Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cinema Tarantino: The Making Of Pulp Fiction

By Mark Seal
The first independent film to gross more than $200 million, Pulp Fiction was a shot of adrenaline to Hollywood’s heart, reviving John Travolta’s career, making stars of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, and turning Bob and Harvey Weinstein into giants. How did Quentin Tarantino, a high-school dropout and former video-store clerk, change the face of modern cinema? Mark Seal takes the director, his producers, and his cast back in time, to 1993.

In late 1992, Quentin Tarantino left Amsterdam, where he had spent three months, off and on, in a one-room apartment with no phone or fax, writing the script that would become Pulp Fiction, about a community of criminals on the fringe of Los Angeles. Written in a dozen school notebooks, which the 30-year-old Tarantino took on the plane to Los Angeles, the screenplay was a mess—hundreds of pages of indecipherable handwriting. “It was about going over it one last time and then giving it to the typist, Linda Chen, who was a really good friend of mine,” Tarantino tells me. “She really helped me.”

When Tarantino met Chen, she was working as a typist and unofficial script consultant for Robert Towne, the venerable screenwriter of, most notably, Chinatown. “Quentin was fascinated by the way I worked with Towne and his team,” she says, explaining that she “basically lived” at Towne’s condominium, typing, researching, and offering feedback in the preparation of his movie The Two Jakes. “He would ask the guys for advice, and if they were vague or disparate, he would say, ‘What did the Chink think?’ ” she recalls. “Quentin found this dynamic of genius writer and secret weapon amusing.

“It began with calls where he was just reading pages to me,” she continues. Then came more urgent calls, asking her to join him for midnight dinners. Chen always had to pick him up, since he couldn’t drive as a result of unpaid parking tickets. She knew Tarantino was a “mad genius.” He has said that his first drafts look like “the diaries of a madman,” but Chen says they’re even worse. “His handwriting is atrocious. He’s a functional illiterate. I was averaging about 9,000 grammatical errors per page. After I would correct them, he would try to put back the errors, because he liked them.”

The producer, Lawrence Bender, and TriStar Pictures, which had invested $900,000 to develop the project, were pressing Tarantino to deliver the script, which was late. Chen, who was dog-sitting for a screenwriter in his Beverly Hills home, invited Tarantino to move in. He arrived “with only the clothes on his back,” she says, and he crashed on the couch. Chen worked without pay on the condition that Tarantino would rabbit-sit Honey Bunny, her pet, when she went on location. (Tarantino refused, and the rabbit later died; Tarantino named the character in Pulp Fiction played by Amanda Plummer in homage to it.)

His screenplay of 159 pages was completed in May 1993. “On the cover, Quentin had me type ‘MAY 1993 LAST DRAFT,’ which was his way of signaling that there would be no further notes or revisions at the studio’s behest,” says Chen.

“Did you ever feel like you were working on a modern cinematic masterpiece?,” I ask.
“Not at all,” she replies. However, she did go on to be the unit photographer on the film.

When Pulp Fiction thundered into theaters a year later, Stanley Crouch in the Los Angeles Times called it “a high point in a low age.” Time declared, “It hits you like a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart.” In Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman said it was “nothing less than the reinvention of mainstream American cinema.”

Made for $8.5 million, it earned $214 million worldwide, making it the top-grossing independent film at the time. Roger Ebert called it “the most influential” movie of the 1990s, “so well-written in a scruffy, fanzine way that you want to rub noses in it—the noses of those zombie writers who take ‘screenwriting’ classes that teach them the formulas for ‘hit films.’ ”

Pulp Fiction resuscitated the career of John Travolta, made stars of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, gave Bruce Willis new muscle at the box office, and turned Harvey and Bob Weinstein, of Miramax, into giants of independent cinema. Harvey calls it “the first independent movie that broke all the rules. It set a new dial on the movie clock.”

