Tuesday, 8 November 2011

I've done a lot of bad things, Joey. Maybe it's comin' back to me. Who knows? I'm a jinx maybe. Who the hell knows?

No 11 - Raging Bull
Director - Martin Scorsese

Oh Blog.... I've neglected you. I'm like an absent husband taking advantage of you as you wait for me, scared of what I might do next....

Which dovetails nicely to RAGING BULL - the story of a horrible shit of man who is in no way likeable throughout the film.

Seriously - Jake La Motta is a horrible bastard of a man. Now... I'm not necessarily talking about HIM personally (never insult a boxer) - but certainly his character in this film. Bastard.

I don't want to dwell on this too much as it would just be a list of character flaws and violent outbreaks - also, I saw this film ages ago and lost all my notes - but this is a man who mixes dangerous levels of paranoia and arrogance. He is quick to temper, and quick to get violent. He leaves his wife for a girl of 15 and continues to abuse and bash her around anyway.

He is a nasty piece of work. But the film never shies away from it. It gets right in there. Sticks close to the screaming and the flying crockery. Clinging to the fiery Mediterranean outbursts of rage. It is close up, hyper real and ugly.
The perfect counterpoint the boxing scenes.

Scorsese films the boxing scenes in a similar way to the scenes of domesticity - the camera is up close, in the face of the violent. But the image seems softer, the movements more dreamy. Often the scene's sound is faded out and replaced with music.
As soon as La Motta steps into the ring, the film takes a fantasy twist. It becomes beautiful to watch.

Just look a the silent moments of confrontation in this video between Sugar Ray and Jake La Motta. The cinematography is brilliant.... from the stark use of Red in the opening credits

to the final sequence in which a fatter, older La Motta memorises a speech - talking to his reflection in an awkward monotone delivery: It all looks amazing.

Which brings us to the other of the film's key strengths.... De Niro.
De Niro's transformation throughout this film is phenomenal. It is a tour de force, not only in acting as he creates a rounded, deep, flawed and layered character from someone who could easily be a 1 dimensional fucker, but also in the physical dedication. As the film progresses, we see La Motta gain weight, as he loses the will to fight and just gets lazy with his riches. It is impressive because it happens over the course of the film, but it is more impressive because it sneaks up on you.... you don't notice it at first, until he's parading around topless on the beach. It makes it much more striking than the films which just cut to a point where the protagonist is super skinny or fatter.

The slow creep of fat is similar to the majority of the film. The film's knockout punches are the fights. Amazing shots which have become iconic and which are frequently paid homage to in films where punches are thrown.
The rest of the film is more of a creeper. Growing on you, slowly, and horribly.... getting under your skin as you watch the rise and fall of a cruel cruel man...

1 comment:

doug said...

I wind up watching this every couple years or so. It's just a beautiful film, like a real-life noir, you know the main character is doomed about ten minutes in and everyone knows it, including him. LaMotta was pretty straightforward in his autobiography, and the film doesn't veer off too much. There's no doubt that Jake was pretty effed up, but it was like he really hated himself and took it out on everybody else at the drop of a hat, but was still perplexed at it; he was aware of his actions but couldn't stop or change himself...