Friday, August 8, 2014

The Roxy & Pulp Fiction

A Friday night in London, you head over to a bar and dance club that doubles as a movie theater, which, that night, is screening Quentin Tarantino's cult-classic film Pulp Fiction. You sidle up to the bar and order a whiskey & Coke, sit down on a plush red leather couch with a few friends and enjoy the film. How absolutely cool is that? Who even gets to do that kind of thing?
This is the sort of semiotic, spectacular overload that London has to offer. This wasn't a huge event, advertised in Tube stations or bus stop flyers – by all appearances upon entering the Roxy, it seemed like a casual, group-of-your-closest-friends kind of hang out. Just a few people eating near the bar, the bar tenders ready to help and always friendly.
As with any properly performed Rocky Horror Picture Show screening, or even the classic All-American Superbowl party, the context and setting for this spectacle greatly enhanced the excitement and enjoyment. Pulp fiction is a very cool  movie. The characters are all suave and charming in their own unique way, the dialogue flows candidly and yet ridiculously in the way only Tarantino can so perfectly pull off; what better place to watch this classic, then, than a bar and club in London? I have seen the film before, once, in a film class in high school. Captivating as the running narratives are, I couldn't help but be distracted by chatter coming from outside the classroom, the comments my friends would make, or the fact that it was a well-lit classroom on a sunny day. I am grateful to have seen it before, however, as this gave better contrast to judge this new lens on the experience. I was delighted to be sitting and enjoying this movie in a context that in many ways echoed the mood and the vibe given off by the film itself. By taking in the semiotic cues from the film and my surroundings at once, I got a more in-depth, real understanding of the feelings many parts of Pulp Fiction are conveying. 

Anthropologically, by watching a film in a context that echoes its thematic properties is sort of like observing a culture with the aid of a native informant. You could stand apart and watch the members of this culture milling about and learn quite a bit, but the closest one could be to actually becoming a part of the culture he observes is by participating and observing with the aid of natives who might inform you of all the practices you are taking part in. 
Franz Boas, German-American Anthropologist

By immersing myself in this culture of cinema directly (as opposed to the watered-down industrialized version we get at AMC or on Netflix), I am thereby able to gain a keener insight into the values, intentions, ascribed significances, and parameters of this hip, modern subculture. 

So, as a component to a London study abroad program, this outing's merits are twofold. On the one hand, I gained a more thorough appreciation for Tarantino's seminal oeuvre, and on the other I too was able to participate in London's fascinating, metropolitan film culture. This gave me insight into the kind of spectacle that London does not offer solely for tourists and revenue (the London Eye, the Shard, the Tower of London, &c), but into the kind of spectacle that Londoners themselves partake in to have a good time. 

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