“It must be hard to believe that Mr. Tarantino, a mostly self-taught, mostly untested talent who spent his formative years working in a video store, has come up with a work of such depth, wit and blazing originality that it places him in the front ranks of American filmmakers,” wrote Janet Maslin in The New York Times.

“You don’t merely enter a theater to see Pulp Fiction: you go down a rabbit hole.” Jon Ronson, critic for The Independent, in England, proclaimed, “Not since the advent of Citizen Kane … has one man appeared from relative obscurity to redefine the art of movie-making.”

“I Watch Movies” 
Just seven years earlier, in 1986, Tarantino was a 23-year-old part-time actor and high-school dropout, broke, without an apartment of his own, showering rarely. With no agent, he sent out scripts that never got past low-level readers. “Too vile, too vulgar, too violent” was the usual reaction, he later said. According to Quentin Tarantino, by Wensley Clarkson, his constant use of the f-word in his script True Romance caused one studio rep to write to Cathryn Jaymes, his early manager:

Dear Fucking Cathryn,
How dare you send me this fucking piece of shit. You must be out of your fucking mind. You want to know how I feel about it? Here’s your fucking piece of shit back. Fuck you.
“Like a lot of guys who had never made films before, I was always trying to figure out how to scam my way into a feature,” Tarantino tells me. Though he was indisputably king of all movie knowledge at Video Archives, the suburban-L.A. store where he worked, in Hollywood he was a nobody. Surrounded by videos, which he watched incessantly, he hit upon an idea for recycling three of the oldest bromides in the book: “The ones you’ve seen a zillion times—the boxer who’s supposed to throw a fight and doesn’t, the Mob guy who’s supposed to take the boss’s wife out for the evening, the two hit men who come and kill these guys.” It would be “an omnibus thing,” a collection of three caper films, similar to stories by such writers as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in 1920s and 1930s pulp magazines. “That is why I called it Pulp Fiction,” says Tarantino.

He planned to share the writing with his fellow clerk Roger Avary and another friend. Tarantino would write the first story, about the guy who takes out the crime boss’s wife. Avary’s section centered on the over-the-hill boxer, who double-crosses a crime boss and then ends up rescuing him as he’s being anally raped by a hillbilly in a pawnshop.

When the third writer didn’t materialize, Tarantino had to write that story, too. Working in his mother’s house for three and a half weeks, he says, he heard a set of bizarre criminal characters speaking to him. Soon he abandoned his original idea and wrote instead a violent script about a gang of thieves and a bungled diamond heist. According to one source, he named it after Louis Malle’s 1987 film, Au Revoir les Enfants, which Tarantino playfully mispronounced as “reservoir dogs.” Scrawled across hundreds of pages, the script was unpunctuated, absolutely illegible, and undeniably great. Pulp Fiction would have to wait. Tarantino was determined to direct Reservoir Dogs then and there.

He talked to Lawrence Bender, a former tango dancer he’d recently met who had produced one low-budget horror movie, Intruder. After looking at the rough draft, Bender said, “Wow, this is extraordinary. Can you give me some time to raise some money?” Tarantino signed an agreement on a paper napkin, giving Bender two months to do it. One potential buyer was reportedly ready to mortgage his house, but only if he could direct the movie. No one seemed ready to back the untested Tarantino.!

But Bender knew somebody who knew the actor Harvey Keitel, and that changed everything. Keitel meets me in a New York diner expressly because, he says, “I want your readers to know there’s great talent out there, and they should be seen and heard. We don’t have to keep repeating the same movies and sequels, ad infinitum. An example like Quentin should be a call to arms. Of course, people say, ‘Oh, so-and-so would have made it anyway.’ That’s almost like saying the world is fair, and the cream will rise to the top. That’s bullshit.”

