POSTED August 20 2012

Tony Scott, 1944-2012

Tony Scott, who plunged to his death off a Los Angeles bridge yesterday, an apparent suicide, was a frustrated painter who used chiaroscuro lighting, oblique compositions and glossy surfaces to make pictures that move as visually exciting as pictures that stand still. Whatever reservations I might have about The Hunger, Top Gun, Crimson Tide, True Romance and Unstoppable — I enjoy them as beautifully-crafted and hugely entertaining films, even when the tempo was so turbocharged I reached for the Dramamine.

Ssan Sarandon and Catherine Deneuve (standing) in "The Hunger"

His elder brother, Ridley Scott, liked to say that he was classical music and Tony was rock’n’roll. The exception that proved the rule was the younger sibling’s masterful seduction sequence in The Hunger, set to music from Leo Delibes’ Lakme.  In this stylish vampire film that marked his 1983 feature debut, Park Avenue vampire Catherine Deneuve silkily entraps researcher Susan Sarandon while playing the piano in a dark salon where the light emanates from marble statuary, Deneuve’s alabaster face, Sarandon’s white T-shit and a cluster of calla-lilies. (Here’s the link to that sequence.) Here, as in Top Gun, Scott was a master of diffused light, concentrated lust and homoerotic longing.

While some of the career assessments have not been kind, The Guardian published Xan Brooks’ lovely tribute, which eloquently captures the need-for-speed urgency of his films.

My heart goes out to Scott’s family. Do yu have a favorite Scott film? Why?


  1. Debbie says:

    I’ve never seen any of his films but that Vermeer-like shot from The Hunger just sent me to your link; thanks. I DO love The Good Wife, which is what made me grieve when I read about Tony Scott’s death.

  2. Curtis Roberts says:

    Excellent piece. But are you saying that Top Gun shows evidence of homoerotic longing? If so, that surprises me.

  3. Thanks for sending, Carrie. I enjoyed reading it but I’m not buying the Top Gun homoerotic theory. I enjoy the film (sort of; I dislike the device of creating obviously expendable characters like poor Goose), but it’s a very superficial entertainment. Now it would have been great to have been able to see Top Gun II with a post-coming out Kelly McGillis and an also worse-for-wear Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer. I assume Tom Cruise would have found a way to look exactly the same. Curtis

  4. Steve Bailey says:

    I always liked “Crimson Tide.” Loved Gene Hackman’s line about his omnipresent cigars: “I don’t trust any air I can’t see.”

  5. AltonMann says:

    My favorite Tarentino film is the one directed by Tony Scott – True Romance. It had a relentless energy and was really film noir in broad daylight. Less stylized and self conscious than Tarentino’s own films. It would make a great double bill with Miami Blues (directed by that phantom
    George Armitage).

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