MovieBob - IntermissionRemembering Tony Scott - Part IMovieBob - Intermission - RSS 2.0
This past Sunday, the film world lost a legendary figure when director Tony Scott shockingly committed suicide in a leap from the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.
The details of Scott's death are still emerging, but what is known is that he had a singularly unique and high-profile career. The younger brother of Ridley Scott, he didn't get into feature filmmaking until he was in his 40s. Once he did, he became one of Hollywood's most sought-after action directors. On the occasion of his passing, I decided to take a look back at the entirety of his filmography, starting from the beginning.
The Hunger would be a different sort of film in almost anyone's filmography, but that a director overwhelmingly renowned for aggressively masculine action epics would begin his feature film career with a female-centric erotic horror tale grounded in the underground New Wave club scene of the early 80s is almost as extraordinarily bizarre as the movie itself.
Supposedly born of Scott's unsuccessful attempt to launch an Anne Rice adaptation, the film features French screen goddess Catherine Denuevre as a centuries-old vampire whose most recent consort (David Bowie) has recently succumbed to a rapid aging affliction. Susan Sarandon is a scientist investigating the goings-on connected to Denuevre who begins to suspect something strange is afoot ... but not before she's become the vampire's new lover.
Keep in mind, this was 1983, so a pair of major star actresses hitting the sheets was pretty extraordinary and attention-getting in a time when it was rare to even hear the words "gay" or "lesbian" spoken on TV. (In the landmark documentary The Celluloid Closet, Sarandon laughed off the lascivious inquiries that followed her after the film by matter-of-factly explaining that "you don't have to be a lesbian to want to f*** Catherine Denuevre"). It was visually groundbreaking as well, layered in striking elements that would subsequently be ripped off by every MTV video of the early 80s.
Let me be honest: I don't really care for Top Gun. I get why people do, and I understand why it was such a big hit in its day. In many ways its the ultimate movie of the Reagan Years, as its entire plot exists as a solution to the problem of how to put all that gorgeous, expensive military technology we'd been ostensibly building up for a conflict with The Soviets - which was looking increasingly unlikely to actually happen - to good (cinematic) use.
And yeah, that's what it is, basically: a by-the-book sports drama ported from the ball field to a (fictional) competition among top Air Force fighter-pilot recruits. Tom Cruise is the Troubled Young Man who could be The Best Ever if only he can overcome his Crippling Daddy Issues, Val Kilmer is his obsessive Rival With A Grudge, and the assembled cast preens about glowering homoerotically at oneanother until the plot contrives some actual bad guys to show up and resolve everyone's issues and somehwere a young Quentin Tarantino finds his destiny. (QT's career and Scott's would be almost supernaturally "linked" from there on out.)
If nothing else, it's a testament to Scott's talent that he's able to elevate such ridiculous material into something that's still pretty memorable.
Jerry Bruckheimer may have brought Scott onto Top Gun because of The Hunger's slick visuals, but Top Gun's massive success taught everybody that the director had a direct line into the overblown adolescent machismo that was becoming the 80s zeitgeist and landed him in the director's chair for this follow-up to the Eddie Murphy fish out of water action/comedy.
The result is an incredibly divisive film, the action and violence ramped up far beyond the original and executed in a hyper-real, oversaturated sheen that at the time was more familiar in horror movies. The bad guys, meanwhile, scheme and act like something out of a Batman comic. To this day, some consider it a betrayal of the first film, while others contend it remains one of the most influential 80s action flicks.