My blog was dead for last one and half year and for that I apologize. I intend to get back to reviewing as soon as possible, especially that I gained access to a lot of older movies I need to analyze. What made me get back to it is the tragedy that happened a few days ago at the San Pedro bridge in Los Angeles.
One could say that suicide happens to the best of us. Hearing of it though is always a huge shock and the event is always a huge tragedy and nothing else can be said. To hear that happening to a very active, constantly working – either as a producer or as a director – man is particularly shocking.
Tony Scott didn’t have great press with critics, he wasn’t exactly a very appreciated director. Definitely not as much respected as his older brother Ridley. They said that he preferred style over substance, that the characters aren’t well-developed, that his movies are sometimes messy. Granted, The Fan, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 remake (especially if you know the 1970s original!), Days of Thunder aren’t exactly masterpieces and that’s being delicate, but my experience with his movies may hint at something completely else.
I don’t know if it’s symptomatic or not, but most of my reviews on this blog are of Tony Scott’s movies. I tend to go through them in no chronological sequence every year. Why? Because of the pure quality of the filmmaking. Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Crimson Tide (especially that one!), Man on Fire, these are all amazing movies. I own four of his on DVD. Perhaps I shouldn’t speak about his films, because I still haven’t seen The Hunger. Maybe also, because I haven’t seen Revenge yet, but I have seen the rest of his films.
Tony Scott has been in my life since I got interested in cinema. Of course, I knew Top Gun, but the most interesting story I have from the “period before The Rock” was watching The Fan with my parents and brothers not long before my passion started. What happened then is a testament to that movie’s, well, lack of brilliance. During the movie I managed to predict the whole script as the movie happened. Yes, I knew that the weird scene made completely in red (I still remember how my eyes hurt!) was Robert de Niro murdering Wesley Snipes’ biggest competitor, I knew that he would dress as the umpire just based on single shots I saw. That was a very interesting experience to a person having completely no idea about script structure, editing, cinematography, nothing whatsoever. My next memorable experience was watching Crimson Tide, which I did to check out the Hans Zimmer score which got so rave reviews from my early research done on (to think of it!) dial-up internet. And I loved the movie, now it’s one of my personal favorites.
There are many “Tony Scott” elements, the style is impeccably his own. The quick, choppy editing, dynamic camera work, using a lot of narrative shortcuts. The emotional key to his movies was intensity though. Hard to say rollercoaster, especially when it sounds ironic in context of his last two movies being about trains, but they were very intense. Great suspense building, great use of quick cuts and great camera work. Because yes, Tony Scott, just like his older brother, was one of the guys who were able to handle hand-held. All the filters, all the editing, all great. Also the consequence of a film like Man on Fire. Going totally avant-garde at the age of 60 years and and being consequent with it. I have to admit – I started a review of the movie, but didn’t finish it. Now I deeply regret it as I see it as a masterpiece, unheralded though. The intensity may have come through, because, as he admitted in his Spy Game commentary (quoting from memory) “The general rule of thumb is that a page of a script is a minute of the movie, but in my case the rule of thumb says that a page makes for 2/3 of film. That’s just because of my concentration span.”
He was also brilliant in his director’s commentaries. Always to the point, telling very interesting anecdotes, but also very candid about his process, about his decision. Anybody who wants to know about how a big director works (worked, sadly, in this case) should hear what he did for at least Spy Game and Man on Fire. Many memories now quickly appearing in all possible outlets, including Twitter and Facebook (Harry Gregson-Williams’ recollection is particularly touching), and big magazines like Hollywood Reporter, are saying how warm and great he was as a person. Those commentaries show his warmth. And humility. The way he finished his Man on Fire commentary with a simple “Thanks for listening and I hope you enjoyed the movie” shows, in a very touching way, that he was a very thoughtful, humble and simply nice man, who was an inspiration to many. One of my dreams was to meet and talk to both of Scott brothers. I hope that I’ll be able to do it with the one, sorry if it sounds brutal, left. He’s also said to be a very down-to-earth and inspiring, candid man.
Last, but not least, Tony Scott was an inspiration for me. Last year, two of my best friends, Richard Carter and Liri Navon inspired me to take part in a 15-page script contest. I was hesitating, but I finally caved in and wrote those 15 pages. All was based on a logline, which made me invent a political thriller happening in China (which is something I always wanted to do). It was also the first time I was watching films for inspiration. One of them was Spy Game, one of my all-time favorite spy thrillers ever made. The reason was the amount of flashbacks used to tell the story. I didn’t stop with that. I also saw Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, because of their impeccable pacing and the storytelling I told a few paragraphs ago. At some point, after I already sent my submission and decided to go further with the story, because it got positive feedback from my friends (with my lack of experience in such things, positive and warm feedback does help me keep going) I realized that my way of telling the story in the script is heavily based on the Tony Scott sense of intensity. I have not finished it yet, but, since it is a homage to this great filmmaker, I will finish it to honor his talent.
RIP Tony Scott. You were a great director ad you taught me a lot. Even if I don’t know what to make out of your lessons yet, I know that some day, I’ll put them to good use.