For some reason, it’s really hard to piece together when and why I saw this movie for the first time.
I think the biggest hint to when I saw it is that I wrote my first screenplay towards the end of my Junior year, or during the summer thereafter.
It was basically aping Quentin Tarantino, because that’s how a lot of things start: you start with mimicry then develop your voice. It happened with my fiction writing too. I spent a year or so mimicking Ray Bradbury in the 8th grade.
With it being at this time, I’m figuring I heard about it either from somebody in Marching Band or A.V.–yea, I was that kid.
My first viewing of this film was one of the first “Holy Shit” cinema moments. It happened later with Apocalypse Now, Requiem for a Dream, Magnolia, and, oddly, Little Miss Sunshine.
I was floored by everything I was seeing during those 92 minutes. I fell in love with the soundtrack immediately as well as the metered way that the violence is shown. It’s a violent movie, but a lot of it occurs off camera. There’s a lot of blood, but it’s mostly collateral.
Especially the final shootout. Not enough can be said about the tension built through editing and the whole Mexican Standoff/Sergio Leone vibe to it. The difference between this and a Leone standoff is that you have Nice Guy Eddie nicely requesting at first to Mr. White to stop pointing that gun at his father, please. Then yelling, “STOP POINTING THAT GUN AT MY DAD!” and firing. Three shots. Then the big reveal that we already knew at the end of the film. Then you put the lime in the coconut. It was a perfect way to end this film because it was so built around the tension of dramatic irony, because now they’re fighting over who’s right when we already know who’s right so who’s gonna die for what. At this point, the viewer doesn’t know who they want to win. Mr. Orange, the cop, is probably gonna die anyway.
On that note, this movie gives the viewer a great sense of being in-on-it because from nearly the beginning, they find out who the cop is while everyone else is left to figure out who it is.
And this type of storytelling may hint at what makes this movie resound so well with my generation.
I’ve been reading a lot of Chuck Klosterman and, in an essay in his book Eating the Dinosaur, he talks about advertising and how transparent it has become. We are now in on the advertising itself, we are in on the joke, thereby making us feel smarter and stroking our ego. If a product makes us feel smart, we at least like the advertisement better if not actually begin buying the product.
In cinema, theater, and novels, this is called dramatic irony. We know what the characters don’t. We know more about what’s going on than they do.
Sometimes this is done to dumb down the movie and makes everything that is swirling around in the story really obvious and heartbreakingly boring.
In Reservoir Dogs, though, this is used in such a way that is only paid off in the very end when the knowledge of self and character comes to a point.
It has all of Tarantino’s flourishes in their vestigial form: flashbacks and flashforwards, obscure 70’s references, violence. Much like Hard Eight, it’s a well executed experiment in vision. One of my favorite things about this film is the fact that, out of necessity, it was shot on Super-16mm then blown up to 35. This gives the whole film a sort of grittiness that really helps the overall tone of the film (much to same effect it worked for the Hurt Locker) because the whole movie is dirty, fast, and loose.
The best time I’ve ever had viewing this film was at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles with my best friend, JP. This was in 2008, I think, and we were really excited to be able to see this on the big screen.
It opened with a screening of the Brad Bird cartoon Family Dog (which it itself is prefaced by a G-Rating Blue Tag, which confused the shit of us), and I was so happy to see it both on 35mm and also in full surround sound. The New Bev has great screenings and I really think you should take advantage of the place.
After nine times, I’m not sure I noticed any small things other than the sirens at the very end that help you figure that Mr. Pink got caught. I noticed more about the sound design at the New Bev screening because I had never seen it in 5.1 surround sound. But this isn’t a movie you rewatch for discovery–this is a movie you rewatch for the rush and the quick witted dialog. This is a film to watch with friends while you get wasted, then quote after it’s done.
That’s how it stands the test of time.