The American movie Goodfellas (1990) does not discern the viewer and the characters in regard to the temporal framework. From the very beginning, the spectator is integrated into the fictional reality by associating himself with the main character, Henry Hill, in his reminiscences. The movie opens with the hero’s account of his childish experience of living across the street from gangsters. The spectator is introduced to the world has ceased to exist by the time of the fictional ‘present’ narration: To me, being a gangster was better than being the president of the United States. . . .
I knew I wanted to be a part of them [the local mob]. To me it meant being somebody in a neighborhood that was full of nobodies. They did what they wanted; they parked in front of a fire hydrant and nobody ever gave them a ticket. . . People like my father could never understand, but I belonged, I was treated like a grownup. Every day I was learning to score. (Rafter pp. 53-54) The elegiac perspective is carefully sustained in the movie that distances the ‘old good’ times of gangster brotherhood from the present time of ratting, treachery and dubiousness.
Though Hana-bi may be considered linear in regard to the plot sequence, its treatment of chronology is also ambiguous. There are the stages of “then” and “now”: the event of the ‘then’ period prefigure the logic of the ‘now’ time. In the “then” part, three detectives are depicted on the streets of modern day Japan hurrying towards a dangerous stakeout. Nishi (Takeshi Kitano), one of the policemen, has to leave his partner, Horibe (Ren Osugi), face to face with an armed and dangerous villain.
The fact that Nishi had to go to the hospital where his wife was dying of leukaemia did not excuse the impairment of Horibe. The latter got dangerously wounded and chained to a wheel-chair for the rest of his life. The narration is structured in a brisk yet latently logical manner. As Cannon (1997, para. 3, lines 6-7) observed, the movie is remarkable for its multiple “loose ends, looming holes which niggle for attention”. The mastery of Kitano’s direction and editing enables the viewer to ignore these breaches of sequence and treat them “an expression of the underlying anarchy” (Cannon, 1997, para. 3, lines 7-8).
The British film Sexy Beast (2000) is seemingly linear: Gal (Ray Winstone), a former bank robber and jewel thief, is shown on his Spanish villa along with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). Suddenly, under the best traditions of a horror fairy-tale, his former ‘colleague’, psychotic Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), shows up and takes Gal to London for a big heist. The action is evolving in front of the viewer’s eyes. However, there are some metaphoric events that hint at the past roots of the intrigue. For example, there is a rock falling from the hill to the pool and almost hitting Gal.
There are Gal’s dreams about the sexy beast haunting him in the same way as Don is doing in their fictional reality. Finally, Gangster No. 1, another British crime movie of the new wave, suggests a story of “a vicious hard-nut who desired the empire of his boss” (Thompson, 16 February 2001, para. 3, lines 7, 9) in the two time planes – 1968 and 1999. The action shifts between the two temporal planes explaining the logical cause-effect relationships and letting the past echoing to the present. Opposite to the aforementioned twelve films, the American Pulp Fiction is placed within a group of films with definitely non linear plots.
Gehring (1996, p. 44) described it as “a collection of cinema short stories connected by a cross-weaving of a few pivotal characters”. There are six episodes, or narrative pieces. First, events start to unravel in a coffee shop where two petty robbers, Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) and Pumpkin (Tim Roth), spontaneously decide to hold up a restaurant. The two customers sitting next to the petty robbers appear to be Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta), the killers on service for the well known and feared gangster Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames).
This ‘sweet’ pair ties altogether the whole movie. Second, Vincent and Jules are sent to fulfil one of their boss’ assignments. Third, Vincent is to chaperon Marsellus Wallace’s sexy wife, Mia, to the restaurant. Upon return, Mia has a heart stop because of the overdose. Vincent rescues her by putting an adrenaline injection straight into the heart. Fourth, an ageing boxer Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) was paid by Marsellus Wallace to lose a championship but occasionally killed the rival and has to set himself on a run.
Fifth, the viewer returns to the hit men and an obstacle in their mission to retrieve a mysterious briefcase. Sixth, the story comes back full circle to the pre-credits restaurant robbery. This is called the formalistic or postmodern editing when the chronology of episodes does not coincide with the one of editing and viewing. For example, Vincent Vega is shown being killed by Butch in the second episode but reappears in the third when the spectator is taken to an earlier time.