subota, 15. prosinca 2012.

Tony Scott: A Moving Target - lančane filmske analize


Mubijev filmski časopis Notebook smislio je novi oblik kolaborativne filmske analize. Kritičar izabere prizor iz nekog filma (u ovom slučaju Tonyja Scotta), analizira ga i potom anonimno pošalje tu analizu slijedećem kritičaru koji na taj tekst mora odgovoriti analizom nekog drugog prizora itd.
Zanimlji obrazac, neovisno o kojem je režiseru riječ.

Tony Scott: A Moving Target

For some time after Tony Scott tragically, mysteriously took his life earlier this year we tried to think of some way to honor his work and explore it on the Notebook. A proper response was found by filmmaker, editor and Notebook contributor Gina Telaroli, who suggested a kind of critical exquisite corpse, and in this manner forge a way—or an attempt—to fit the forms of Tony Scott's oeuvre to the content critics would contribute.
The project was simple in practice though a bit complicated in explanation: each participant would be restricted to a one week time limit in which he or she would pick a scene from a single Tony Scott film and write an analysis of it before passing that analysis anonymously to the next person in the project. The recipient would be tasked to "respond" to that analysis with a different scene from a different movie, before passing on that response to the next person, and so on. The end results, then, would be individual pieces on the work of Tony Scott that have a strange but very present connective tissue—no larger scheme or cohesion, just moments connecting from one piece to the next.
We had so many people respond to our invitation to participate, however, that we decided to split the roster into two "movements" of conversation and analysis. As chance would have it, the two opening pieces in each movement ended up being on Crimson Tide, so one can follow how the critical paths diverged from this identical starting position.
Daniel Kasman & Gina Telaroli
Tony Scott: A Moving Target is being presented in conjunction with a small retrospective of Scott's films at the 92YTribeca in New York—The Great Scott—programmed by Gina and myself and running December 7 - 8, 2012. To see the program's lineup and notes, see our announcement.
  1. Three Dimensional Threat Space (Crimson Tide) by Daniel Kasman 
  2. Heading into Twilight (Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
  3. Start Me Up (Domino) by Adrian Martin
  4. Black Hole Cinema (The Last Boy Scout) by Christoph Hochhäusler
  5. The Two Tonys (One of the Missing) by Christopher Small
  6. Men, Fire (Enemy of the State) by Adam Cook
  7. Explosions in the Sky (Domino) by Boris Nelepo
  8. Ashes of Time (Man on Fire) by C. Mason Wells
  9. I Was Born, But... (True Romance) by Joe McCulloch
  10. The Whirled View (Unstoppable) by Phil Coldiron
  1. Crimson Tide by Ryland Walker Knight
  2. Enemy of the State by Ben Simington
  3. Domino by Robert Koehler
  4. Déjà Vu by Steven Shaviro
  5. Man on Fire by Christoph Huber
  6. TonyScottDeathSong (Spy Game) by Uncas Blythe
  7. Another Green World (Unstoppable) by Kurt Walker
  8. With Each Touch, I Risk My Life (Domino) by Otie Wheeler
  9. Standard Op (Enemy of the State) by David Phelps
  10. Sp(eye) Gam3z (Spy Game) by Gina Telaroli


Tony Scott: A Moving Target—Movement A

Part of the Tony Scott: A Moving Target critical project. Go here for the project's description, index and links to project's other movement.
This is one "movement" of our exquisite corpse-style critical project, Tony Scott: A Moving Target, which coincidentally begins with a look at Crimson Tide, the same movie that begins the other movement. As outlined in the introduction to the entire project, this project began in my mind, as something fairly simple: a snaking continuum of scene analysis. This is only in part what resulted.
The varied responses I got back from my group—"mine" in the sense that it is the one I participated in, since Gina's contribution closes Movement B—seem to say as much about the participating critics as they do about Tony Scott's films and the overlap between the two: the perception of Scott's films and career. Thus many entries, including my own, despite the project's initial invitation to scene analysis, also include some kind of overview of Scott's career, whether tracing a development or an overall ambivalence. These instances seem indicative of two things: one that even in this fragmented online critical world it is difficult to zero in solely on specifics, that specifics often if not always invite a desire for grander contexts, frameworks, connections; and two, that because of where Scott existed in a commercial industry, in the kinds of films he made, in the spectrum of those films across his career, and in the variable (to say the least) critical response around his generally continuous commercial/popular success, his films as a subject "necessitate" a particular kind of address.
It should hardly be a surprise that it is last third of Scott's American career that gains the most focus throughout this movement of the project. (In fact, I was initially worried the movement would self-circulate, where everyone would just enter into and never leave a loop of Man on Fire - Domino - Déjà Vu, which thankfully did not happen.) Likewise, the most critical or ambivalent response to the director comes through films indicative of both his first American period (Hochhäusler's satire of The Last Boy Scout) and also indicative of a strain of Scott's filmmaking uncommented upon in this section, that of the sadistic, grungier, more grody side (Martin's look at Domino), which I'd loosely say includes along with Boy Scout and Domino, True Romance, Man on Fire, and the short commission Beat the Devil. Missing from this project, then, are some of the director's most iconic and brazenly commercial work like Top Gun and Days of Thunder. These films stand as far more indicative of what the industry and culture were producing at the time than Scott's later and more ambitious works, which may have been produced in tandem with, within, or even preceding an aesthetic zeitgeist, but nevertheless through their density of form and often unusual story mechanics stand to a degree outside the norm in ways that films like Revenge, The Fan, and Beverly Hills Cop II (all uncommented upon) do not. (The director's transition from his early British work into the American film industry is a narrative nearly untouched, and we're particularly thankful to Christopher Small for focusing on a film from Scott's most underknown period.)
Again, I feel drawn into the appeal of the broader picture, though it often seems that Scott when dismissed is dismissed broadly, as if his films, his style, his interests do not carry nuance and careful, complex enunciation, that these movies cannot be minutely beautiful or orchestrate elaborate expressions within mere seconds. I think they do, and the appeal for scene analysis was intended as a question and a challenge to see what participants can find, draw out of, or articulate from a Tony Scott film on a more granular level. That, at least, was my beginning; the form of this project, as has been discussed in its introduction, was intended for digression and divergence in all aspects: which films, what kind of scenes, what kind and form of analysis. How much or how little of this can actually be seen in the resulting project is one of its interesting aspects. I hope these pathways prove valuable to and for Scott's work and his audiences, who may likewise access his films through various means at various points in time and engage with them in different ways.
Daniel Kasman
The contributions in Movement A are presented here as a continuum. To view the contributions as individual articles, see the links provided in the project's main index.
Movement A
  1. Three Dimensional Threat Space (Crimson Tide) by Daniel Kasman 
  2. Heading into Twilight (Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
  3. Start Me Up (Domino) by Adrian Martin
  4. Black Hole Cinema (The Last Boy Scout) by Christoph Hochhäusler
  5. The Two Tonys (One of the Missing) by Christopher Small
  6. Men, Fire (Enemy of the State) by Adam Cook
  7. Explosions in the Sky (Domino) by Boris Nelepo
  8. Ashes of Time (Man on Fire) by C. Mason Wells
  9. I Was Born, But... (True Romance) by Joe McCulloch
  10. The Whirled View (Unstoppable) by Phil Coldiron

1A. Three Dimensional Threat Space (Crimson Tide)
by Daniel Kasman
In front of me is my laptop screen; beyond, outside the windows of the bus I'm traveling on, is the scrolling landscape. Already I'm approaching Tony Scott territory—I just need a crisis to precipitate outside that only my computer could explain. The wifi on the bus is down, however, so I cross my fingers nothing terrible out there will happen. But such an occurrence would be in a later Scott film, the Scott who preposterously, ingeniously included a wifi-connected laptop on a subway car stuck in the New York underground...and let a passenger secretly video chat with those on the surface. The film I just viewed on this bus ride, 1995's Simpson/Bruckheimer production Crimson Tide, was made before before Scott became so enamored with time-space fragmentation and the tenuous connecting handhold of technology—a break made in 1998 with Enemy of the State and a subject which freed the director's form to move faster, overlap spaces and time, redistribute perspective, intensify the separation and attempted unification between what's happening in the world and what's happening in that same world as seen from elsewhere. Yet in Crimson Tide, made during the last high octane, high concept spurts of the slick, comprehensible 1980s action-blockbuster cinema model (cf: Robocop, Die Hard, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), we can see the Scott who emerges later into a world of post-modern paranoia and techno-schizophrenia. And all it takes is the setting and the genre of the submarine movie to bring it out of him.
The sequence that most crystallized Scott's later conceptual interests in Crimson Tide’s comprehensive catalog of all the things that can go wrong on a submarine—a checklist it is the duty of every submarine movie to complete, like a drill—occurs just after Lt. Commander Hunter (Denzel Washington, beginning his first of five collaborations with Scott), the second in command of the ship, has relieved the Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman) of his command due to a heated disagreement in nuclear launch protocol. The film's opening has set up the world's crisis, but one notably told as a television report using stock footage: a renegade Russian rebel inspires a civil war which threatens the world with uncontrolled nuclear strikes. The sub goes underwater as this is happening, freezing the world situation and transposing its hysteria to the submerged, isolated chamber drama on the ship. The outside world has faded to the foggy murk of the water encasing the craft, and all radio links to the outside world are severed. The two men in charge of the ship—Hunter and Ramsey—are thereby placed in a situation whose precariousness literally involves nuclear holocaust, yet their access to the world in which that situation exists has been shrunk down to a collection of isolated chambers of men connected through cramped passages and the limitations of communications technology on board the ship.
The mise-en-scène entirely reflects this perceptual isolation: master-shots of the “conn,” where the Captain and later his replacement issue orders, is essentially equipped only with a microphone to communicate to the rest of the vessel, CCTV monitors showing other sections of the ship, and a few dials related to the steering and depth of the vessel. This is not a boat or a spacecraft; there are no windows to the outside world, no big screens showing those inside what's going on outside. To find out what's going on, the Captain in the conn has to talk, through the radio, to his sonar and weapon sections, which are in different parts of the ship. Scott delineates these spaces through color-codes and lighting: the conn is ostensibly lit realistically with clear high-key lighting; the sonar room is coated in hyper-stylized, hyper-saturated blue-red with a powerful, sickly green emanating from the sonar screens themselves; and the weapons room is denoted through a giallo-friendly blood red. The activities in both of these “side” rooms, whose actual spatial connection to the conn and the rest of the ship is not clear, are always of heightened drama: detecting enemies or engaging weapons systems. As such, their mise-en-scène without gradation is always in an expressionist key, extrapolating inner states of anxiety and tension to outer qualities of the image. The conn, a location of the cool collection, order and rationale of the ship's leader, is thereby painted in the clarity of comparative “realism.”
However, following Hunter’s taking control of the ship, a series of events bring to a head the ominous, pervasive sense of danger surrounding the submarine. Through these events, the disparate, disconnected spaces of the sub are made to be unified through the simultaneous efforts in the drama of the crew and outside the diegesis by Scott’s image-making and editing. In short order an enemy sub is detected, it fires torpedoes, Ramsay/Hunter’s vessel evades and returns fire, destroying the enemy, but not before its final shot from that ship damages Ramsay/Hunter’s sub enough for it to start flooding, lose propulsion and begin to sink to “crushing depth.” In this sequence, as throughout the film, Scott emphasizes the way the crew perceives events happening outside of their actual biological range of perception, and the distance between those events and the responses to them.
As opposed to Scott’s later baroque expressionism where the heightened perceptions evoked by a film’s images don’t necessarily have any root in the real world, the strangeness of the events during the sub’s crisis and the crew’s perception of them are completely rationalized through the expectations of how submarines and the submarine genre work. One moment everything will seem fine, and in the next a man in looking at an abstract, glowing screen will see an oblong red shape which instigates near-panic. His perception of his screen is communicated to the Lt. Commander through the radio, who then tells the men in front of him to change the ship's course, and then radios sonar back for updates. At no point does anyone actually see a real, material threat their ship, to their lives. All they see are abstract representations, and the engagement to defend and later take action against these abstract representations are carried through via remote communication over disparate spaces—remote and disparate despite the fact that everyone is sharing the same overall space and sense of danger. (It should be noted that the audience does indeed get to see some of the underwater action, namely the two subs moving, exchanging fire, explosions. All are notably ensconced in the opaque, near-abstract no-man’s land of the ocean. Here space essentially as no meaning.)
As the sense of danger on the ship increases, Crimson Tide begins to cinematically unify these remote, isolated and disparate spaces and people. Scott lets the expressionism of the sonar and weapons rooms bleeds into the central conn space by utilizing flashing/rotating yellow warning lights to push the psychological anxiety of the crew and of the situation into the aesthetics of the film. The lights are flashing across all three spaces: conn, sonar and weapons (and later, the hold, which starts flooding), which, while remaining spatially isolated from one another, become aesthetically unified through rhyming/repeated textures of light on the screen. The sequence increasingly uses close-ups of crew members to increase the claustrophobia of the situation and emphasize the human, psychological pressure, but the effect is to create a collage of heads bathed in strobing, exaggerated lighting. Later in his career Scott became known for literally overlapping images on top of one another for a combination impressionistic-expressionistic collage effect, and while the editing and assembly of Crimson Tide remains conventionally representational and legible, Scott is approaching the post-production effects he will later create on top of the image by here increasing the visual density in his compositions, ratcheting up the lighting and color, and then rapidly editing them together regardless of discernible spatial arrangement. Later developments in the sequence similarly increase the abstraction of the images: a large leak in another section of the ship, presumably the hold, but whose actual location we are not aware of, fills the frame with showering water, which graphically functions like the green of the sonar room and the red of the weapons room to both delineate a space for the viewer at the same time it abstracts it into textured imagery of anxiety. Flashing yellow lights on top of the water spray complete the painting: we get at least four spaces that are all visually different yet swathed with similar psychological-emotional tones and image patterns. Danger combines with communications technology to unite fragmented spaces together, sharing anxiety over abstraction.
The final sense of the scene is of a three dimensional threat space: these men are living in a world where danger is unseen and can literally come from anywhere. In fact, space is so undefined outside the ship, and sections of the ship are so unconnected inside it, that the “direction” danger can come from isn't even under consideration. Something might happen at any place and at any time, which is why the external threat to the boat is global nuclear holocaust, totally encompassing. (A notable, smaller scale example: right after the ship leaves dock and submerges there is a random, unmotivated kitchen fire which kills one crew member.) This pervasive potential for danger explains the isolation of each room: a safety measure. It's the same reason the ship itself is submerged, to get out of the constant threat of nuclear attack above water. Yet the cost of personal isolation is debilitating perception, a reliance on technology to detect, access and interpret the world—think about the satellite tracking technology and recording devices of Enemy of the State, the apparatus of storytelling in Domino, the past-viewing screen and goggles of Déjà Vu, the MTA's subway monitor in The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and the helicopter news coverage in Unstoppable.
The techno-sophistication level of Crimson Tide, despite operating on a nuclear submarine, is much more old fashioned—essentially walkie-talkies and primitive radars—as befits the genre, but is no less crucial. To purportedly be safe, a submarine must remove itself from the world; to purportedly be safe, its crew must disperse themselves across separate, disconnected spaces on the ship, effectively removing themselves from a spatially present community. What allows these removes to be possible is technology that makes up for the multi-layered disconnect from the real, physical world: radio to “talk” to those above water to understand what’s happening, sonar to “see” what’s happening in the water around them, the CCTV cameras/monitors and inner-ship radio communications to both see and hear about what’s happening inside the ship. The technology inside the diegesis is analogous to Scott’s filmmaking: it ties the world together. The film’s editing and image-making unify fragmented spaces and psyches—artificially, it should be pointed out—just as sonar blips and status updates screamed over a radio give the crew a sense of successfully stitching together a discernible reality. The sense of unification increases with the sense of danger and threat, because it is in these moments that the technology which effectively simulates this reality is relied upon, and used, the most. Thus as the plot’s perils increase, so does Scott’s stylization heightened in tandem—and the men on the ship, and the film itself, attempt a synthetic union of reality that will be necessary to overcome grave danger.

