05 October 2005

More on Tony Scott

A bit of an update to my August entry called "Old Dogs and New Tricks", in which I talk a bit about director Tony Scott and the way Man on Fire is a much better and more original film visually than it really had to be, and how I was impressed by how an older filmmaker seemed to have found his visual originality so late in life.

I was reading Aint It Cool News yesterday, and ran across this article, a review of the upcoming flick Domino directed by one Tony Scott. The review is written by "Massawyrm", who seems to have a more thorough understanding of Scott's oeurvre than I do, and places it into larger context. From the article:
You see, Tony Scott’s greatest asset is also his greatest curse. Tony Scott films are always very stylish, utilizing the newest and latest camera, lighting and editing tricks to make a film that just plum looks cool as all hell. However, Tony Scott’s films also date themselves rather quickly, each of his films becoming wonderfully entertaining relics that ultimately define the look of the age in which they were made.
He then goes on give examples of what he means, which is too lengthy to include here, but which is a reasonably convincing argument that the modern-day incarnation of Tony Scott, with the hand-cranked cameras, whiplash editing and the like, is actually well-in-line with what Scott has always done. (He then goes on to give Domino a very positive review, which only makes me want to see it more.)

What do I think of this? Well, it's entirely possible that Massawyrm is correct, and the most recent Scott films are simply "more of the same" from the director, who has always been cutting-edge. I can see quite a bit of it, personally, now that it's been pointed out to me. But I would still argue that Scott's latest films differ in kind from his earlier work, in that while he has always used cutting-edge techniques to generate box office-friendly movies for popular consumption, never before has he extended and expanded on the very language of cinema in quite the way he's doing in Man on Fire and (possibly, as I haven't seen it yet) Domino. It's also the case that while Top Gun's effects-heavy style was widely imitated immediately after its release, the stylistic work of Man on Fire have not been imitated by another filmmaker yet (whether through lack of time or lack of interest I cannot hazard a guess).

No real controversy here, just an interesting alternative viewpoint that I'm not entirely sure is wrong. I guess we'll just have to see how far Tony Scott and his colleagues take this stuff, to see whether this new style becomes more-or-less standard or whether it exists more as a personal take on cinematic language.

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