vega, is reading MODESTY BLAISE before he's machine gun peppered by Butch (Bruce Willis), putting an end to Vega long before the film comes to its crazy conclusion.

PULP FICTION isn't as complex as it first seemed and, if you think about its approach, the film isn't confusing at all - it is, in fact, structured like a novel (an approach Tarantino admits to and embraces for all of his films). But when it first came out in 1994, people talked about its wonky structure and how challenging it was to keep track of the multiple story lines that seemed to be wreaking havoc with the space/time continuum, which, of course, isn't what's happening at all (if you want to see a complex film that plays with the space/time continuum, watch Krzysztof Kieslowski's THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE). PULP FICTION is a matter of structure, not the philosophical ruminations on the mathematical theories regarding the supposed fourth dimension of time.

Like all of Quentin Tarantino's films, the director inserts what moves (or has moved) him by incorporating his obsessions into the proceedings, thereby loading his movies with references that are wholly personal to the director.

My friend stated strongly that inserting MODESTY BLAISE into PULP FICTION doesn't make sense whereas I made the claim that it makes sense completely.

My friend, who has never heard of MODESTY BLAISE, fell into the trap that since he has never heard of the novel, it simply must have no place in Tarantino's world.

This is not true. Throughout the years, Tarantino has often considered filming MODESTY BLAISE. He also owns an original copy of O'Donnell's novel, which obviously impacted the filmmaker on some level - enough, in fact, to insert it into PULP FICTION.

NOTE: In 2003, almost a decade after PULP FICTION, Tarantino allowed his name to be used on DVD release of a European film called MY NAME IS MODESTY. The DVD was renamed QUENTIN TARANTINO PRESENTS: MY NAME IS MODESTY.

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