2A. Heading into Twilight (Taking of Pelham 1 2 3)by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
The last few years’ critical and cinephilic reappraisal of Tony Scott—what a cynical person might call “the Tony Scott gold rush”—has largely focused on Scott as an artist: his collage editing aesthetic, his playful and expressive use of super-saturated color, his fondness for abstraction.
Scott certainly had some sense of himself as an artist. He was trained as a painter (a little-known fact: Scott animated the logo of Scott Free, the production company he shared his brother Ridley), and his intense work habits hint at a background in art school technique; instead of conventional storyboards, he would—like an oil painter preparing to work—make extensive sketches on the morning of a shoot. But he was also a largely unpretentious Hollywood filmmaker; the most accurate way to describe his work—especially the more visually playful films of his late period—is not as “art,” but as “entertainment informed by art.” Scott’s aesthetic adventurousness never detracted from or subverted the main function of his movies—to be entertainment. Rather, the things that make Scott’s films compelling as art—his sense of color, his penchant for warping and cracking space, his deliberate mismatches—are there to, first and foremost, make an entertaining movie.
By my side, I have a print out of the text that precedes this one. I’ve marked it up with a blue pencil. Half a sentence is underlined on the last page: “Thus, as the plot’s perils increase, so does Scott’s stylization heighten in tandem.” I’ve drawn an arrow from that underlined half-sentence to the left-hand margin of the page, where I’ve written and circled a phrase from earlier in the text that stuck with me: “threat space.”
Scott was an inventive high-stylist, though I don’t think style was the reason many of his films were so popular; rather, it was the use of style, the way he was able to pair a ratcheting of tension with an amped-up aesthetic. His approaches to visual stylization could border on the avant-garde (especially in late-period films like Man on Fire, which is pretty much a catalog of celluloid “extended techniques”), but they were almost always in the service of a sturdy, beat-based Hollywood story. In other words, Crimson Tide isn’t an “entertaining thriller with Expressionist flourishes,” it’s—and I think the preceding text does a great job of showing the hows of this point—an entertaining thriller because of its Expressionist flourishes.
Those unusual lighting schemes—including, if I remember correctly, a scene where the lighting in a frame goes, left to right, from red to green to blue (a visual play, I assume, on the RGB additive color model)—remind me of a different boldly, starkly lit “threat space” in a Tony Scott movie: the hijacked train in Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. I’m thinking specifically of the scene when Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) has to roll the ransom on a handcart over to the train and deliver it (along with himself) to head hijacker “Ryder” (John Travolta).
The hijacked train car is a familiar, even banal place made sinister by otherworldly lighting—big swaths of teal, with super-saturated blood red in counterpoint—and an odd arrangement of figures (all of the the seats are empty, no one is standing up; the hostages are face down on the ground, the hijackers are hunched down in the corners of the car). “Outside,” throughout the tunnels and streets of New York, the cops have a measure of control, but the inside of the train—a mobile “threat space”—is Ryder’s topsy-turvy, garish domain.
I’ve never read the novel Pelham is based on, but I’ve seen the other two adaptations. The protagonists of the 1974 film version (played by Walter Matthau) and the 1998 TV movie version (played by Edward James Olmos) are both police officers; one major difference between these first two adaptations and Scott’s version—and the change that really makes it a Tony Scott movie—is that the Garber character is a train dispatcher. He is—like the train engineers of Scott’s subsequent Unstoppable—not a person who ordinarily finds himself in dangerous or exceptional situations, and yet the dangerous / exceptional situation he finds himself in has everything to do with his profession. In Scott’s Pelham, Garber is the first person the hijackers talk to after they’ve taken over the train and—in part because Ryder prefers talking to Garber rather than the hostage negotiator played by John Turturro—becomes their point of contact. Near the end of the film, it’s Garber who has to deliver $10 million to Ryder’s crew.
Garber is given the cash in bags. While a SWAT team waits, he slowly pushes a cart loaded with the bags up to the stalled train. A brief establishing shot of the train emphasizes the curve of a section of track. It resembles the arch of a bridge.
This is a quintessential Scott visual / narrative device: the crossing over, the moment when a character (more often than not played by Denzel Washington) decides to trudge toward certain doom. I’m thinking, for instance, of Washington’s surrender to the thugs at the end of Man on Fire (which occurs on a bridge), or the scene where he climbs inside of the time machine in Déjà Vu (a bridge through space and time). Out of principle, the hero crosses the bridge over into the “threat space”—which is just roundabout way of writing “Danger Zone,” isn’t it?
The lyrics of that corny, catchy Kenny Loggins song—penned by action-movie theme song specialist Tom Whitlock, who also wrote songs for Over the Top and Navy SEALs (a movie I probably saw fifty times as a kid)—read like an item-by-item breakdown of Scott’s macho themes: “The further on the edge / The hotter the intensity,” “You'll never know what you can do / Until you get it up as high as you can go,” etc., etc. They’re all clichés. And yet what Scott did, what he excelled at, was making art—and, more importantly for my purposes, great entertainment—out of these cheesy notions about staring down death.
The first part of the scene—Garber pushing the handcart—only lasts a few seconds, but it’s fragmented across multiple shots and angles. It’s what you’d call “excessive coverage;” the scene—as linear in terms of action as any scene could be, with a clear point A and a clear point B and only one way to get there—could easily have been accomplished in a single shot (I imagine that a more straight-up formalist like John McTiernan would do it with a wide angle lens and a Steadicam, following Garber from behind as he approaches the train, lamp-lights streaking long horizontal flares across the anamorphic frame).
As it often does, Scott’s style breaks up space (that’s the irony of these “threat spaces” / “danger zones” / whathaveyou—they’re all spatially incoherent). Not only does Scott switch from wide shot to close up and back again, but he also mixes wide angle lenses with telephoto ones. Discussions of decoupage rarely touch on questions of lens choice—which is a shame, because focal length and depth-of-field play as big a role in how on-screen action works and moves as shot duration and angle.
Both types of lenses used for the scene are prized in part for their ability to distort space: wide-angles stretch it out, long lenses flatten. The effect is a subtle spatial wobble: the proportions of the tunnel change with every cut. It seems cavernous in one shot, claustrophobic in the next. Obviously, neither of these qualities carries positive connotations—they’re two different kinds of unease. It’s a canny piece of filmmaking craft; tension is created not by evoking uncertainty—the what’s-around-the-corner dread of a long take’s slow crawl—but by deliberately disorienting the viewer, mucking with their imagined sense of a space. (Despite these disorienting cuts, the sequence features no obvious continuity errors, probably because all of the shots come from a single multi-camera take.)
This leads up to the film’s big Moment of Anticipation. Ryder and Garber have spent the entire film talking over the train dispatch radio—a typical, space-warping Scott relationship. In a few seconds, they will meet face to face. As Garber approaches the train, the door slides open. Out steps one of Ryder’s henchmen, followed by the man himself.
The first “physical meeting” between Garber and Ryder is, on paper, a routine shot / reverse shot set-up—except the shots aren’t classically matched. There is, as in moment when Garber crosses the point of no return, a deliberate spatial / visual unbalance.
Ryder is photographed from a low angle. It’s a deep-focus medium shot which, in the anamorphic frame, clearly shows the blood-spattered window behind him. Garber’s shot is more of a close-up, framed roughly eye-level, space compressed by a zoom lens. The depth-of-field is very shallow; the henchman who walks up to Garber while Ryder is talking is a fuzzy shape, completely out of focus. The lighting doesn’t match either; in fact, Garber and Ryder are lit with opposite (but also—and this is very important to the film’s conceit of the two as kindred spirits, could-have-been buddies—complementary) colors. Garber stands in his orange safety vest, lit by a dim gold light; Ryder stands in a blue shirt in front of the bluish cab.
When Garber arrives, Ryder greets him, disarmingly, like a friend (“You’re taller than I thought!”) and makes idle banter, asking him about his wife and his health (“How much do you weight? About 220?”). During one of these banal questions, Scott cuts to another long-lens shot. The window of the cab briefly becomes an abstracted frame-within-the-frame—very literally, a portrait of Garber. Then, the camera refocuses from Garber’s face on to the surface of the window itself. Space shifts to another flattened plane.

