AMC Should Stop Fucking Censoring
What would a Quentin Tarantino movie be like without the baroque profanity? If, like me, you watched AMC's family-friendly broadcast last night of Pulp Fiction then you know that the answer is not merely hypothetical. Within the first ten minutes, so many "fucks" and "shits" were defused via hiccupy dubbing that I had the impression I was watching QT's take on a Pippi Longstocking movie. AMC will be showing Pulp Fiction again Saturday night and Sunday morning (?) as part of its Samuel L. Jackson: An American Cinemateque Tribute. You can go here to see the cable channel's video homages to Jackson from celebrities like Justin Timberlake, George Lopez, and, best of all, Sharon Stone (high as a kite on something that induces the compulsive wagging of her tongue) but be forewarned that their motherf***in' words of praise have been carefully edited too.
Pulp Fiction runs 154 minutes in its theatrical cut and AMC accords it a three-hour time slot, permitting nearly half an hour of commercials. But apparently that wasn't enough, because in addition to purging the movie of its most dangerous expletives, AMC also removed whole scenes for no obvious reason other than to clear airtime for more ads. Hence, the memorable image of John Travolta's syringe filling with blood before he brings the plunger down on $500-a-gram-heroin ("it's a seller's market" explains dealer Eric Stoltz) has been taken out, and yet moments later we are still privy to the more garden-variety image of Uma Thurman cutting lines on a vanity mirror.
So what does "edited for content," as the expression goes, actually mean? AMC has also seen fit--again, presumably for commercial reasons--to remove incidental scenes from the movie, without which the plot will still make sense. Tarantino's movies derive their unique rhythms, in part, from his love for conversations that reveal something about his characters, while doing nothing to advance the narrative. Sometimes, these conversations seem intended even to bring the momentum to a halt. Why does AMC even bother to screen movies at all when it has no intention of honoring their original artistic spirit? Pulp Fiction's story remains the same without a hallway discussion between Travolta and Jackson on the ethics of massaging the feet of another man's wife. But excised of this scene--which, notably, takes place before they kill three men in cold blood--Pulp Fiction is not the same film. Indeed, as Jackson says to his partner about the difference between sex and a foot rub, it's not even in the same ballpark.--Benjamin Strong