“Hey Quentin, come sign this and we’ll give you some money.” Not to put too fine a point on it, but that’s probably how it all went down. Upon inspection, it’s hard to miss the “Director Approved” sticker on the outside of the Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown Blu-ray releases. Signed, sealed and kissed with love by director Quentin Tarantino. It’s a slick piece of marketing by the folks at Miramax, who have released these through Lionsgate, to convince you that there’s something special about these releases. As if they were meticulously transferred to high definition in a dark room by the mad cinematic scientist who dreamed them up in the first place. I find that part hard to believe. In fact, it’s hard to believe that there’s much in these that wasn’t more than passed over by Tarantino. Does that make them a bad batch of Blu releases? Not exactly. There’s still plenty of love in owning Pulp and Jackie on a higher format, but that doesn’t exactly make them quite as special as that ‘Director Approved’ sticker suggests.
What’s in the case? That’s the great question at the heart of Pulp Fiction anyway, is it not? Inside this Blu-ray release is not just a movie — one that gets a silver star for a decent video transfer and a gold star in the audio department — but also some newly minted extras. What would make it a desperate must have? A new commentary track from Quentin Tarantino. That’s not here. But there’s plenty of other new extras to keep us company, including a 43-minute long featurette called “Not the Usual Mindless Boring Getting to Know You Chit Chat,” in which Tarantino and friends recall the process of putting this one together. There’s also an entertaining roundtable with film critics like Scott Foundas and Elvis Mitchell discuss the relevance and impact of the film. It’s 20 minutes of genuine insight, something usually hard to come by.
Those are just the Blu-ray exclusive extras. The rest of the supplements feel complete, everything from the 56-minute Charlie Rose interview Tarantino did way back when to his Cannes Palm D’Or acceptance speech. Everything you’d expect to see from previous DVD releases is here. And as I mentioned briefly, the transfer is solid, if a bit cloudy, and the 5.1 audio absolutely kicks.
Imagine a world in which Jackie Brown didn’t exist? There’d be a hell of a lot less Kangol hats around, that’s for sure. It would also be a world that was slightly — but only slightly — less concern with the oozing sexuality of Pam Grier. But again, only slightly. Because Pam Grier finds a way, just as she does in the titular role of Tarantino’s most underrated film. As opposed to the Pulp Fiction release, Jackie Brown doesn’t quite get the same extras treatment. As the lower profile release, it contains less in the way of fresh extras. There is, like the above release, a critics roundtable that discusses the ups and downs of the film, provides insight on its lasting impression, and comments on the development of Tarantino’s style in the earlier stages of his career.
Even though Pulp Fiction didn’t get prettied up for the dance, something meticulous and special may have happened with Jackie Brown. The video transfer is a marked improvement over previous import releases, showing a crispness that you’ve never seen in your home from this film before. Heck, I’d be willing to bet that the film didn’t look this good in most theaters. The audio, as well, kicks. Clean and well balanced. It’s more important than having additional extras in this case, making Jackie the more interesting (and easily more desirable) purchase.
It’s an imperfect world we live in, but we prefer it to the alternative. In the same vain, while we’ve been handed to imperfect releases of two great Tarantino-directed films, I can’t help but think that we’ll all prefer it to the alternative. These are two good releases for great films. Each of which deserves to find a place in the collection of any serious film fan. As a lover of both films, I’d rather have them in these upgraded, not so meticulously crafted version with a silly “Director Approved” sticker on them than to have no Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown Blu-rays at all.
For more on the subject of Blu-ray, don’t miss my This Week in Blu-ray column.