3A. Start Me Up (Domino)by Adrian Martin
"Visually the film is quite impressive, something like a confetti storm in which the spectator never gets to rest."
–Manny Farber, 1968
Participating in this writing game is a little like being crossed between Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped (1956) and Jean Genet’s Un chant d’amour (1950). Both prison films, both about Men on Fire. One implicitly gay, the other explicitly so. Alone in my cell, like in Bresson, I am doing my bit to chip my way through to collective freedom and enlightenment. And, meanwhile, I am being presented, like in Genet, with things—all kinds of things—to help me along, without knowing the identity of the other prisoners, before me and after me, who communicate through the gaps in the structure.
Gilles Deleuze, as it happens, spoke of both these prison films. We see much in them to do with a kind of image, or sequencing of images, which he influentially called an any-space-whatever. Disconnected fragments, glimpses, portions of space or place, knitted together—however discontinuously—along some quasi-abstract yet highly material thread: movement of eyes, passage of hands, sequencing of shots, aural counterpoint. Bresson, and all who mimicked his example (well or badly), represents one branch of research into the figure of the any-space-whatever. Tony Scott, and all who gravitate around what I once called a Hysterical Cinema, represents another branch.
My preceding, veiled interlocutor in this game has spoken well of Scott’s typical strategies of coherent-incoherent spatialisation—his switching between lenses that distort proportions (as well as our ability to gauge them as viewers) and create a “subtle spatial wobble”. I agree that Scott’s stylistic modulations are (almost) always matched to a plot beat, or a switch in tone/mood. As it turns out, however—like Oliver Stone, perhaps his closest cousin in the Cinema of Hysteria—Scott is never content with using just one strategy; he piles on his entire bag of tricks almost every time. In the bag: super-saturated colour, variable motion (or speed-ramping), superimposition, rapid editing, editing mismatching, hyper-coverage, and a host of yet-to-be-catalogued manipulations of sound on every level (dialogue, voice-over narration, music, soundscape).
This is where, for me, the most intriguing issues of critical and aesthetic evaluation of Scott begin. I will not pretend to be a complete champion of the guy, either before or after his sad and untimely death: the politics of Crimson Tide, Man on Fire and Top Gun stink (he was not, in any genuine sense, a subversive filmmaker). And often we can feel—as I often feel in the company of certified hysterical texts, whether by Friedkin, Joanou, Stone, Bigelow, Roeg or Scott—that the dynamics (and Scott’s films are certainly, relentlessly dynamic) are forced, imposed on the dramatic (or comedic) content from without, that the “amped-up aesthetic” (as my predecessor calls it) is a desperate attempt to create pace, excitement, interest, local colour, thick mood and some vague but ominous air of meaningfulness at literally every moment of the unfolding screen time—even when little of it (or, at least, not all of it) has been earned.
In an imaginary sense, critics (including some of the finest and most perceptive critics) were ganging up on Tony Scott—or what he represented—long before he actually appeared on the scene to coalesce into a 1980s mainstream phenomenon with The Hunger and Top Gun. This returns us to the notion of a Cinema of Hysteria, which is closely affiliated with what Robin Wood once tagged the ‘incoherent texts’ of American cinema in the 1970s and ‘80s. In a roundtable of writers associated with the illustrious British magazine Movie in 1975, Victor Perkins complained—his offhand, typical example of that moment was the use of the telephoto lens in Electra Glide in Blue (1973)—that stylistic choices were no longer following a clear logic or rhetoric accumulating over the entire span of a movie; their action, and the motivation for using them, seemed instantaneous and ephemeral, a new stylistic trick (or cluster of them) for each moment, or beat, or switch-around in a scene.
Manny Farber crabbed about it first. (Although, sometimes, he also celebrated it.) Referring to a raft of late ‘60s movies by Frankenheimer, Nichols, Kazan, Noel Black and others, he wrote in the introduction to the first edition of Negative Space: “Those who blew their cool in the 1960s were shipwrecked on spatial problems, among other things. So much is possible or acceptable in photography-acting-writing now that films expand with flashy camera work, jazzy heat flutters, syrupy folk music, different projection speeds, and a laxity about the final form that any scene takes”. Sound familiar?
We have ourselves a ripe critical problem here. Scott’s work begins with something that, faute de mieux, we can call postmodern cinema: it hinges, as many films since the 1980s (across all genres) do, on the attenuation of surface, on a busy, multi-layered effect, on precisely the expansion of screen moments. This cinema exists for the sake of a certain quite emotional (but not quite meaningful) high; it plunges us into a fuzzy state of sensate embodiment. On another level beyond the merely spectacular or stylistic (for no kind of cinema is only spectacular), Scott’s highly cultivated way of achieving his jazzy effects frequently courts contradiction, paradox, and generally impossible conceptual constructs as a way of ‘thinking through’ any hot topic at hand—but always nestled within, and chafing against, various solidly (sometimes depressingly) conventional Hollywood narrative models, through-lines, mythologies and ideologies.
So: I am going to take a single little bit of around twelve seconds—I almost called it a shot, but it’s not; once upon a time, in the old mise en scène of Minnelli or Ophüls, it almost certainly would have been one, unbroken shot—from Domino (2005), which rates among my preferred Scott films, alongside  Déjà Vu (2006). The scene occurs about 17 minutes in. It is a tiny fragment of the school-to-college flashback reminiscence of tough bail-bondswoman heroine Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), and its point is simple and clear: Domino doesn’t fit in, doesn’t want to fit in, and hates everybody’s guts. Moreover, she pretty much tells us just this in her voice-over narration: Scott was never afraid of what the aestheticians call stylistic redundancy!
There is a camera movement heading screen-right, going from an enormous number of college dorm girls (I count at the very least 40, maybe 50) packed into the frame and sharing a glee-club-like moment (they chant :“5, 6, 7, 8 …”) of scary euphoria, to the ‘reveal’ of a bored and exasperated Domino, perched safely behind a wall and defiantly smoking a cigarette. (For the record: the smoking bit of business is given in absolute by-the-rulebook continuity editing.) That’s the conventional core of this screen moment. But Scott introduces many small fluctuations—of shot-scale, of luminosity, of sound design, of pictorial legibility—that break up the passage into its atomic, frame-by-frame (and, on the soundtrack, syllable-by-syllable) particles. Indeed, ‘counting the shots’, as so many of us are trained to do with films, is often strictly impossible in Scott, and not just because they speed through so very fast: digital post-production treatments produce so many split-second reframings and variations on the raw footage out of the camera that one is left grasping onto flashes of light or breaks in sound layers rather than highly ambiguous ‘cuts’ to mark or (in musical terms) ‘score’ a scene’s modulations. And this is, understandably, what calls forth the experimental/avant-garde comparisons of Scott with Stan Brakhage or Philippe Grandrieux, and the appeal to abstraction as a vital component of this Hollywood pro’s work (as with Michael Mann’s). I strongly suspect, however, that abstraction is the wrong word to describe this aspect of Scott’s hyper-laid-on style. The aesthetic credo of Scott tends more to follow the famous old Rolling Stones song: if you start me up I’ll never stop
Screenshots cannot convey to you the intricate sound mix over this particular camera movement, or the cartoon-like recourse, five seconds in, to a pixillated fast-motion send-up of this jolly gaggle of girls ridiculously bobbing from left to right; screenshots can, however, indicate (sans their brutal rhythm) the enormous fluctuations and extremes in luminosity that run throughout the entire film, literally from moment to moment, and that register to the eye as incessant and unmotivated (in any traditional sense) flashing.
How strange and surreal the screenshots from a Tony Scott movie turn out to be! They lend themselves to the random-pause game (pioneered by Nicholas Rombes and others for our digitally creative times) better than most films. And in fact, they reveal a lot to us about the micro-workings of his style—even if, as in Oliver Stone, ‘micro’ often seems to signal ‘a series of stylistic devices applied indiscriminately and in an identical fashion to every scene, no matter its content’, which would resemble the grouchy, prescient remarks of Perkins and Farber. But let’s keep riding the wave, and continue with the scene-fragment at hand.
Domino is revealed at the end of this panoramic set-up/installation. (It’s so weird when paused like this, it looks almost like a Miranda July or David Byrne performance-art extravaganza.) Even this tiny passage-in-real-space is not rendered with conventional smoothness: Scott and his editors (William Goldenberg and Christian Wagner) yank out a few frames to speed us, over a jump cut, to her side. Scott doesn’t then simply rest on the moment, as a hundred other directors would have been content to do; he soups it up. He cuts in (or the footage is digitally reworked) for a closer look at Domino; then back to the first vantage-point, but with another zoom-like movement into her—and then out again! Simultaneously, we are treated to a dissociated, two-plane image that becomes more disconnected and intense as its micro-seconds race by: the creepy girls-gone-wild on the left, Domino on the right.
Every commentator on Scott notes the enormous editing and spatial discontinuities, whether judged to be canny or just a big, chaotic mess. One cannot doubt that such decisions are contrived and deliberate: notice, here, the liberty taken within the given mise en scène arrangement of where and how the gang of increasingly Francis-Baconised girls are positioned in relation to their half of the picture and to Domino (whether in or out of focus)—eventually bringing just two or three of them up closer to the camera in order to concentrate upon and exaggerate their comic grotesqueness.
As Domino’s narration prepares to yank us out of this fragment—“then the hazing started”—and into the next, the moment (as often in Scott) reaches its zenith of stylistic mania, in this pictorial, washed-out, hyper-luminescent blur, literally just a few frames worth, well under a complete second.
Some celebrate this—or anything remotely like it, which is basically everything in Scott’s oeuvre—as an outburst of cinematic excess, the kind of paroxysmic frenzy or acinema normally repressed by classical rules and conventions. Others file it away as a typical, fashionable instance of intensified continuity. For me, neither label really fits, or explains what’s going down in Scott’s fiddly, pyrotechnical work.
It’s clear that, by any thematic reckoning, this moment in Domino is not any richer for everything Scott does to it; a much simpler bit of direction would have carried exactly the same point, more or less well. But, of course, films are not (just) about calculable points, or even the sum of their thematic structures; they are (also) palpable surfaces and immediate experiences, sensation-banks and emotional triggers. Which is where the champions of Scott get on board—and, more often than not, in the name of a newness in cinema, a species of newness we find, in a related vein, elsewhere, for instance in the work of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, or (a few years before them) McG (remember him?).
It won’t do to claim Scott as completely Other to Hollywood; nor will it work to box him inside every traditional, professional category. Pained nostalgia for a long-lost school of mise en scène filmmaking—which we read and hear about everywhere these days—is not the best or most useful response in the face of (at least) three decades of a Cinema of Hysteria. Because that hysteria, as it plays itself out on screen—as a cinematic physiognomy as Giorgio Agamben would call it—is not only fascinating in itself as an object of study, but also must, of necessity, be prompted (as hysteria always is, somatically) by some pretty pressing historical and social conditions.

4A. Black Hole Cinema (The Last Boy Scout)by Christoph Hochhäusler
The following text should be imagined as an Adam Curtis film that you watch on YouTube...
BLACK HOLE CINEMA (Helvetica white on black)
“How British commercials directors conquered Hollywood and ended the reign of story.”
Voice over:
Cinema is a black hole, sucking in the universe. In many ways, it's Wagner's wet dream, a Gesamtkunstwerk combining circus and photography, science and dance, opera and journalism and what not. Every turn the medium took in the past 150 years (let's be generous) was another “acquisition,” be it sound, color or 3D.
[We see images of big city traffic. People lining up for a movie. A star map. Suddenly: A shot of Bayreuth in the dusk. Hitler at Bayreuth, in the audience. Traffic again. People shopping. Leni Riefenstahl dancing and then bound to her editing table, putting together “Olympia”—the reversal of the jump.]
Voice over:
In the 80s, the threat cinema needed to address, tame and incorporate was advertising. There was a big bonus involved: the promise that filmmaking could eventually become an industrial design process like any other, an art form money can buy.
[People with silly clothes, dancing to silly music. Ronald Reagon jokes about attacking the Soviets. Huge billboards. A TV ad. A car factory. The design department. A designer shaping a clay model.]
Voice over:
Consequently, Hollywood hired a couple of Brits to change the game. Tony, Ridley, Alan Parker, Adrian Lyne, Hugh Hudson and others came to freshen things up, much like the nouvelle vague did before them in Europe. And they made the promised splash with some of the biggest box office successes in history. But things got out of hand. And while Godard and company have been declared saints of cinema (a death certificate for the audience), the pros from UK became critical pariahs.
[An excerpt of Tony Scott as a cyclist in Ridley Scott’s short. The Louvre-scene form Bande à part. A Variety ad reading “150.000.000 and still flying high”. Excerpt of a De Mille bible epic. Tony Scott saying that he stopped reading reviews “a long, long time ago.”]
Voice over:
Advertising always lived on the remaining warmth of an emptied shell. Because no one in this world (not even Michael Bay) can believe in the “value” of a brand or honestly think that products can make us happy, the practice of making commercials produces a schizo-attitude not only towards image, but towards the world.
[A semi-automatic weapon. Empty shells in a hand. One minute shot of Michael Bay, no action. Slogans: Just do it. Be yourself. Man in crude science fiction film. Superimposition of the same man beside him. People shopping. Street traffic. Tony Scott speaks about “location flavor” referring to a scene set in Berlin, shot in Budapest.]
Voice over:
In order to stay sane, the filmmakers working in advertising developed a parallel strategy. They detached themselves from “content” or “story” and started to direct bits and pieces—and made them shine. And the more they shone, the further they drifted apart. The rise of the close-up, a rare exclamation mark in classic cinema, became symptom and expression of this new age.
[Excerpt of Harun Farocki’s Ein Bild (making of a Playboy centerfold) and Stilleben (on food photography). An animation showing the drifting continents. A close up of Greta Garbo in Queen Cristina. More street traffic.]
Voice over:
Coming to Hollywood, the big challenge the young guns were facing was the problem of consistency. How to glue things together when story is not any longer king? Pumping up the volume of pop music and sound design was part of the solution. But it was not enough to win over the audience.
[Fast forwarding The Last Boy Scout. Ten “old school” directors: Hawks, Ford, Lang, Walsh, etc. saying the same three words: “a good story.” Teenagers with a ghettoblaster and neighbors complaining.]
Voice over:
Ridley's answer was art direction, the pretension of classicism through papier-mâché columns—a strategy that worked best in a period (or sci-fi) setting. He used the shiny armor of set design to make audiences forget the inconsistency of his vision and to fend off the hollow feeling that “he has nothing to say” (David Puttnam).
[Children decorating a classroom. Set photos of “Alien” and “Legend”. A montage that shows the elaborate make up process. Gérard Depardieu eating, on the set of “1492”. David Puttnam, who rants about his compatriots.]
Voice over:
After thousands of commercials, Tony was eager to follow Ridley's path. But lacking his brother's highbrow camouflage he was never offered a decent screenplay. After the critical and commercial failure of his first feature and years of waiting he was given one last chance: Top Gun, a script that was not only generic and gang-ho, but also utterly boring—much like the SAAB commercial that inspired it.
[Ridley Scott being knighted by the Queen. Alan Parker being knighted by the Queen. The SAAB commercial. Jerry Bruckheimer. Don Simpson in Days of Thunder (the lost performance). The 1986 bombing of Libya. Recruitment numbers rising after Top Gun. More bombing.]
Voice over:
He reluctantly accepted and learned a lesson that changed Hollywood forever. Top Gun was so bad, it needed him, badly, and Tony understood that only a dead script is a good script because it needed a director as a re-animator of an undead cinema as his bride. High Voltage was his answer since…
[We see a re-animation. Image quality suddenly deteriorates. Frankenstein’s monster walking. Static.]
You follow a link that promises Part II. But first a commercial.
[A very old fashioned club that says “Mustache only.” An extremely beautiful blonde girl is denied access by some tight-lipped waiter who carries a tablet full of xxx brand beer. He says: “Mustache only.” She steals one beer, drinks. Because the beer is so incredibly fresh and tasty, she now has a foam mustache—and enters. (Maybe it’s a dark beer?). Pack shot of the beer. Claim.]
Part II starts. But somehow there is a gap. The tone has changed. It seems to be a different film.
[We see an excerpt of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed, the first scene that introduces McTeague. He finds a little bird and comforts him. A co-worker makes fun of him, hits the arm holding the bird. McTeague gets mad, throws the co-worker down the abyss. He barely survives. A title card says: "So was McTeague."]
Voice over:
Entrée scenes are part of an old vocabulary to establish a character.
[We see Shirley MacLaine’s first scene in James L. Brook’s Terms of Endearment.]
Voice over:
Like Stroheim in Greed, Shane Black’s script for The Last Boy Scout (Page 17) introduces Jimmy Dix’ character on an ambivalent note.
[We see the introduction scene of Jimmy Dix (Damon Wayans) in “The Last Boy Scout”]
Voice over:
Dix was part of some orgy by football players of the “L.A. Stallions.” He meditates above a sleeping beauty (we never see again), before walking to the pool front of the house where a mean football player (we never see again) seems to drown a girl because “she won’t blow.” Dix, a good man, asks the mean guy to stop because it’s “too early in the morning.” The mean guy underlines his meanness by commenting that Dix is expelled from the league and therefore should not tell him what to do. He continues to down the girl’s head. So Dix takes a football that is handy and throws it in the mean man’s face. The girl (we never see again, and barely see at all) can breathe again and Dix has reminded the world that he is a great athlete (“Best arm in the National League”).
In Scott’s film, despite the unspeakable “content,” it’s the colors that count. Forget about the character. He is paper anyway. How about a ballad of pink balloons? It’s not even kitsch. It’s not just “style over content,” it’s parallel worlds. Schizo-filmmaking. Remember Rivette’s Kapo-text? He was convinced that a director who reframes a dying prisoner is a scumbag. Watching The Last Boy Scout, the director reminds me of McTeague: with the bird in his hand he has no feeling for the co-worker falling down the abyss. A disproportion that is hidden best when pumping up a dead script…

