20 August 2012
As you may have heard, yesterday film director Tony Scott killed himself by jumping off a bridge in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, two sons, and an oeuvre of mostly bowel-churningly awful films. Sure, he didn't enjoy the (occasional) artistic credibility of his brother Ridley Scott, but if you had $95 million to burn on a runaway choo-choo train movie, then—by god—Tony was your man.
Ignoring much of his long, shitty filmography, most news sources are referring to Scott simply as 'the director of Top Gun,' a 1986 homoerotic naval aviation film starring Tom Cruise and some lesbian broad. (Yup, apparently, in a thirty-year directorial career that was as good as it got.)
In response to the news of Scott's death, director Ron Howard tweeted: 'No more Tony Scott movies. Tragic day.' (Howard's sense of tragedy is in desperate need of recalibration.) No word yet on what Denzel Washington will be doing for the remainder of his life now. I was hoping for a 'Tony, how could you do this... to me?' tweet, but Denzel's probably already on the phone with Brett Ratner.
But I come here to bury Mr. Scott, not to roast him. He actually shat out a couple of great films in his time. (Okay, maybe not great—but the truth becomes a little malleable at times like these.) Remember True Romance starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette? Or, as you might know it better, the Tarantino film that Tarantino didn't direct? You could find worse ways to kill a few hours.
The career-justifying film of Scott's career (for me), however, was his directorial debut—the stylish, widely excoriated modern-day vampire film The Hunger, starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon, and Dan Hedaya (Nick Tortelli from Cheers). Where else could you turn for a lesbian sex scene occasioned by a stubborn sherry stain? There are also notable cameo appearances by Bauhaus, a topless Ann Magnuson, and Willem Dafoe (as a street tough, who delivers the line 'How 'bout it, lady?' with gusto). And let's not forget—no matter how hard we try—the rapidly-aging David Bowie, who goes from goth clubs to the geriatric ward in twenty minutes flat.
I've seen The Hunger more times than I care to admit. I think it might be one of the chilliest, most stylistically overdetermined films in cinematic history—and that's part of what's so great about it. You can't sit through the whole thing from start to finish without feeling like you're in some profound drug haze.
So if you, like Ron Howard, are trying to come to terms with tragedy today, I'd recommend you skip right over the distinctly less gothic Days of Thunder and park your grieving keister in front of The Hunger. It's a movie that will almost make you forget why you should jump off a bridge.