Quentin Tarantino: I’m a big fan of RP movies

- Scott R. Garceau -

It’s been 15 years since Quentin Tarantino’s first film, Reservoir Dogs, exploded onto screens at the Sundance Film Festival. And it’s been 13 years since Pulp Fiction took the Palme d’Or at Cannes. So it may strike the 44-year-old filmmaker as a bit amusing that he’s being given a Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Cinemanila Festival. As much as he’s drawn from Asian cinema — evident in the black-suited killers in Reservoir Dogs, the Samurai sword-wielding Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction and the “Crazy 88” Yakuza in Kill Bill — he’s also had a huge worldwide influence on a generation of young filmmakers — including Filipinos. 

Tarantino found himself arriving at Centennial NAIA-2 Airport around 1 p.m. (arriving from Japan on time on a PAL flight, no less) and wandered his way through the arrival terminal, where he met with Cinemanila founder Tikoy Aguiluz and a few assistants. Tarantino looked every inch the Manila tourist — tall, laid-back, dressed in black T-shirt, black shorts and black sneakers, and donning black wraparound sunglasses. But he also looked like Quentin Tarantino, the quintessential film geek who grew up in Los Angeles in the 1960s, dropped out of school, took acting classes, found a job at Video Archives (a video rental place in Manhattan Beach), and proceeded to pen a pile of scripts that brought him immediate Hollywood attention, and finally his shot as a director.

Since then, Tarantino has dabbled in theater (appearing in Wait Until Dark on Broadway in 1998 to less-than-rave reviews), adapted an Elmore Leonard novel into a film (the underrated Jackie Brown), worked with director Robert Rodriguez on films like From Dusk Till Dawn, Sin City and the recent B-movie “double feature” Grindhouse. Kill Bill 1 and 2 meanwhile brought his pop-fueled consciousness to a new set of film viewers — those who might have missed out on Reservoir Dogs but who find a Japanese schoolgirl lethally wheeling around a mace to be the coolest eye candy around.

Tarantino walked through the sliding glass doors with light luggage and was immediately beset by dozens of questions from TV and The Philippine STAR, but he was friendly and effusive, granting quick-fire answers as he slowly inched his way toward a waiting car.

“I’ll be staying through next weekend,” he told one journalist. “I don’t know my schedule, but I’ll be seeing the different movies and films at the festival, and just hanging out and taking in Manila.”

Is this your first time here in the Philippines?

Very first time, very first time. I’ve been wanting to come here since I was a kid. And now I’m finally here.

You get so many invites to so many film festivals around the world every year. Why did you choose this one?

Oh, I’ve always wanted to go to the Philippines. And also I’ve become friendly with Cirio H. Santiago, and knowing that Eddie Romero was going to be here, and we’re going to be talking about Philippine cinema, which I’ve been a big fan of, it’s going to be great.

What Philippine films have you enjoyed?

Oh, there’s a lot of them I like.  Cirio Santiago’s The Mothers. I love Eddie Romero’s war films, The Ravengers, Leyte Gulf, all right? Walls of Hell is terrific. I love the Blood Island movies with John Ashley. Bamboo Gods and Iron Men, that’s a terrific movie.  

Congratulations on the Lifetime Achievement Award.

I know. That’s really cool to be getting that here, yes. I’m also doing a panel, I think, on Filipino action and horror cinema.

We hadn’t noticed any explicit connection between your movies and Filipino B-movies, but we figured that it was only a matter of time...

Even in Kill Bill, the Hattori Hanzo character that Sonny Chiba plays, there’s a little bit of that based on the character in The Last Samurai — not the Tom Cruise movie, but the Cirio H. Santiago movie with James Englehart, there’s these two Japanese soldiers on the island? I kind of based a little bit of their relationship on those two characters from Santiago’s film.

We hear there will be a Quentin Tarantino film festival as part of this year’s Cinemanila.

I know, they’re showing all of my movies. This is actually the first time I’ve allowed a festival to do a retrospective of my work; this is the first time.

We’re very happy about that.


Have you had a chance to check out any younger Filipino directors or more recent films made here?

No, I haven’t. So this will be a good chance, at the Manila film festival, to check out some of their films.

Do you see yourself as an influence on Asian filmmakers today, just as Asian cinema has had such an impact on your films?

Well, that’s for them to tell me. (Laughs)

How did you and Tikoy meet?

I had actually sought out Cirio H. Santiago myself, to introduce myself, because I’m a big fan, and after that introduction, and from another friend of mine, Tiffany Limos, I got the invitation for the Cinemanila Film Festival, and I took (Tikoy) up on it right away.

Are you scouting locations here?

Nope! Just going to Manila, having a good time.

What’s the latest on Inglorious Bastards (Tarantino’s long-evolving war script, now reportedly up to 600 pages)?

Pen is on paper right now. We’ll see what happens. (Laughs)

Have you always been attracted to Asian cinema?

It’s always been a big influence on me. I can’t help it.

Is the “Asian horror” genre played out yet?

I’m still watching it!

What have you watched recently?

There was a Korean horror movie called The Red Shoes. That was pretty good. Not bad.

Other directors have directed your scripts; would you ever direct a script written by somebody else?

Probably not.

Why not?

Because I like to start with a blank page. I usually lose interest if it didn’t originally come from me.

Where do you do most of your writing? California?

I do it all over the place. I write in California, I write in restaurants, I write in cafés, in bars. When I’m on the road I write, and when I’m at home I write.

Would you consider guest directing another TV show, like E.R. or C.S.I.?

If it’s another TV show that I really like again, and I’ve become a huge fan and I want to jump into their world, then possibly.

We like that you create strong women characters (say in Kill Bill, or Jackie Brown). But how does that fit into your male testosterone world?

Well, I’m the creator, so they’re my characters. I love them. And not only do I create them, I am them when I create them.

Do you feel different when you’re writing those characters?

Well, I’m a method writer. I am them while I’m writing them.

Can you characterize Filipino movies, the ones you grew up enjoying?

Well, you can’t break that down to a couple words. They’re very different. Cirio H. Santiago’s Blaxploitation movies are very different from his Vietnam movies. And Eddie Romero’s World War II movies are very different from his Blood Island movies. And the “women in prison” movies are different from the rest.

Why was Grindhouse (the “double-feature” B-movie homage shown in the US) split into two separate movies here?

Well, because we didn’t want to show it as a double feature around the world, because not everyone has that thing, that tradition. And also, we had to cut the movie back drastically to do the double feature, so when Death Proof plays here, it’s going to have a half hour more than Grindhouse. The Death Proof that’s being released here, that’s the script I wrote.

Any advice for aspiring young Filipino filmmakers?

Yes. Come up with a story that you want to tell, that you have to tell, and tell it well.







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