5A. The Two Tonys (One of the Missing)
by Christopher Small
In the vast majority of auteurist writing on Tony Scott, his hefty, multi-faceted body of work is split misleadingly into three phases: the early “art films” (One of the Missing, Living Memory, L’auteur de Beltraffio, The Hunger), the proficient, sometimes boneheaded spectacle films (Top Gun through to Enemy of the State), and the later, more abstract films (Spy Game onwards). Around about the time of Enemy of the State Scott’s work underwent his famed aesthetic transformation; taking all of his preceding blockbusters and blowing them up into dense, super-edited mutant hailstorms of sound and colour. Today, a couple of months after his death, this approach in viewing the films as symptomatic of a larger trend in filmmaking can indeed be instructive, but too frequently suffocates the nuance in his work. The idolatry of the later films’ greatest achievements overlooks the boneheadedness of films like Déjà Vu and Domino and disparages the impressively well-crafted thrills of Crimson Tide or Enemy of the State.
My proposition is simply this: is Tony’s really an oeuvre divided? My feeling is that the films credited to “Tony Scott”—the unquestioned elder-god of the vulgar auteurists—and those “written and directed by Anthony Scott” reveal their similarities and differences in an interesting push-pull of conflicting visuals and thematics, but that in looking at the early films one sees that the most consistent line that can be drawn through all of this vast body of work is the obsessive impulse to complicate on a frame-by-frame basis: constantly “adding” in order to emphasise artifice and to fracture space and time, but simultaneously—through this very “mixing pot” style of shooting and editing—flattening broad gestures and grand designs into spectacular glass panoramas where the characters literally become their own psychologies. This applies to films as heterogeneous as True Romance, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, The Last Boy Scout, or Beverly Hills Cop II—or Top Gun for that matter, which as a movie I don’t think holds much water, but as a overblown, complex and vapid showreel for the U.S. Naval Air Force, with its stunning “Take My Breath Away” sequence, it never fails to bring home the bacon.
So as I watch his first film, a short adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s One of the Missing, I am reminded straight away of Man on Fire (the remake). Denzel Washington’s Creasy is a will-o-wisp flickering at the centre of an intense maelstrom. The soldier in One of the Missing finds his madness exploding outwards uncontrollably from his severed head. Slipping between nightmare and reality in a way that predicated (and surpasses) 127 Hours, the film as a whole—angular, disjointed and showy—is powerfully inward-moving and extremely puzzle-like. Man on Fire is a flurry of protean images, this film shares the same instability.
Scott’s roaming camera at first follows the soldier moving through the countryside, peeking out at him through cobwebs of thickety branches, observing his hunt for the enemy soldiers, but quickly moves into the space of his mind as a blistering canon blast buries him in the rubble of an already dilapidated building he was hiding in. The landscape of the film morphs radically. The soldier is pinned down, screaming, eyelashes flaked with dust, staring straight forward down the cold, dark barrel of his own rifle—only recently loaded—which is now poking out of the ruins in front of him.
Scott’s camera is maddening: he points it right into the soldier’s grit-caked face, zooming quickly in and out, stabbing, splicing. With eyes like the whites of eggs, and spittle gathering at his lips, the man becomes an alien figure—the sound of his wailing at this point is separate from the montage and is steadily blanketed by the same mechanised drone heard in Ray Gun Virus (Paul Sharits, 1966). A spider slowly crawls towards the tip of the gun, tenderly lowering itself into the darkness.
Perhaps it is just me who finds here an adolescent impression of that agonising scene towards the beginning of Man on Fire where Creasy points a gun at his temple, like the soldier willing himself to silence his agony. In both films it is the gun that fail to fire—the impotence of mechanism—but where Creasy sees it as act of divine providence channeled through the saintly young girl watching over him from her balcony, in One of the Missing the failure is a tiny flicker of mercy cruelly extinguished. On the night following Scott’s suicide, listening to the director’s commentary over this very scene in Man on Fire, a few ghostly words reached out from through the ether: “In my opinion the toughest thing anybody can do is to take their own life.”

6A. Men, Fire (Enemy of the State)
by Adam Cook
Enemy of the State: center(master)piece of Scott’s filmography, bridging the gap between two bifurcated halves of an oeuvre.
Scott has yet to depart the more conventional—still expressive—style of his earlier work, but technology begins to guide the narrative + aesthetics into the next stage of his cinema.
He anticipates the paranoia and national security anxiety that would heighten dramatically in post-9/11 America. Scott also anticipates his own post-9/11 cinema…
The opening credits, accompanied by Scott’s token stop/start musical score of orchestral rises and electro-rock crescendo bursts, a perfect distillation of late-Scott rapidity and abstraction.
Later: men, on fire, flee an explosion, alongside an (unstoppable) train.

7A. Explosions in the Sky (Domino)
by Boris Nelepo
Fire, explosions and flares always play their own choreographic role in Tony Scott’s films. A machine gun roars, belching fire, and Scott’s trademark editing obeys the winking of these gunfire flashes. In the breathtaking finale of Domino—perhaps the director’s most personal and definitely most fragile film—the characters go as high as possible: to the 106th floor of a Las Vegas tower, in pursuit of an explosion. As there they are greeted by the mafia: Welcome to the Top of the World.
Why go so high? Domino is devoted to the slightly naïve belief in the invisible hands of fortune, in the higher powers. The nature of this belief is superstitious rather than religious. Hence the playful refrain that the main character keeps repeating: “Heads, you live. Tails, you die”. She is, however, also visited by the mescaline god played by Tom Waits, who gives her direction. The higher powers keep sending Domino signs. She has known since she was a little girl—if the gold fish dies, there's nothing good worth waiting for.
Domino—the daughter of actor Laurence Harvey—is enchanted by cinema. The film keeps giving direct references to the visual art: The Manchurian Candidate, of course, Sunset Boulevard, Night of the Living Dead, the TV shows Alf and Beverly Hills, a hotel porn film (Deep Throat is also mentioned). And, finally, reality shows. In this film, Tony Scott takes a step away from post-9/11 cinema—which is embodied the most in Unstoppable. In the latter, family members are watching their loved ones’ heroic feats on TV, and they might witness their death on live air. In Domino, however, the father had died so long ago that his daughter’s personal memory is not that different from the collective memory—the screen image captured in The Manchurian Candidate, an eternal resident in the phantom lands of cinema. This is why Domino is rather more of a reflection about the essence of cinema then media. Not only the protagonist is obsessed by it, but also Scott himself—taking advantage of his legal right as the demiurge, he kills the characters more than once, right before our eyes, and brings them right back to life. We are so lulled by these resurrections that we can’t believe the finale with the long shootout is going to be so ruthless. After the make-belief deaths, almost everyone will really die. The harder they fall.
This is just how that final shootout starts—like it’s going to be just a fun, a game to light music, a dance. Alf, who had stolen money and sent it to his people for the liberation of Afghanistan, is holding a remote control bomb and his grip is weakening. His wounded friends are speeding down in the elevator. He is waiting for them to be far enough away so they’re not harmed when he finally blows up this tower. The bills and pieces of paper are flying around in a whirlwind, an image that is soon followed by a rhyme: when the money reaches its destination, it too ends up in the air, thrown around by children. This paradoxical shot, so typical for Tony Scott, bitterly demonstrates what most of the characters died for. Was there any sense in it? Well, for the beauty of the gesture.
Domino’s final words can now so paradoxically and tragically be applied to the director himself: “There is only one conclusion to every story… We all fall down”. Thank you for this lesson, Domino and Mr. Scott. In reply, I can just think of this quote from Psalm 145: “The Lord upholdeth all the fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down”, which gave the title to Samuel Beckett’s radio play. All That Fall.

