Celluloid Potty

David Denby had a terrific piece in the New Yorker a couple of weeks back, which made for great reading atop the thunder bucket (“le seau de tonnere” en Francais). The main thrust of the piece is how films that play with chronology, once the domain of arty directors like Resnais, have now become commonplace. Denby writes about Pulp Fiction’s role in bringing this style to the masses, and mentions something I hadn’t really noticed before: Vincent Vega (Travolta) visits the powder room four times in the film and each time marks a critical point in the narrative. This got me thinking, Q. uses the head throughout the movie to bring the action to, uhm, a head. There’s a signal to this, when Mia Wallace returns from the little ladies room: “Don’t you just love it when you come back from the bathroom and find your food waiting for you?” That’s not all that happens during her time away. She gets coked up. When she sits down again, the conversation leaves the safety of chit chat and turns to more dangerous topics. Back at her pad, Vincent goes the the loo and all hell breaks loose.

But before all that-or is it after-the movie’s key events unfold as the Fourth Man bursts out of the WC, where he has been hiding as Jules and Vincent execute “Flock of Seagulls” and big-brained Brett. The Fourth Man unloads his hand cannon, missing with all shots. Thus transpires the miracle that sends Jules on his mission to “walk the Earth.” And while Jules is explaining his Kung Fu intentions, Vincent recuses himself to the facilities, else Honey Bunny and Pumpkin surely would have perished. Later on, reading the same trashy book, Vincent meets his maker while still seated on the throne. This follows-or is it precedes-the Butch and Fabian bathroom scene.

Quentin is a formalist and likes to play games. I’ve noticed quite a few of them in the dozen times I’ve watched this film, but never pieced this one together before. Great stuff, and gives me an idea for my thesis when I go to film school: “Did Something Die in Here: Transformative aspects of the Toity in the early works of Tarantino.”