There are a certain cadre of film creatives whose work is always wonderful and astonishing, but is first and foremost an artistic expression of themselves. I don’t mean that the works reflect them as human beings, but that they are utterly imprinted on their work so that they can never assume a true chameleonic service role for whatever is hosting them. Danny Elfman, for example, writes music that can only be from Danny Elfman, so however moving his music, it’s never “just” an emotional cue, it’s a signature. Quentin Tarantino has one of the most distinctive voices in cinema writing and like Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino has taken his unique dialogue and taken full ownership of it by directing his own work almost exclusively. It’s somewhat strange therefore to watch Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue in the hands of another director – in this case, Tony Scott.
It’s an especially interesting juxtaposition because I think Tony Scott generally worked best and felt most comfortable with material that was intellectually and emotionally straightforward, about the kinds of characters who are more likely to suppress their feelings than elucidate them via some lengthy parable. A cruel person might say that Scott didn’t realise that his films were essentially pulp most of the time, a generous person that he played every script straight. Not then, the natural person to take on the kind of game-playing mock-serious post-modern-montage stuff Tarantino seems to delight in. And indeed, Scott doesn’t seem at times to known what to do with the material – he hasn’t had 7 films of Quentin Tarantino directing his own dialogue as a guide to understanding how these scenes could or perhaps even should play out. Consequently, to a modern audience a quarter of a century later, there’s something a little off in every line. Not bad, but not what’s expected.