There are times when you catch word of someone's untimely death and you're hit with a surprising touch of shock and sadness you didn't see coming. Often, we don't know these people at all. We know of them, or we've seen their work and it feels inappropriate, somehow, to talk about it too much from a distance. Hearing director/producer Tony Scott had jumped to his death from a Los Angeles Bridge on Sunday was one of those moments for me. The headlines read like an element from one of the dizzying action films he'd shot so well, that at first I had a hard time buying into the news as fact, but there it was: at age 68, Scott climbed onto the Vincent Thomas Bridge midday and left behind a suicide note. We can't begin to speculate on why things like this happen, and it seems too trite an observation to talk at length about the fragility of life. So, this is all I can really add to the discussion: Tony Scott has been credited as a director of popcorn movies, often flawed or too legitimately entertaining to be taken seriously, and as much as that's true, he was a character I've defending on any number of occasions. The term 'vulgar auteurism' has been thrown around the internet as of late, and if anyone can be pointed to as encapsulating iconoclastic visions while working in blockbuster genres, it would be Tony and (yes) his older brother, Ridley.
Tony Scott's movies were glossy, beautifully shot adrenaline rushes so hyper-stylized they were often immediately recognizable. From Top Gun to Man on Fire to Unstoppable or Deja Vu, there was something kinetic about the films that transformed them into color saturated pressure cookers. Scott spoke in the Film 4 clip posted above of the way his characters defined his technique, and the films I'm most fond of were his slightly off-the-wall ones: True Romance, Domino, and The Hunger; the places where the natures and habits of the characters merge with the editing to either create or suspend the action we see on screen. The slow, hypnotic shadows of the vampire, the bright violence of two runaway lovers, and the frantic, confusing, overwhelming rush of the addict. They're glorious, dazzling works of pop deserving of being referred to as cult or trash or soft core only with love. Gritty, dirty, violent and oversexed in all the best ways, I will miss Tony Scott's presence in cinema.
UPDATE: It's now being reported that Scott had been recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Terrible.
Because I love it so, here's the opening sequence of The Hunger. Gorgeous vulgar auteurism and style for days (semi NSFW):