8A. Ashes of Time (Man on Fire)
by C. Mason Wells
The dizzying shootout/kidnapping in Man on Fire comes a full 50 minutes into the 146-minute movie. Up until then, Tony Scott has offered little but extended set-up: depressed, alcoholic former CIA operative Creasy (Denzel Washington) heads to Mexico and takes a gig as bodyguard for a rich couple's young daughter Pita (Dakota Fanning). Creasy learns the ins and outs of Pita's daily schedule of piano lessons and swim practice over several scenes, which Scott methodically covers in unfussy, stylistically sober fashion, focusing on performance, character detail, and milieu. When Pita is snatched under Creasy's watch, the character and the film erupt: Creasy and the kidnappers exchange a hail of gunfire and Scott unleashes a full-fledged impressionist assault unlike anything previously seen in his filmography, or anything in contemporary action filmmaking since mid-90s Wong Kar-wai.
“What I tried to do was get inside Denzel's mind,” Scott noted of the sequence; this quest for subjective rush led him to use a 1910 hand-cranked camera (varying the speed from six to 100-frames-per-second), reversal film stock, and a cross-processing technique on the celluloid. The camerawork becomes jumpier, the cuts come faster, washed-out color photography snaps to black-and-white and back again, and the effect smears everything into a continuous blur. "I think it feels like part documentary—part grabbed real footage—and part opera," Scott said, and his attempt to combine gritty realism with florid high-drama sets the template for the remainder of this “movie of extremes”—and its director’s career.
The techniques Scott experiments with here come into fruition in his subsequent features (Domino, Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Unstoppable), as well as the underseen commercial shorts he made in between ("Agent Orange" and "Beat the Devil"). Each one is a fury and flurry of freeze frames, camera swoops, step-printing, double-exposure, triple-exposure, quadruple-exposure, jump cuts, smash cuts, cuts, cuts, cuts. Many critics have derided the orgiastic late Scott house style as "excessive," "spastic," or "histrionic," and while it's certainly not subtle (especially his affection for flashes of onscreen text, sometimes subtitling perfectly audible lines of English dialogue), it's undeniably his, a fully realized decoupage aesthetic that deconstructs dramatic beats into tangible sensory details.
Maybe Scott was seen as a threat to staid convention; directors who don't hold a shot longer than two seconds are viewed with immediate suspicion, but those who hold a shot longer than two minutes are instantly taken seriously. The irony, of course, is that under the sheen of his radical pyrotechnics, Scott was something of a classicist. Man on Fire's shootout scene preserves action cinema's most treasured virtue: visual coherence. He stages the scene with Creasy at one end of a town square and Pita at the other, separated by a distance of roughly 300 feet with the kidnappers and their cars right in the middle. Even amid all the visual noise of the scene, the audience is never left in doubt about spatial dynamics. Scott worked with classic plots, too—Man on Fire is built on on pure hoary hokum, ham-fisted and time-tested: a grizzled old pro strikes up an Unlikely Friendship with a precocious kid; the angelic young girl is placed in peril; the wounded man flies off on a rampage of revenge. As with our best B-moviemakers, it's Scott's sui generis style that (energetically, triumphantly) elevates the cliches.
While Man on Fire is certainly the most problematic of Scott's late pictures (it gleefully asks the audience to root for the grisly deaths of its one-dimensional bad guys), it still marks an important chapter in his evolution. Starting with Domino, Scott would push this cubist approach to greater and more productive ends—splintering his scenes, flying more freely across time and space, collapsing the narrative exposition directly into the action. He proved himself one of the few Hollywood directors willing to grapple with a world so overloaded with information and anxieties; viewers were left to breathlessly catch up—and we’re still trying.
9A. I Was Born, But... (True Romance)
by Joe McCulloch
The first time I saw True Romance, I couldn’t see a thing.
I had a window in my bedroom that looked out into the kitchen, and had anybody stopped in for a snack, there at one in the morning, they’d have seen the back fifth of the room bathed in a pulsing pus-green/electro-purple glow, like it was The Hunger all over again and Tony Scott had broken out the gels. All of the colors of the entrails of cable were on my television as I watched pay movies scrambled, solarized ghost images looping and looping—it was how I saw the adult movies, and TV Guide had assured me this one had sex.
Clarence Worley & Alabama Whitman fuck within the first 15 minutes of the film; regardless of the achronological structure of the original screenplay, I associate this occasion with Quentin Tarantino, the writer, whose Pulp Fiction my junior high friends and I would subsequently rent and find unconscionably boring: a sad, stalled cinema from a man in love with his dialogue. Movies should move, and crackle, and cut, and roar, we would say—paying no mind, it must be said, to the value of visual quality. Pretty pictures were shallow things; we preferred the substance of performance—guys kicking other guys; performance—and the adroit conveyance of script information in a brisk, non-intrusive manner.
All was academic in my bedroom; I heard Tarantino’s words, and, because editing can betray itself by audio only, I was content to invent my own decoration to surround the voice of Patricia Arquette, as I pondered what her face was like and squinted after her breasts.
The sex, however—viewed soberly—functions as a capstone to the sequence directly preceding, wherein Clarence shows Alabama around a comic book store. It is operatic. The dramaturgy isolates the couple at first, with Alabama seen from high above, bathed in darkness before a flood of light comes, beckoning her to pace the stage, left and right, in wonder. What a swell place to work. Clarence, in contrast, is shown in tighter quarters, associated with soaking blue pierced with red. Basic mise-en-scène: the character with whom we are made to identify is set close to us, while the digressive longshot of the character he desires becomes functionally ‘his’ sight, so that we enter him, viewing a Patricia Arquette lit into being. It is a descriptive poetry, this of Tony Scott’s.
But while Clarence is the one to physically descend to meet the woman, we know it is Alabama who has truly approached him. The two become surrounded by electric radiance—blue. The zones of Clarence’s desire, early on in the film, are always sites of illumination; rebuffed by a woman in a warmer-lit bar, he proceeds to the movie house (where he really wanted to go), desaturated and given a flickering glow by the cutting beam of a projector. The cinema is undoubtedly the heart of the matter, and Alabama must literally enter this place of love between a man and his movies from a paler Detroit exterior, nearly black and white, and lacking in sheen. This is the start of their romance. She is hot, dressed in blazing red, and draws the eye constantly while they eat pie under light filtered through window blinds, but this natural stuff cannot compare to the popping primary colors—blue, red—surrounding comics: another private passion for Clarence, one that he aches to share.
When we think of True Romance, we think of the young Tarantino, and this early work speaks plainly of his pop culture interests and his unvarnished fantasies of escape. I’ve heard the whole film attributed to him too many times to count. Yet Scott both understands his writer’s aims—communicating them softly through hue and stagecraft—and necessarily deviates. The original screenplay devotes several exchanges to Clarence’s favorite comic books, which Scott and his editors collapse into a rush of information. “You wanna see what Spider-Man number one looks like?” “You bet.” Suddenly we see interior pages from a totally different comic, and when we cut back to Clarence he’s describing a love story about “Nick” and the ring he got for his sweetheart that he wears on a chain, that he dives overboard to retrieve when a Nazi bastard tears it off, and the camera closes in on Alabama’s eyes while she listens, and then they are kissing, kissing before a field of blinding solid blue.
In his screenplay, Tarantino has Clarence elaborate on the story of “Nick” - it’s an issue of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, boasting Clarence’s all-time favorite cover, the artist of which was Jack Kirby, a hard-bitten Depression boy who rolled with street gangs and served in WWII, where he worked reconnaissance in Europe and nearly lost his legs to frostbite. A frenetic, booming stylist, he would define the cadence of American action comics.
Among my favorite Jack Kirby comics are the ten issue of his continuation of 2001: A Space Odyssey. They’re completely worthless. But that’s one of the cool things about them, they’re so cheap. The best issue is #7, published in June of 1977.
From the Stanley Kubrick motion picture, Kirby drew special attention to the image of the starchild, which he dubbed the New Seed. There are many such evolved beings, zooming throughout the universe as little living stars, always observing.
A planet is consumed by war. It is a contaminated hell of a military-industrial sort, weathered down into fields of rock and iron. Two people are in love.
There are grenades and guns and all the other things Kubrick forgot, though Kirby, nine years after the film’s premiere, remembered the idea of evolution, and recalled, I will guess, his service in the conflagration of the ‘40s. It is like a Sgt. Fury of biblical scope. The lovers are shot dead.
Quentin Tarantino was reportedly upset when Tony Scott saved the lovers in True Romance. His screenplay had prescribed death for Clarence, in keeping with the ethos of his media idols. Elvis Presley, yes, but Sgt. Nick Fury didn’t close that issue out reunited with a surviving sweetheart either. Still, Scott insisted. “I just fell in love with these two characters,” he told Maxim in 2008, “and didn’t want to see them die.”
Tarantino eventually concurred, to the extent that the ending of the Tony Scott film of his script was fitting to Scott’s directorial approach. This sort of thinking would have been alien to me on my first viewing, when I worked up a reckless adaptation based on voices and music. Scott didn’t write the screenplays for any of his features after Loving Memory, his 1971 debut, and thereby might fall into the category of director-as-adaptor; even the staunch auteurist can approach this formulation when the writer is as total a presence as Tarantino, whom I have since warmed up to a great deal.
Yet I don’t associate Tarantino’s cinema with sensuality; I find him cerebral in his mixing and matching of movie samples, though his love is surely real. Scott you can call a cubist, but lashed to the temporality of sequential cinema images, the effect is inescapable visceral and experiential—in feeling, one might say, it is a logical extrapolation of the roaring jets of Top Gun and the zooming cars of Days of Thunder. And Scott feels Tarantino too, coaxing out the subconscious preoccupations of his Clarence, his alter ego, into a motif that builds with the anticipation of eros, boiling over the rim of loneliness: so blue.
The pair would next collaborate on Scott’s subsequent film, the considerably more box office-friendly Crimson Tide. Tarantino supplied uncredited dialogue work, the most popular assumed example of which is a scene where Denzel Washington dresses down a Petty Officer for getting into an argument over whether the one true Silver Surfer was drawn by Jean “Mœbius” Giraud or Jack Kirby. Everybody knows it’s Kirby, Washington cracks, Tarantino smiling, perhaps, knowing that Scott will direct him to say just that.
When they have finished making love, Alabama climbs out the window and Clarence follows, and she tells him about lies, the two lit harshly and fully on a precarious ledge high above a city. Tony Scott was a rock climber. This is an honest place.

10A. The Whirled View (Unstoppable)
by Phil Coldiron
“Of all the directors I’ve worked with, Tony, he’s the one I enjoyed the most, because working with him, you know that he’ll see everything, so everything can be so much more free, there’s no need to worry about the camera.”
—Edgar Ramirez
I’d like for you to do something for me, it’s just a little exercise in something like organic cinema: close your eyes as tight as you can and look at the colors. That’s all. This might be easier if you find a light and stare at it for a few seconds first, though even if you happen to have a perfectly dark room available and choose to try it in there, you’ll still see some color (it’s called eigengrau—“intrinsic gray”— because naturally the Germans have a name for this).
I ask you to partake in this little experiment in service of making the possibly sad, and certainly lonely, point that the purest vision we’ll ever have as humans with more or less base-level optic and neural activity is something which is forever only our own, i.e., it’s impossible to share in this sort of looking—freed from all those narratives that trail away from every object we lay our eyes on—with a group, because the second your eyes open and you leave the loop that leads from lids through ocular alleys to brain and back, it’s kaput. You could grab some friends and all sit around together, eyes closed, confirming the fact that you can see without looking at anything outside yourself, but still, the fundamental quality here is solitude.
The filmmaker who’s gone furthest in attempting to overcome this fact is Stan Brakhage, and the furthest he’s gone is, as far as I can tell, his Arabic Numeral Series, a numbered cycle of 19 (or 20, depending on how you feel about the nominal hiccup of “0+10” being presented as such) films consisting of flashes of light, generally in the range of oranges and yellows that you might recognize if you tried the little experiment requested above floating in the blackest black. Working with absolutely no evidence as to the reason of their exclusion, I’ll just say it’s fitting that these films weren’t included in either of Criterion’s stunningly great Brakhage sets, because more than any issue of texture or movement, they depend on being viewed by a group of people in a dark room, a spatial and social context that allows them to do the pedagogical work of bringing people together in a shared vision. They’re basically a 3-hour lesson in how to look at the world at degree zero, a point of departure for a whole range of further explorations including the rest of Brakhage’s work, and, I’d argue, the films of Tony Scott (or at least those from the last decade of his career).
The thing about Tony Scott’s films is that they’re never very big. They’re the films of a man looking at the world and realizing that what’s already there—trains, and trains, and terrorist attacks, and kidnappings, and love, and friendship, and work—is enormous and fascinating and probably unknowable (and doesn’t need robots, Biblical-scale CG catastrophes, etc.) and deciding that he’s going to do everything he can to outflank it, moving constantly to try to get around those ends out there in the space of infinity and see it all. This, naturally, takes a lot of cameras. And so of course a lot of reactionary critics—the sort of guys who think that John Ford editing in camera is what made his films great—decided that this coverage-heavy approach meant Tony Scott was a hack with no vision, an editing room cobbler slapping together whatever vague semblance of coherence he could from all those zooms and pans and tracks.
Plenty’s been made of Tony Scott’s background as painter, a personal history that makes it both tempting and justifiable to throw around words like impressionism and expressionism, and as much as there’s a place for both of these (and many others) in any consideration of his work, both point toward something more settled than Scott’s films, which are, as much as anything, documents of the process of struggling to look at the world. The semi-circle tracking shot is Tony’s great metaphor for this perpetual incompleteness, a movement describing a space at the same time as it reminds us that there’s something lacking, the view from the other half that, for whatever reason, we can’t quite see right now.
This lack, the acknowledgement of the fullness of the world beyond what’s being shown, is what Serge Daney found to be the defining trait of “the image,” a concept he played off against “the visual,” all those processes by which whoever’s in power in a certain situation confirms their position by presenting it as if there could be nothing beyond it. (Daney discusses this in the context of the media’s presentation of the first war in Iraq.) The visual, for Daney, is “closed, looped, a little like the image of pornographic spectacle, which is only the ecstatic verification of the working of organs (and nothing more).” In its way, the visual is a pure vision in the same way that those lights dancing on your eyelids were, only they’re what the world of international corporate capital sees when it closes its eyes. The American mainstream media is something close to the perfect manifestation of this, insofar as every story is presented as ending exactly at the point where its being reported does.
Tony Scott’s final film, Unstoppable, a very simple story about two regular guys attempting to stop a runaway train, complicates itself in some fascinating ways, none more so than in its consistent use of mock news broadcasts (naturally tagged with a Fox logo) as running commentary on the action. Though they’re identified by all the graphics associated with contemporary news coverage and the interlace bars of filmed television, these images are still presented at the same ‘Scope ratio as the rest of Unstoppable, and fit seamlessly into the 30-minute montage that comprises most of its final third and moves restlessly and constantly from train cabin to control room to living room to exterior action to news coverage. On its original release these news inserts were the frequent subject of derision, the most damning evidence of the laziness of Unstoppable’s blatant and abhorrent conventionality (i.e., “here is a man telling you why this part of the story matters”), when in fact, at a modestly presented, though very, very smart, conceptual level, they’re the film’s heart. The train, the oldest and grandest of all the metaphors for cinema, becomes the image, the mobile, incomplete site around which all these gazes converge—two men looking out from inside, loved ones and bosses and all of America looking from outside—and the speed with which Tony Scott moves amongst all of these ways of looking brings them all into not quite conversation, but a sort of overlap approaching glossolalia, where even the news is restored as a space for images. Any single claim to presenting the whole world is shattered open by the dizzy force of so many eyes looking in so many ways at all those simple things behind it that can’t be flattened out. This, then, is Tony Scott’s great popular project.

