Dreaming in Color: Tony Scott (1944 – 2012)
Tony Scott, brother of Ridley Scott, and producer/director of stylish cinematic staples such as Top Gun, The Hunger, True Romance, Crimson Tide, and the recent Unstoppable, has died at the age of 68 of an apparent suicide.
My first exposure to Tony’s films was 1983’s The Hunger, with David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon in a story about the tragic realities of falling in love for a literal forever. Almost immediately, I realized I was witnessing the beginnings of something truly special. Here was a visual style that was almost purely sensual. Images were ephemeral; dream-like in a way that soothed the subconscious, seeping into your skin like a living perfume. It was deeply erotic, deeply affecting and deeply, unapologetically, romantic.
And I loved every minute of it.
As the years went by, and commercial success like Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop 2 cemented his stature as a director worth hiring, I came to recognize his style as a technical exercise in seeing, a quest to look at the world not merely as how it existed, but how it could be seen. He elevated the use of tinted light to artistic levels, painting the sky to suit the mood of the scene. His editing, often seen as so frenetic to be pure visual chaos, betrayed a pure observational sense of seeing the entire picture, from every possible angle, simultaneously. In way way, his was the most postmodern of filmmaking techniques. He told us the story using the same fractured and intellectually divided narrative style as writers such as Borges, or Julio Cortázar. He made us work to make visual sense of the story he was telling, thus stimulating our minds to operate on a different level; with fresher eyes, and an ever questioning mind.
Of course, this is all somewhat academic. Scott will be remembered for the cinematic gifts he left behind, and critics will debate the merits of his work for decades to come. For me, personally, all that matters is that for a couple of hours on any given day, Tony Scott gave me the opportunity to see the world through a different set of eyes, and to lose myself a little in the rhythms of his storytelling.
I have a silly belief that whispering within the flickering frames of color and light is a voice. “Watch closely,” it says, “I’m about to show you something truly wonderful.” Each time I hear it, this no-longer 18-year-old boy will snuggle down a little lower in his seat, and open his heart to the magic before him. In the case of Tony Scott’s films, that voice taught me to look a little sharper, to live a little closer to the edges of the norm. To dare to be bold.
Thank you, Mr. Scott, for the moments you have given me. You will be missed.