Lately, words have been speaking louder than actions in movies. Though there has always been conspicuous talk in pictures - voiceovers, explanatory passages, political speeches and other forms of volubility - a kind of New Talk is now more prominent than the Old Talk.
Old Talk takes the form of conventional voice-over narration in films like “Double Indemnity,” long expository segments like those at the end of “Psycho” and “J.F.K.,” the high-tech talk of “Jurassic Park,” the procedural conversations in yessir movies like “The Hunt for Red October” and the didactic preachiness of “Network” and “On the Waterfront.” Old Talk supports action.
New Talk - represented by films like “Miami Rhapsody,” “Before Sunrise,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Clerks” - actually displaces action. If Old Talk is explanation for explanation’s sake, New Talk is conversation for conversation’s sake.
New Talk has its roots in the discussions of marginalia in “Diner,” the insights in “My Dinner With Andre,” the bull sessions on television’s “All in the Family” and the jokey banter in most Woody Allen films. Thanks to the latter, New Talk can sometimes sound like a conversation between a psychiatrist and a patient.
New Talk and Old Talk can never be mistaken for each other. Here are examples of both.
“No lawyer has ever left your law firm alive. Two tried to leave; they were killed. Two were about to try; you know what happened. We have reason to believe that your house is bugged, your phones are tapped, your office is wired. … Your life as you know it is over.” - F. Denton Voyles (Steven Hill), a Justice Department investigator, in “The Firm” (1993).
“You tell me how the hell you’re gonna keep a conspiracy going on between the mob, the CIA, the FBI, Army intelligence, and who the hell knows what else, when you know for a fact you can’t keep a secret in this room between 12 people.” - Bill Broussard (Michael Rooker) in “J.F.K.” (1991).
“You know what the funniest thing about Europe is? … It’s the little differences. … You can walk into a movie theater in Amsterdam and buy a beer. And I don’t mean just like in no paper cup. I’m talking about a glass of beer.” - The hit man Vincent Vega (John Travolta) in “Pulp Fiction” (1994).
“Tomorrow I’ll get this promotion, and that’s it. I’ll have stock in this agency. That makes me responsible, genuinely responsible. So I can fool around now.” - David Howard (Albert Brooks) in “Lost in America” (1985).