Tony Scott: A Moving Target—Movement B

Part of the Tony Scott: A Moving Target critical project. Go here for the project's description, index and links to project's other movement.
To the overabundance of text, sounds, images—and moving images—in Tony Scott, we reply with something like our own. So let me (try to) keep this (almost as) short as a Tony Scott shot. Scott’s death this past summer would elicit film critics’ own counterpart to American politics:  opinions and generalizations bandied between two camps who were, as always, preaching to their respective choirs. And needless to say, such discourses would be about as useful, informative, and interesting as American politics. For Scott’s work was hardly encamped: the outward liberalism of Enemy of the State, perhaps Hollywood’s most overt attack on our surveillance nation and the NSA, possible only before 9/11, concludes that only NSA aspirants can take down the NSA, just as Man on Fire, Scott’s outwardly conservative Big Heat for the Bush Era, concludes that only mob aspirants can take down mob motherfuckers. Repeatedly in Scott the mob will undo the mob, the hero will become the villain, the villain the hero—if one is to doff the high hat of morality. For all Scott’s formal flourishes, his characters are functionaries of their own ethos, and Scott’s decadent direction is nothing if not economical: by Domino, each gesture of the characters has become an almost extra-diegetic symbol and sign of their personality to accompany their speeches on the soundtrack. To all the shitty symbolism of post-9/11 Hollywood, women with their backs turned on the beach as objects of desires, whether in Malick or Nolan, Scott finds a symbolism that seems to spring from the actors’ hamming it out, often quite violently, in the scene. 
So in Scott, we see every moment not only symbolizing a character or creed, but offering alternate variations off the last and finally undermining it as mere speculation, eating itself out: as Otie Wheeler’s video attests, one favorite late Scott technique is the repeated line, the official text recut by Scott into multiple recitations as different possibilities of a line-reading. Alternate histories. This project, with its schizophrenic perspectives and persistent amnesia, is my own attempt to start a new conversation about Scott’s work that might impersonate at the same time. The conversation, or connections and battling perspectives between the various pieces, is of course dependent on the critics themselves and their take not only on the assignment, but also, as is evident, on the actual work of Tony Scott. 
And with that, I’ll leave the sorting, organizing, and meaning giving to you all because that, hopefully, is the fun part.
 —Gina Telaroli

The contributions in Movement B are presented here as a continuum. To view the contributions as individual articles, see the links provided in the project's main index.
Movement B
  1. Crimson Tide by Ryland Walker Knight
  2. Enemy of the State by Ben Simington
  3. Domino by Robert Koehler
  4. Déjà Vu by Steven Shaviro
  5. Man on Fire by Christoph Huber
  6. TonyScottDeathSong (Spy Game) by Uncas Blythe
  7. Another Green World (Unstoppable) by Kurt Walker
  8. With Each Touch, I Risk My Life (Domino) by Otie Wheeler
  9. Standard Op (Enemy of the State) by David Phelps
  10. Sp(eye) Gam3z (Spy Game) by Gina Telaroli

1B. Crimson Tideby Ryland Walker Knight
Here we have a relatively simple scene from what I would argue is the pivotal Tony Scott movie, Crimson Tide (1995), in large part because it is, I might also argue, a relatively simple movie. In fact, when it came out, one of my dad's girlfriends liked to joke about how it's "the one with the two macho guys who just yell, 'I want to push the button!' and 'You don't get to push the button!' at each other for 90 minutes." That's putting it just a little too simple for my tastes, but, you get the point: the stakes are huge but the action is confined to talking (in a sealed set full of screens/monitors, I might add, but that's a topic for another entry in our project I hope) and a little horsing around with guns. Sure, there's an enemy sub that fires on our heroes, but that's just to keep you interested in what's really at stake: a negotiation of trust as the, excuse me, water mark for civilization.
So to kick this thing off, I chose the conversation that starts that negotiation in earnest. Denzel Washington plays "XO" Hunter, whom Gene Hackman's Captain Ramsey has previously interviewed from an unquestioned position of power. This is the first scene where they are presented on the same field of play (literally). This is the moment before the dive, before the film descends into its mechanics.
Hunter and Ramsey—I so desperately want to say Washington and Hackman—are standing on the sail, or "conning tower" per Wikipedia, admiring the view. Ramsey has offered Hunter a cigar, and says this moment, before the dive, is his favorite part of the journey, that he doesn't trust air he can't see. Already we have our first conflict ahead: the captain of the submarine doesn't like confined spaces, and he smokes. A cheap Hollywood joke, perhaps, but fitting for the structure of the dispute ahead for these two characters/men, and terrifically American, which is to say inherently hypocritical. In any case, they enjoy the moment. There is a sunset. Ramsey appreciates that Hunter allows a silence, then he lays out his rules for what will determine and no doubt motivate the central contradiction of perspectives that the film plays out. Ramsey tells Hunter he "can't stand save asses and won't abide kiss asses." This line is delivered over a shot of Hunter, thinking, letting those words register on him, as they apply to him. Anybody who has seen the movie knows that he does not look to kiss Ramsey's ass, though he does look to save the ass of the world.
Again, it's a simple scene, and by a lot of standards there is far too much coverage. There are over twenty edits inside two minutes, but each serves rhythm and performance. Amidst all the talk of his gifts for making images (and this sequence is really kind of beautiful to behold, especially with the windshield in front of our leads reflecting the swell of the ocean), Tony Scott rarely gets enough credit for the performances in his films. This scene has a lot of tones, going from magisterial to intimate and then to tactical before some levity and back to the grandeur of military process as the ship dives. Some might say it's the writing that's great, that the coverage dictates a fussy kind of editing, but the back and forth between the leads strikes me as quintessential Hollywood storytelling. The staging of the scene, how the films knows when to separate these characters, is a prime example of what makes movies a perfect medium for undertaking a conversation such as this movie provides. We might even boil down the tin drum melodrama that follows like so: it's not with guns or nukes or buttons, but with words that determine the ethical answer to any given conflict. Tony Scott movies put you in the mix of things as a consequence of the characters being in the midst of chaos and the thrill is our privileged remove to see how they react.

2B. Enemy of the Stateby Ben Simington
Righteous-subordination-as-genuine-patriotism is the theme of Scott's Enemy of the State, a theme that's transferred over from his earlier effort Crimson Tide. Between the two projects, there is also a noteworthy role reversal: Hackman exchanges the mantle of Captain Ramsey’s blindly nationalistic aggressor for that of the justifiably paranoid super-hacker, Brill. Brill has been targeted Public Enemy No. 1 due to his cyber-civil-disobedience against the proposed “Telecommunications Security and Privacy Act,” a kind of prescient, long way of saying The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act (which it turns out is actually a short way of saying: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. Yeah, right, thanks guys). Will Smith as the ambivalently apolitical attorney Robert Clayton Dean finds himself forced to choose a side after unwittingly coming into possession of key evidence that could expose the corruption inherent in The Act, and Brill begrudgingly accepts responsibility to protect the naïve Dean while giving him an explosive crash-course in conspiracy “theory”...and practice. All of this sound and fury doubles as a moral lesson about the weight of witness during our satellite age wherein the fine line between voyeurism and privacy is rapidly narrowing, thus placing Enemy of the State amidst the admirable company of other technologically-minded “Cinema of Surveillance” classics (most notably The Conversation, but also Rear Window, The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse, Blow Up, Blow Out, Minority Report, Maps.Google.Com).
In the scene I've selected, Brill and Dean have just hijacked an untraceable car to finally evade their attackers after almost forty screen-time minutes of uninterrupted pursuit. They have also come to accept that they will both need each other’s cooperation if they stand any chance to survive. This thirty second scene has only five shots, all of which follow a simple shot / reverse shot structure while the pair breathes a shared sigh of relief while driving through a protective tunnel. Per the previous example, the simplicity of the editing showcases the performances: in this case, a decrescendo of exhausted relief after narrow escape. It visually compliments the increasingly even-keeled repartee between a reluctant odd-couple who have accepted their fates as unlikely action sidekicks, and it confirms their now-earned trust in one another.
What sets the five shots in this scene apart from a totally traditional framing and editing scheme is the lovely foreground reflection of passing freeway fluorescents that rhythmically pulses across the lower half of both camera set-ups. Positioned closely enough in each respective image to provide the cumulative impression of a single continuous frequency unifying the entire sequence, the reflection plays out kind of like an EKG reading and/or kind of how I would imagine a Barnett Newman zip to traverse its frame if it were animated. It makes this respite purr with lulling electricity otherwise absent from the original scripted material. Scott doesn’t prioritize an unobstructed view of the film’s current subjects but rather introduces a surprising, sustained graphic element laminated atop the surface of an otherwise straightforward scene. It declares its aesthetic significance equal to that of character and plot, and it provides a beautiful visual summation of the film’s high concept that no exchange of information goes unmitigated by some kind of outside factor.
In 1998's Enemy of the State, dialogue between two characters unfolds across an unassuming shot structure, yet the addition of a simple though salient aesthetic flourish becomes illustrative of the visual energy Tony Scott injected into his images.

3B. Dominoby Robert Koehler
One of Tony Scott’s signature techniques for layering otherwise conventional shots and framing with aesthetic accents that can serve as metaphors for larger ideas is echoed in his use of moving image material imbedded in the movies themselves. He constructs his extraordinary thriller, Domino, as a feverish memory scape in which past and present overlaps, reverses, erases and recalls. Domino Harvey, the daughter of the great actor Laurence Harvey, has defined her life as a kind of antipodal existence to her father, leading her to the dubious and ultraviolent profession of bounty hunter. In a radical gesture because it lands on the screen so early in the playing time and before the viewer can fathom what’s actually happening, Scott places Domino with her crew in a trailer in a remote patch of the Mojave desert where a pile of stolen money has been stashed. But once again, a conventional action movie situation is exploded by Scott’s interest in visual surprise: What should attract Domino’s eyes during a tense standoff in the trailer but the flickering image on a TV screen of her father as The Manchurian Candidate?
This is strange on several levels at once. Actor Keira Knightley, in performance as Domino Harvey, is watching actor Laurence Harvey, not only in performance but also in a double performance with his character split between his normal self and a “triggered” agent of the Chinese government. Domino herself may be viewed as a double character, both her self as Laurence’s daughter (which this moment precisely posits) and as her invented self as an anti-daughter and a kickass bounty hunter. This doubling isn’t merely abstract in Scott’s view, but actually registers with Domino as she finds herself, for this moment, in the same place as the viewer of Domino the movie—as an audience to moving images, recognizing in the images of her father a parallel to her own existence and also as a memory trigger, a surreal alternative to the standard family photo album. The fact that a meth-head stashing wads of cash in her Mojave trailer would actually be tuning into The Manchurian Candidate on her TV, and the fact that it would be airing at just the time that Domino and her crew arrive on the scene, are equally strange. Beyond the radically multi-dimensional play of images, identity and feelings that are perhaps the paramount stylistic signature of Scott’s cinema, the moment’s radical essence lies in Scott not questioning the cumulative strangeness swirling through the scene, but taking it all in stride and expecting the audience to follow suit.
Scott is fascinated with his characters encountering and responding to the moving image and how the image serves as a mirror, as a Manchurian-like memory trigger or as a way of joining up with the audience watching them as if they’re aware of being watched (see True Romance for an especially baroque example, or Déjà Vu for a supremely ecstatic example). In this moment of Domino watching her father, this fascination intersects with two of the movie’s obsessions—the uses and abuses of television, and the image of Jesus as a powerful icon associated with both chance and destiny. This is actually the only time in the movie when the TV is conventionally used as a TV: In other scenes, TV is used as a literal weapon, as a target of abuse or as a highly corrupt business in which Domino and Co. are hired for a reality show covering them on their adventures. Of all of the many scenes Scott could have selected from John Frankenheimer’s thriller featuring Harvey, he selects the moment when his character blindly walks into a pool of water, conjuring the notion of Jesus (whose image is sometimes maniacally repeated throughout Domino) walking on water, suggesting the father as a failed Jesus figure in the eyes of the loving but disappointed daughter, as if Domino Harvey herself is the director of the images she watches from The Manchurian Candidate. Even as the daughter is pausing to be a TV spectator before the moment when she may face death, she watches her father plunge into water, not baptized but nearly drowned and shamed, an image both projected onto the daughter’s eyes and also a projection of the daughter herself, a multiple reflection of consciousness that anticipates Scott’s even more complex play in similar visual material in Déjà Vu.

