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Harris, A. (1997). ‘Ah Doctor, Is There Nothin’ I Can Take?’:A Review Of Reservoir Dogs. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:1235-1238.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:1235-1238

‘Ah Doctor, Is There Nothin’ I Can Take?’:A Review Of Reservoir Dogs

Review by:
Adrienne Harris

Reservoir Dogs: 1991
Director: Quentin Tarentino
Video distributor: Live Home Video

On the surface Reservoir Dogs is a grim little crime story about a violently botched jewellery store robbery. It is shot in an odd, discomfiting style that alternates scenes of brutality with comic set pieces filled with wacky male obsessions. The robbery is carried out by a set of losers who have been recruited by an ominous, foul-mouthed father figure who looks, as one of the younger robbers says somewhat admiringly, ‘just like The Thing’. A cartoon monster. Although set in the present in Los Angeles, the film and its characters are haunted by the 1970s. Like pentimento, the 1970s are layered through this film, in its soundtrack and aural register and in its visual effect, which is more like that of a low-budget television crime show than a glossy mainstream feature. In its intertextual references to film noir, to the conventions of war films and to the popular culture of cartoons, film characters and 1970s television as well as its deployment of many signifiers and images, the Vietnam era and the war itself are evoked.

I am going to propose a ‘creative misreading’ (Bloom, 1973) of this film as an expression of the ungrieved and lingering trauma of Vietnam in American consciousness. Such a reading positions both the film and the spectator in a specific historical and cultural context and is thus precisely not a claim for a universal or generic interpretive approach.

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