MANILA, Philippines -- Quentin Tarantino would not eat fish, even something as tempting as crisp-fried tilapia served at dinner on Saturday at Café Havana at Gateway Mall in Cubao, Quezon City, where the 9th Cinemanila International Film Festival is being held from Aug. 8 to 19.
He was a hearty eater and merry drinker, though. He polished off a serving of pancit luglug along with his medium-rare steak, pizza and gambas, which he mixed with his noodles. He said he had tapsilog (a combo meal of eggs, fried rice and beef) at breakfast.
It was his fourth day in the country, and he was having dinner with Wieland Speck, director of the Berlin film fest's Panorama section and chair of Cinemanila's International Competition; Robert Malengreau, founder of the Brussels independent-film fest and chair of the Asean Competition; and Tikoy Aguiluz, Cinemanila founder-director.
Tarantino, the international film icon behind such relentless genre-benders as "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill," is here to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the festival. He is also premiering his latest movie "Death Proof," which could have been inspired by Russ Meyer's raunchy and foxy female posse.
In a strange twist, he brought for screening at the film fest a few films from his collection of Philippine B-grade movies: Cirio Santiago's "Ebony Ivory & Jade" and "The Muthers," and Robert Vincent O'Neill's "Wonder Women."
This is Tarantino's first trip to Southeast Asia, which he had promised Aguiluz three years ago he would undertake, saying he wanted to meet his movie icons Santiago and National Artist Eddie Romero. He finally met them on Friday in a film forum they moderated.
Another icon was the late National Artist Gerry de Leon. "I'm a huge, huge fan of Gerry de Leon," he revealed to film students in the four-hour master class he conducted before dinner.
He could hardly contain himself from raving over De Leon's "soul-shattering, life-extinguishing" movies on vampires and female bondage, particularly "Women in Cages."
"It is just harsh, harsh, harsh," he said, and described the final shot as one of "devastating despair."
Asked why he was so deep into B-grade movies to the point of making his own appear like one, he said those movies he enjoyed in his youth were no longer being made so he was just giving back to a generation that had missed that stuff.
"My relationship with Filipino cinema is that I find the movies beyond interesting?they're fascinating," he said. "Nowhere else in movie history can you find this kind of cinema. There are two Filipino movie industries?the movies of Bernal, Lino Brocka, Tikoy, and the alternative film industry that produced the movies of Cirio Santiago not intended for the Filipino public, those war movies and vampire movies of Gerry de Leon and Eddie Romero made for American viewers. In this, Philippine cinema stands alone."
The most exciting revelation Tarantino made at dinner was that he was now starting to write a book on these B-grade Filipino movies, to be called "Bamboo Gods, Iron Men and Wonder Women."
We thought he was just in a jocular mood after several drinks, but he added he had just finished writing the introduction that morning. (So that was why he didn't arrive for lunch at Cibo.)
He even found the time to watch Weng Weng in "For Your Height Only." The screening of such movies at Cinemanila was just his way of giving back to Filipino audiences this rich film heritage they had missed. And, in a kind of symbiosis, he said he was taking home DVDs of the films of Brocka, Bernal et al.
"To further immerse myself in Philippine cinema," he said. "I'm taking my lifetime master's in cinema, and the day I die is the day I graduate."