You can read the whole Vanity Fair article here !
 Comrade Von Pussycat

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dressing Like A 1930's Snow White

It's finally Autumn, and 'tis the season for sipping pumpkin spice lattes, wearing fuzzy wool sweaters, and wearing stockings (preferably nude with coffee colored seams!). This morning, while drinking my morning espresso, I had the idea to begin editing my wardrobe and lo and behold! I happened upon a dress I had purchased about a year ago, but had never worn due to needing a few alterations. Well, today I decided to resolve this, after all, this 1930's beauty deserves to see the light of day and it is the perfect deep pumpkin hue with the most adorable oversize black buttons. I think, in addition to shortening the sleeves a bit, I will add creme anglaise colored cuffs and a collar to match. As it is handmade, the seams at the waist are a bit crooked, but I think I may remedy that with a tie sash in the same color fabric (which I will most likely take from the hem). I can't wait to wear this under a cozy fur trimmed coat with cognac colored booties and velvet rose lipstick. I am aware that the look may be slightly more girlish than I am used to, but now I have this vision haunting me and I have to find a way to make my wardrobe dreams come true!

Comrade Von Pussycat

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Stovetop Espresso, Morning Routines, And Eccentric Glamour!

“Knowing who you really are and dressing the part -- with an air of amused recklessness -- is life affirming for you and life enhancing for other people.”
Simon Doonan, Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You

It's 6:40 in the morning, I wake up before the alarm goes off, slip into my cozy wool dachshund slippers (favorite gift from the bear ever!), and get up to make my morning espresso in the best invention ever, a bright lime green stovetop espresso pot. As the crisp morning air fills with that rich, steamy espresso aroma, I stand by the stovetop picking out bobby pins and brushing out glossy chocolate pincurls to maximize my morning routine. We are all pressed for time in the morning, and little shortcuts like sleeping in your pincurls and slicking on a bright lipstick makes glamour just that much more attainable when you don't have the time in the morning to spend brushing on three coats of mascara and meticulously separating every single eyelash. I realize that it might not be socially acceptable in California to wear such dramatic maquillage in the early morning, or even daytime for that matter, however, I adore contrast and I believe my dark features demand it, so that is the end of that. 

“Red is wild. She is unsettling. She intrigues. Wear red and other women will assume that you are a predatory vixen who is out to steal their husbands and suck the blood of their children.”
Simon Doonan, Eccentric Glamour: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You
I sincerely wish that there was a little more glamour in every day life. I prefer to be a glamorous eccentric (Simon Doonan, I salute you!) instead of drowning in a sea of beige, and I always welcome the distraction of a well-dressed individual to take my mind off of the mundane. So, to all of my fellow glamorous eccentrics - keep calm and wear red lipstick!

Comrade Von Pussycat

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Autumn Wishlist: Vintage Astrakhan!

As a little girl growing up in Eastern Europe, I found myself always fascinated with things people wore in the village. Swarthy, mustached men marching around in bulky Astrakhan coats, babushka's donning beautiful dark floral headscarves while shopping at the market, or pazar, and all of the lovely knit woolen socks and sweaters that were ninety-nine percent of the time crafted at home. There is something magical to me about lofty wool knits combined with a dark, glossy Astrakhan coat, and although I may look like an extra from Doctor Zhivago (which, personally, I don't think is a bad thing at all!)or a Bond villain, I have every intention to add these items to my ever expanding vintage wardrobe!

Comrade Von Pussycat

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Cunning Linguist!


"L'ecole des Femmes" - Molière

"Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin" - Mel Gordon

"The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Depravity" - Mel Gordon

"Infinite Variety: The Life and Legend of the Marchesa Casati" - Scot D. Ryersson

"Moonshine: A Cultural History of America's Infamous Liquor" -Jaime Joyce



Apothic Dark - California

And always remember... best way to learn a foreign language is in bed ;)

Comrade Von Pussycat

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Кажи Нешто Драга...

As Autumn quickly approaches, I find myself relieved to experience a fresh season. When I was a girlchild of eleven and twelve, I perpetually pined for summer. Now, however, my brooding poet soul finds solace in the less (annoyingly) sanguine seasons.