4B. Déjà Vuby Steven Shaviro
Tony Scott always likes to combine the old with the new. He is fascinated by the latest digital and electronic technologies, which he both uses to make his films, and also depicts within them. But he is equally fascinated by older technologies, like the trains that stand at the center of his last two films, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable. These older technologies still persist alongside the newer ones, just as blockbuster movies, such as the ones he made, still persist in the world of video games and YouTube remixes. Even in our cyber-era, people still ride trains; and even with the shift to a virtual, computer-based service economy, people still have to physically drive, maintain, and manage those trains.
Scott's predilection for combining new media and new devices with older ones is evident both in the content of his films, and in their form. Especially in his late (post-2000) films, Scott makes use of digital image-and sound-processing programs; but he also retrieves and repurposes antiquated technologies (like the hand-cranked cameras used to delirious effect in Domino). A similar combination animates his treatment of narrative and character. On the one hand, Scott is a pioneer in developing post-cinematic modes of spectacle; he pushes the boundaries of genre filmmaking by scrambling his plots, by transforming and multiplying media forms, by using these media forms self-reflexively, and by developing an aggressively blatant "cinema of attractions." Stylistic manipulations of images and sounds are foregrounded, and seem to be indulged in for their own sakes. At the same time, however, these films continue to utilize all the traditional cinematic mechanisms of narrative progression, and of audience identification with characters. No matter how outlandish and exuberant his audiovisual inventions, Scott nonetheless manages to ground these in the (sometimes deranged) psychosocial experiences of his protagonists: Keira Knightley in Domino, and Denzel Washington in the other four late films.
Consider the scene, a bit more than a half hour into Déjà Vu, where Denzel Washington's character is first introduced to the top-secret viewing device that is able to peer exactly four days and six hours into the past. This technology is presented in a manner that is futuristic, but not excessively so. In fact, every aspect of the viewer is recognizable to us, because it shares the look and feel of high-tech, but actually existing devices: video surveillance and digital image processing equipment, plus something that looks sort of like a centrifuge (this latter is used to send artifacts, and eventually Denzel himself, back in time). The presentation of images and sounds through these devices is entirely post-cinematic. On the device's enormous video screen we see digital pans and zooms through simulated image maps, as one or another target is calibrated and acquired. It is only at the end of this process that the video image on the screen becomes conventionally "cinematic" in terms of lighting and camera location. And even then the image on the device's screen is framed by other screens filled with data, as Denzel and the scientists watch it from behind control panels.
At the same time that its look and feel remains entirely contemporary, this technology is entirely science-fictional, in that it gives us a "real-time" one-way link to the past. Paula Patton's character is dead in the "present" of the film, but she is still alive in the past moment that we, along with Denzel. are able to view. And this is crucial. The film insists, both in its dialogue and with the force of its presentation, that the past moment accessed through the viewer is just as "real," and indeed just as "present," as is the present-time action of the movie. The technological mediation of the viewing device, within the film, doesn't impede presence, desire, and identification any more than does the more traditional cinematic technological mediation through which we watch the film as a whole.
And so, as we watch extraordinarily fractured images, with a close-up on Denzel juxtaposed against the much larger close-up of Patton on the video screen, we get an exchange of identifications: we stare raptured at Denzel, who stares raptured at Patton, who glances around confused with the vague awareness that she is somehow the object of somebody's gaze. And it's here that Scott relies on one of the oldest cinematic mechanisms of all: that of an audience emoting-with the object of their gaze. Indeed, no director has ever brought out Denzel's star quality as Scott did in their five films together. The scene insistently calls attention to its numerous, and obstructive, mediations; and yet it all turns on the ways that Denzel—through the close-ups on his face—manifests confusion, anger, wistfulness, defensive humor, and finally a kind of transcendental yearning -- as he views Patton's figure through a strange, ambivalent intimacy-over-distance reminiscent, perhaps, of certain privileged moments in Hitchcock.
In short, Tony Scott embraces both the old and the new, when he routes traditional cinematic subjectivity through the fragmenting and alienating pressures of the most advanced technologies. He manages, miraculously, to have it both ways: to make a film that expresses both the cybernetic future into which we are rushing, and the now-receded modernist heroism of an earlier era; and to make a film that experiments with the best of the avant-garde, while remaining committed to mainstream action-movie values.

5B. Man on Fire
by Christoph Huber
When I started to get really interested in Tony Scott in the 90s, a friend of mine and I used to joke fondly about his signature text inserts of time and place (like “Occuquan Park, Maryland 0645 hrs.” over the very first image of Enemy of the State). Only after Scott fully entered his late, astonishing action painter phase starting with Man on Fire in 2004, did I realize we had instinctively hit on a key element of his work: Having studied art with the intention to become a painter before he ended up as a filmmaker, Scott had in some ways never completely abandoned his original plan—the most evident example being his animation of the Scott Free Productions logo. A similar interest drives his use of fonts and their effect within the design of the image, which also reached a new level in Man on Fire, for instance in his use of subtitles and their placement within the frame. He would even outdo himself (and challenge Godard) in the subsequent great-whatzit-“biopic” Domino not just regarding his use of manic text; but in many ways Man on Fire remains unsurpassed as his most impressive directorial achievement, even as it is not necessarily his best film.
Still, it inaugurated the most fascinating period of Scott's career with a bang—or rather, multiple bangs. In many ways, Man on Fire is the most delirious expression of Scott's curious blend of avant-garde abstraction, manifesting itself through somewhat experimental, often frenzied montage, but even more strikingly in painterly ways—not least all kinds of image manipulation—and traditional action film virtues, being able to create a highly propulsive drive and comprehensible story and character arcs out of elements that are not necessarily so: wildly impressionistic, at times unreadable images, split-second inserts that defy their place in the narrative (or at least, the viewer's mental map of it) or highly modernist effects that call attention to themselves, yet somehow never fully rupture audience identification. Scott had a unique key that enabled him to trangressively shatter the doors of perception, all the while giving the impression he merely opened them.
Man on Fire is full of such stunning sequences, not least the one some 25 minutes in, in which alcoholic protagonist John W. Creasy (Scott's axiomatic actor Denzel Washington), hired as a bodyguard for rich parent's nine-year-old kid (Lu)Pita (Dakota Fanning) in a hellish Mexico City, submits to one of his Jack Daniels-fueled nightmare binges, rotating camera, image flashes, sudden bursts of black-and-white and all, culminating in a suicide attempt he only survives because “a bullet always tells the truth.” Initially set to Linda Ronstadt's “Blue Bayou” (in a previous scene, he picked up a Ronstadt CD at a street dealer), the scene proceeds through different soundtracks, Creasy's deranged state of mind made palpable via voice-over flashbacks, but especially various intrusions of electronic music, going from eerie distortion effects to big-beat-ballistics, before settling on Claude Debussy's “Claire de Lune”—which continues playing, uninterrupted, over the next scene, despite a slight, but unmistakable advance in time and a change in place, exemplifying how the whole film (and subsequent Scott masterpieces) seems born out of its main character's state of mind. Moving on through a handful of other, completely different setpieces, the whole movement nevertheless takes over eight minutes, when a reprise of “Blue Bayou” in different, yet crucially related context closes the brackets. Man on Fire repeatedly unhinges its narrative in similar ways, but never goes off track—yet all its remarkable feats somehow pale in comparison to its opening sequence, which is a narrative unto itself that nevertheless manages to mirror, and thus encapsulate the entire subsequent story (and masterfully announces the singular breakthrough in technique this film represents in Scott's).
Opening with city views of Mexico City, shots of happy, ostensibly wealthy people strolling in the street and a car approaching in traffic, interspersed with various credits and making nearly full use of the arsenal of ferocious filmic and painterly effects applied later throughout the film—including staggering combinations of sped-up and slowed-down motion, blurred movements and freeze frames, repeated light dropouts, strange superimpositions suggesting loss of consciousness and sudden changes to black-and-white—after about one-and-a-half minutes a text insert sets up the plot:”There is one kidnapping every 60 minutes in Latin America.”, reads the first line, with one word appearing after another, before the second (punch)line comes in all at once: “70% of the victims do not survive.” The next two-and-a-half minutes finish recounting one such kidnapping as a high-octane-haze through which the images almost assault the viewer, even as they can be only partially processed (plus, the credits continue as a further distraction). The full impact only becomes clear upon reviewing after the film: not only is the modus operandi of the kidnappers the same as later with Pita (in which the ransom instructions via phone are, in another typical gambit, intercut with their execution, plus some entirely different scenes!), key sentences are uttered and the viewers actually glimpse some of the major players of “La hermandad”, the syndicate of gangsters and corrupt cops responsible for the crimes (and afforded, upon first mention, its own big caption in the image, the only one graced by quotation marks), like some kind of spoiler flashing by too quickly to understand.We have seen, but we are blind.
In a masterstroke, this jaw-dropping credit sequence is capped by the image of the kidnapping victim set free, tied and blindfolded, with huge stains blood from his cut-off ear, on the middle of a rush-hour motorway, his cries for help buried under roaring traffic passing by, all drivers studiously ignoring this shocking sight. Cut in closer, to a grainy freeze frame, as the last credit approaches: “Directed by Tony Scott.”

6B. TonyScottDeathSong (Spy Game)
 by Uncas Blythe
“They say this place here is haunted.
Yeah, but only by a ghost...”
It’s a good way to burrow in, those SUPERIMPOSITIONS. Those defiant anti-subtitles. “I’m having FONT issues...” Walken whines somewhere. Me too. My favorite is in Domino: the fabulously absurd and banal, the “with Dad” that over-clarifies that the guy who looks nothing like Lawrence Harvey (who ever did?), that guy we’ve just seen in The Manchurian Candidate in 1962 is, in the diegetic account, still alive, and still her father in 1993. Markerian is supposedly the word for this.
Superimposition of text—against and over the weak image. Godardian buttressing. Or Pop Art. Or Tele-visual Density. Or further smearing on the frame. All those suspect culprits are tied in his movies to a certain re-mix aesthetic that was already present, incredibly, in The Hunger. But had to go underground as Scott worked his way up through the corridors of power to independence. And death.
That opening sequence in Man on Fire also tells us that we can think of his films as Ruizian objects, that is, as a series of infinite, impenetrable, indivisible films. Monads clustering in the mind according to their own oneiric logic. This is a heritage from the never static, recombinant and experimental world of advertising, and what drew him, fatally, into Bruckheimer’s orbit and into the flabby preludes of success.
It’s not enough to say that Scott is painterly (his brother, after all, could be better accused of this slur...) we should say which painter: Gerhard Richter. Who as a virtuoso youngster had already named and invented Capitalist Realism, and who actively re-engaged with photography and television, amid the post-war “weakness” of the image. But this can only go so far. A painter who zooms and demands you touch and live for a while in the installation or the non-site is what we usually call a sculptor or a Land Artist, which probably shows the limits of these eternally damned multi-media analogies. So, call the cops. Cinema is (was) impure.
Smack! The sound of the artist running up hard against the fascist critical preference for the “strong” image over the weak. The little man rage of cadrage. But this is nostalgia, mostly. Rather than a few strong, bruising images (check out John Ford, Goya or Turner or Riefenstahl if you’re not exactly sure what I mean), we have billions of weak images. Images for all occasions, diffused away on screens of many sizes, images like pouting cultural revolutionaries holding up Mao’s Little Red Book. Just another fucking crowd.
We may not like it. But isn’t the weak image the only honest, the only contemporary way to make them? That seemed to be the chief of his humilities, Tony Scott’s central artistic question. This made him a paradoxical spirit-comrade to Eno, always working towards the unmanly cinematic equivalent of ambient or generative music. But Scott had to pretend. And do it successfully. If the Hollywood Ideal is the rockstarish, Wagnerian total work of art, the perfectly “clear” and “readable” iconostasis, then Scott’s obsessive tendency towards abstraction, the insane hemorraging textures of Mexican movie poster lithography, and “weather”—of atmospheres co-existing uneasily with the death instinct (the train-like demands of narrative, the deal memo, and the pseudo-precision of sellable, selling advertising moments)—then these late films are the ultimate devil’s deals.
Re-inscribing coverage as surveillance. Adding screens to the diegesis so that they can function as wormholes to further abstraction. Anything to get away from the homely tyranny of the single camera, of the set-up, of generic intensified continuity mise en scène. Garrelian light leaks. Textures. A post-digital recovering of the “cinematic” artifact. Artisanal devices recovered from the impressionism of Gance, L’Herbier and Jean Epstein, double-exposures, hand-cranking...and not least of all, a Don Cammell-like devotion to the spiritual ellipse.
Spy Game. A cold war rehash of Casablanca where Rick and Laszlo fall in love with each other at the pool’s edge, that is, with alternative love-distorted versions of themselves.
The scene takes place in Berlin, on a rooftop. Bishop, the idealist played by Brad Pitt, has just returned from a blown mission where the man he was responsible for has just been sacrificed to unclear shifting priorities above his pay grade. He confronts his own handler, the older, wiser and morally compromised Muir (Redford). It’s the key scene of the picture. And it’s essentially conventional in staging, a sort of classic version of intensified continuity.
Establishing shots are left, in the Scott style, to a gyro-cam on a helicopter circling the building. Muir, still in a tuxedo from last night’s embassy party, is sitting at a table and Bishop dashes up the stairs. When Scott cuts in, it is with his usual long lenses. The perfect chilliness of Redford, looking like distressed, rotting morocco leather, and whose wraggled face is here meant (as it did long ago in Downhill Racer and The Candidate) to symbolize a certain REDEEMABLE corruption, endemic to Cold Warriors or studio executives perhaps, is set against the “warmth” of Brad Pitt, the golden boy of the moment, appropriately a bit out of his depth, whose character is transparently telegraphed in the indicative as Boy Scout, who works and plays altogether too well with others.
Bishop accuses Muir of using people, trading them like baseball cards in a Great Game. Muir calmly defends the idea of the long game, of the impersonal and divine view of the master spy, an outlook that the disciple must eventually come to share, or leave the field. Scott’s camera jumps to stay on Bishop, with all his righteous energy, but is in turn absolutely held transfixed on Redford’s crags, as it seems to endorse Muir’s enlightened position. Muir tells Bishop to find another metier. Go on, walk, he says. And then comes the only real surprise in the whole scene. A ghost of a smile, a fleeting smirk plays on Bishop’s face. The “game” is still on. A recognition of a mutual destiny that must be played out.
Muir warns him that if Bishop does not follow his orders, if he “goes off the reservation” that his mentor will not go after him. He will not be saved. He will be crossed off. Muir stands up, Bishop mutters something petulant, and Scott cuts back to his beloved helicopter shot. It is characteristically strange of Scott to use this long shot from a moving platform to carry the final emotional punch of the scene. The kiss-off, the farewell line comes: “They (Muir’s generically implacable rules of spycraft) saved your life.” meaning literally, from a supposed threat of the previous night, but also recognizing his success in reeling the young man right back to the proper operational edge of near-but-not-total nihilism. Muir physically turns his back on Bishop, the whole world gyro-spinning as hot white steam from a vent partially erases their bodies. But what’s fabulous, and adds poignance to this virtuosic moment is that the camera “helps” to turn Muir’s back, emphatically wrenching us, as it reorients the staging. Letting the full weight of the scene fall on a chance glimpse caught from a far away helicopter. Not bad.
Now, in Casablanca, Laszlo stands for something. So Rick’s move towards commitment is also a political as well as an altruistic personal move. In Spy Game, when Muir later in the film acts to violate his announced principle of non-intervention, it seems it is to rescue another model of himself. Muir is always willing to pay the price when he is in the field, but surrounded by the cutthroat politicians at his show trial at Langley, he reflexively breaks his rule, so as to say: “I’m not like you.” So it’s less a Borzagean love story between two men, as Ignatiy suggests in his lovely piece, but something weirder still. Anticipating the pretentious New Age vanity of The Master, they are two versions of the same soul, transmigrated by the moral drifts of the Cold War. It’s as if the younger self, having chosen the personal, sacrificial path of idealism, compels the older version in magical traction to do the same. This is, again, another Markerianism that predicts the timecuts and shifting selves of Déjà Vu.
He jumped off a bridge. Inevitably, it casts a pall on things. Whatever the cover stories, what really killed Tony Scott was the power of middlebrow opinion, lamely expressed; a clumsy hit squad contracted long ago. A professional or personal need to be kewl attracted him to certain rubbishy stuff, like Tarantino, or Richard Kelly’s I-ching meets Hollywood Squares style scriptwriting. The subtext-free is always tempting. But subtext must always out, like Pasolini lucidly said and also discovered for himself1, at the final cut moment of your death. But there is also a triumphal rejection of something, too, in all this bleak history: the oh-so-polite fate of the sweet, genteel Englishman in Hollywood.
Beat the Devil to a pulp, Tony.
1. Pasolini, Pier Paolo, Observations on the Sequence Shot.
I must now tell you my thoughts about death (and I leave my skeptical readers free to wonder what this has to do with cinema). I have said frequently, and always poorly, that reality has its own language—better still, it is a language—which, to be described, requires a general semiology, which at present we do not possess, even as a notion (semiologists always observe distinct and
definite objects, that is, various existing languages, codified or not; they have not yet discovered that semiology is the descriptive science of reality).
This language—I've said, and always badly—coincides with human action. Man expresses himself above all through his action—not meant in a purely pragmatic way—because it is in this way that he modifies reality and leaves his spiritual imprint on it. But this action lacks unity, or meaning, as long as it remains incomplete. While Lenin was alive, the language of his actions was still in part indecipherable, because it remained in potentia, and thus modifiable by eventual future actions. In short, as long as he has a future, that is, something unknown, a man does not express himself. An honest man may at seventy commit a crime: such blameworthy action modifies all his past actions, and he thus presents himself as other than what he always was. So long as I'm not dead, no one will be able to guarantee he truly knows me, that is, be able to give meaning to my actions, which, as linguistic moments, are therefore indecipherable.
It is thus absolutely necessary to die, because while living we lack meaning, and the language of our lives (with which we express ourselves and to which we attribute the greatest importance) is untranslatable: a chaos of possibilities, a search for relations among discontinuous meanings. Death performs a lightning-quick montage on our lives; that is, it chooses our truly significant moments (no longer changeable by other possible contrary or incoherent moments) and places them in sequence, converting our present, which is infinite, unstable, and uncertain, and thus linguistically indescribable, into a clear, stable, certain, and thus linguistically describable past (precisely in the sphere of a general semiology). It is thanks to death that our lives become expressive.”