I remember my first Autumn in Bulgaria like it was yesterday. I can still smell the thick smoke of roasted red peppers in the crisp Autumn air. I can still hear the brittle crunch of dark plum, burnt ochre and bright flame colored leaves under my little fur lined winter boots (leather and fur was so inexpensive in Bulgaria in those days!). There are also some relatively unpleasant memories I have of village life - I remember that for the entire month of October there would be blood trickling down the dirt gutters due to the pig slaughtering parties that the men of each family would hold. In the deep chill of the dark blue velvet nights, you could hear the blood curdling squeals, and the slurred words and melodies of Bulgarian folk songs. My father, who attended such an event out of sheer politesse, told us the next morning at breakfast that an abundance of rakija (moonshine) and a dull butcher knife makes for a slow, agonizing death. This was village life.

It is memories like these that fuel my longing for the dramatic...and sometimes, even the provincial. I find that my wardrobe has become a sanctuary and a mythical place where I can indulge my inner raconteur. I truly feel that stories aren't merely conveyed with words, but that storytelling can be performed through  many different mediums. The use of textiles, fashion if you will, can bring to life living, breathing characters that otherwise would have been confined to the darkest corners of your imagination. I say, why not unchain these ghosts that haunt your dreams and give them breath? I suppose it is considered strange to be so philosophical about fashion. We are often told that fashion is superficial...frivolous...vain. I believe in the creation of art, for it is the greatest expression of being human. You create art through your words - I create art through my love of textiles- but we all create art with our hands.

Now on to a more lighthearted discussion!

Above are things that are on my wishlist for this coming Autumn and Winter - I will be visiting Macedonia with my dear husband in April (still very much Winter!) so I have decided that I need to invest in a few more cold weather classics. Although the dress above is made out of cotton, I felt that it had the possibility of being very versatile in terms of layering - a beautiful eyelet petticoat in Creme Anglaise, thick wool stockings in a charcoal grey or bittersweet chocolate (or maybe nude stockings with a dark coffee seam?), a lofty cashmere sweater from the 1950's adorned with creamy pearls (if those voluminous sleeves will fit! I absolutely ADORE the sleeves!), and for the piece de resistance...a cozy yet glamorous wool coat in a rich pumpkin spice topped off with a whipped cream colored fur collar. I also need to go lipstick shopping - I need a moodier red. I hope you enjoyed this post, and please, never be afraid to indulge your imagination!

And now for a few photographs and some classic Balkan folk songs to inspire you!
Easter Sunday - Romania
My ideal outfit!
Romania - what a cute photograph! That astrakhan coat is absolutely gorgeous...
Moscow market - USSR
I am completely in love with this photograph...the sheer pathos of it all. The battle weary soldier. The poverty stricken babushka's. The changing times of the USSR.

Comrade Von Pussycat

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Most Dangerous Plaything...

I long to paint my pixie pout the color of fresh bruises and crushed rose petals - a cruel, sadistic cocktail of pleasure and pain. It's what you taught me. It's the girl that you left behind.

I slick on my signature blood red nail polish - not merely because it is the glamorous thing to do - but because I remember your blood on my jagged nails and I refuse to forget all of those things that you did to me - I refuse to pretend that the past is irrelevant - you will forever lurk in my mind.

I take a sip of a rich bordeaux. I can feel the sting of hatred begin to rise and pulse through these fragile blue veins. I can remember you whispering to me, "Please, just for me..." - I can feel the firm grasp of your rough hand on my slender bronzed shoulder...I can still feel your hot breath on the nape of my neck. I can still smell the scent of stale cigarettes. I can still feel your rough cheek graze mine...

You have created the most dangerous plaything, my love - you have created the ultimate seductress - the femme fatale!

And baby, when you die, I won't cry for you.

 "Whore!Whore!" - the girls in the neighborhood would scream at us as we walked by. Twelve years old. You made virgins into whores. God curse you all. Where are you now? Old, decrepit, and decaying. Our beauty was never meant for you. One day, we will have our revenge...until then, dollface...

Comrade Von Pussycat