7B. Another Green World (Unstoppable)
 by Kurt Walker
Writing about a specific scene in Scott's oeuvre becomes a confused task when looking at the later films. This is precisely because more often than not scenes and spaces bleed into and away from one another in a way which dissolves the very idea that scenes can be autonomous. But let's try anyways: Unstoppable. A final film—but not really, perhaps too small when placed beside Déjà Vu or Man on Fire. Or maybe not...
The climax of the picture: Denzel Washington's Frank, a cantankerous man of duty and precision, barrels down freight car by freight car locking the manual brakes of the film's titular force. Will (Chris Pine) holds position in their locomotive as it drags down the speed of the runaway train before it derails into the nearby towns. Outside of and around Frank's pursuit of the conductor's cabin exist four other narrative spaces: 1. Frank's daughters watching the news feed at Hooters (don't ask), 2. the ground operations where Connie (Rosario Dawson) and co. coordinate with Frank and Will, 3. Will in the aforementioned conductor's cabin, and 4. Will's wife at the anticipatory finish line of the pursuit. The only thing unifying these numerous locales, from our perspective, is the television image; that of the news teams and their helicopters gyro-cams suspiciously substituting in for establishing shots while at the same time indistinguishable from the cinematic image in their granular texture (being that of 35mm). Much like how Creasy's fits of rage in Man on Fire inflicted themselves upon the surface of the film, smearing (the go-to word for Scott, I know) Denzel's ferocity across sequences and successively destroying the spatial coherency of the respective scenes which triggered them, here the threat made towards space comes in the form of the televisual image—born from the spectacle inherent in the film's locomotive McGuffin.
While these images do not consume the cinematic ones surrounding them, they actively endanger the space of the individual much like the way the television crew of Lewis' The Ladies Man briefly destroys Mrs. Wellenmellon's mansion, with their montage and their stupid cameras which commodify and codify people into a schema: that of spectacle (see: Debord). And yet unlike Mrs. Wellenmellon's mansion, these gyro-cams televisual images are optimistically incorporated into the overall structure of any given scene and in this one they fluidly match with the close-ups of Frank's feet and legs as he breathlessly leaps between carts. So in many ways Frank's pursuit towards the front locomotive, stopped short by a gap too big for his wits, becomes as much about authentically announcing his own image in the confines of television as it is about the pursuit of the train.
So where did that clumsy middle-brow assessment of Tony Scott begin? Those Paulettes with their reductive tagline "style over substance" have, over the last decade, missed how carefully attuned his "style" (whatever that means) is to his characters. This particular scene testifies to the way in which spaces (the train, the headquarters, Hooters, etc.) are all painted with the same kineticism: the cyclical gyro-copter shots which paint the pursuit of the train are recreated on a small scale in the HQ. Of color and light: each location is lovingly cast with the same vibrancy of a cold autumn morning. Of zooms: which hone in on and are carefully attuned to every gesture, highlighting but never inflating/betraying the emotional ticks of these characters who, like the Man on Fire, are entrusted with the task of not only stopping the train but of taking control over the film's surface, the image—their image. Where Creasy failed and retired into the narrative, Frank and Will succeed as announced by the film's final shot (barring the tacked on epilogue): that of a gyro-cam now liberated from its televisual veneer thanks to this unlikely bond made between these two men in the insular space of their conductor's cabin. It is a space which is realized in a way which hopefully distills what I've been trying to say about Scott's world: shifting between long lensed mediums, a tracking shot which rotates around Will and Frank—ostensibly serving as a two-shot, and scattered mediums from within the cabin—the space of the cockpit is realized in a kind of three dimensionality which absolves categorizations of interior and exterior, eschewing stasis in exchange for velocity and force. But preceding any of that, the television thread et al., this maximalist mise en scène finds its resolve in Tony's most moving words on directing: "I love reaching in and touching these worlds I've never touched before." From this joie de vivre we can perhaps pull that Tony's intensified continuity as action painting comes from a place of curiosity, ecstasy—an attempt at keeping up with a world too busy for static shots and too beautiful for dead ones. In this way, Unstoppable, a quaint picture which happily invites the categorization of minor, becomes in every way a final film, an old man's film, but also, painfully, the film of a man not done with making movies just yet.
Will: "It's like one day everything is going okay then the next it's all falling apart faster than you can put it back together.."
Frank: "Yeah, never too late though!"

8B. With Each Touch, I Risk My Life (Domino)
 by Otie Wheeler
To me, this idea that the joy Tony Scott took in directing came from a curiosity and thirst for life seems essential to watching his films. What is cinema if not a window through which to touch worlds we’ve never touched before? What if Scott’s maximalist mise-en-scene, his persistent attempt–through sophisticated montage–to fit the utmost information in the frame, was the only way he knew how to express the combination of fear, adrenaline, and joy that he was always chasing (whether making films or climbing mountains)? Let’s remember what he said of the characters in Domino, “always chasing the dark side of life, always chasing their inner souls.”
The young American filmmakers have nothing to say, said Luc Moullet. It's as true now as it was then, and what Moullet said of Sam Fuller could've been said of Tony Scott: he had something to do, and he did it.

1. Poland, David. "DP/30: Tony Scott," Movie City News, 2012,
2. Kundera, Milan. Slowness, Harper-Collins, 1996, p. 2.
3. Jean Renoir parle de son art, Part Two, French CanCan DVD, Criterion, 2004.
4. Bounty Hunting on Acid: Tony Scott’s Visual Style, Domino DVD, New Line Home Video, 2006.
5. Silberg, Jon, “Thrill Ride”, ICG Magazine, 2009,
6. Silberg, Jon, “Exposure: Chris Lebenzon”, ICG Magazine, 2009,
7. Fisher, Bob, “Sliding Doors”, ICG Magazine, 2009,
8. “Dan Mindel Shoots Domino”, Digital Cinematography,
9. Bresson, Robert. Notes on the Cinematographer, Green Integer, 1997, p. 136.
10. Winogrand, Garry. Creativity with Bill Moyers, PBS, 1982.
11. Rosenbaum, Jonathan. Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinephilia, University of Chicago Press, 2010, p. 322.

9B. Standard Op (Enemy of the State)
 by David Phelps
"If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
— Frank Church, Chair, United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 1975

"The essence of Virginia republicanism lay in a single maxim: THE GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT BE THE FINAL JUDGE OF ITS OWN POWERS. The liberties of America, as the Republican party believed, rested in this nutshell; for if the Government, either in its legislative, executive, or judicial departments, or in any combination of them, could define its own powers in the last resort, then its will, and not the letter of the Constitution, was law."
—Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1805

"This is a surveillance state run amok."
— Glenn Greenwald, November 13, 2012
Standard Op represents a tribute to one of the decade’s most contemporary directors, Tony Scott, by two prolific amateur filmmakers: David Phelps and the NSA. “Scott was a real talent,” said the NSA in a statement, “perhaps the only contemporary director who truly aspired to panoptical vision of every action at once from all angles and possible lighting—as we see when he pays homage to the agency in Jack Black’s televisual investigation in Enemy of the State. The amount of data in any two frames of Scott is tremendous, really what radar should aspire to.”
“He’s someone who’s been an inspiration to me for years,” said Phelps. “Just someone whose every shot is so powerful as a sign that they no longer needing to be tethered to the staid spatial or temporal discourses of reality. Really the one artist since Lang who could render reality superfluous.”
Both artists were quick to commend each other’s work as well.
“I love Phelps’ work,” said the NSA. “Of course we were all appreciative when he offered himself as a camera surrogate during the blackout as the security cameras were incapacitated. A true man with a movie camera: what better security camera than a human being?”
Phelps was quick to return the compliment. “The NSA! I mean, one of the giants of contemplative cinema alongside Costa and Tsai. All those long takes collapsing narrative time and production time into the real time of the shot… Warhol’s got nothing on the NSA’s Empire, which is 58 years long.”
As Phelps pointed out, however, that duration was not necessarily contrary to Scott’s schitzophrenic editing. “I think the NSA and I would both claim ourselves as working within the ‘School of Scott.’ Actually, the whole world really is the School of Scott. The image created in the image of the image.”
“Scott remains a defining influence,” said the NSA. “You look at the amazing movies the IDF has been able to release recently—the targeted killing of [Ahmed] Jabari, which we included here. It really redefines cinema: no longer recording an outside event but by using the camera to track and target the car it explodes, writing it—and then providing a record of its own unseen maneuvers. Talk about Caméra-stylo! And David [Phelps]’s direction of the scene is just sensational.” 

10B. Sp(eye) Gam3z (Spy Game)
 by Gina Telaroli
"We were a serious race.  If you want other proof of it, besides our record in war and in politics, you only have to look at our art."
—Henry Adams, Mount Saint Michel and Chartes
"The attempt to write a formal rule book for targeted killing began last summer after news reports on the drone program, started under President George W. Bush and expanded by Mr. Obama, revealed some details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling “kill lists” and approving strikes. Though national security officials insist that the process is meticulous and lawful, the president and top aides believe it should be institutionalized, a course of action that seemed particularly urgent when it appeared that Mitt Romney might win the presidency.
'There was concern that the levers might no longer be in our hands,' said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. With a continuing debate about the proper limits of drone strikes, Mr. Obama did not want to leave an 'amorphous' program to his successor, the official said. The effort, which would have been rushed to completion by January had Mr. Romney won, will now be finished at a more leisurely pace, the official said."
—Scott Shane, "Election Spurred a Move to Codify U.S. Drone Policy", The New York Times
"Video killed the radio star.
Video killed the radio star.
In my mind and in my car, we can't rewind we've gone to far.
Pictures came and broke your heart, put the blame on VTR."

—"Video Killed the Radio Star" by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes, and Bruce Woolley 


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