Jhon's Favourites Edition:Raging Bull
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro
The opening scene starts, Robert De Niro jumps around in the ring in slow motion, with the beautiful Pietro Mascagni's music score, Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo. This is one of the best openings ever; this is the opening to one of the greatest films of all time. I am not the only one has this opinion, I also share it with the list, AFI's 100 years... 100 movies..., in which the film came 4th. This is a high achievement, which it deserves, although I would give it a higher position. This film, based upon the memoirs -- Raging Bull: My Story, of real former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta.
The film follows the story of the book, with Robert De Niro playing as Jake LaMotta. It depicts how a man slowly causes self-destruction, and how this affects all those around him. LaMotta's violent ways, disrespectful traits and appetite soon make him lose everything he worked for, and is forgotten, eventually as time goes on, trying to survive as well as he can. The film uses excellent techniques, in-order to capture emotion, and right atmosphere. The cinema photography and the black and white capture every emotion, and every important punch in the fights to create a classic.
The fighting scenes are quite remarkable, when first hearing about the films general plot; I could not stop thinking about Rocky. I thought that this film might have had just been a rip-off Rocky, made four years after the great sporting masterpiece, it stood-out as an obvious copy. The two films turn out to be completely different though. The fighting sequences have a different style and keep individuality. Rocky has a more 'lift-your-hopes' feel to it, it makes you want to drop and do fifty push-ups. Raging Bull was a lot more bleak and sad. The times Rocky had a sequel, the bad times seemed ok, because he always came back. In Raging Bull, it is not always a fairy tale. The film does not have the "...And they all lived happily ever after" aspect. Despite winning, or reaching great feets, you still do not get happy, the film does not finish, and it keeps rolling. When the film keeps rolling, LaMotta does not always come back to beat-up Mr. T or a giant Russian to make another sequel and live 'happily ever after'.
Robert De Niro's acting exceeds the average expectations, by doing little things. When he shakes a man's hand, that he dislikes, he does not grip his hand, but gives a little shake. Using this technique is showing, "I don't want to know you, I don't care for you." De Niro uses these techniques like this, to not only develop his character, but to perform excellently as one of the best performances ever. De Niro plays Jake LaMotta, based upon the real person Jake LaMotta. Jake LaMotta is a middleweight boxer, who shows great talents and a brawling (violent) style of boxing. De Niro's character is soon swept-up with being a champion, and winning the title. As he chases that dream, his self-indulgent ways lead him to self-destruction.
LaMotta is a very dangerous, vicious and violent man. LaMotta has very little respect for anyone; he is willing to do anything to prove himself. LaMotta is very paranoid of the people around him, constantly making assumptions on someone's motives and actions on first meeting. He is constantly watchful of his second wife Vickie -- played excellently by Cathy Moriarty, in whom he watches every move she makes, and jumps to conclusions quickly, when seeing something, or communications between her and another man, which he believes to be an indicator of an affair. His paranoia even stretches to his own brother. LaMotta is also very abusive towards his wife Vickie and his first wife -- Irma, as well, which is why they divorce early in the film.
Joe Pesci plays his breakthrough role excellently as Joey LaMotta, LaMotta's brother -- who coincidently has a similar name to his character. He plays a loving brother that has trouble showing so. With violence is one of his main tools of love towards him. An example of Joey's anger would be the time he beats-up some men for talking to his brother's wife. Joey is constantly doing this, because Jake shows little affection and appreciation towards his brother. Jake is determined to make it on his own, wanting the title by himself, trying to prove him and the whole world. The behaviour Jake exhibits is a behaviour Joey tries to over-come, for the want to protect his brother from himself. Joey is also very protective of Jake's wife, from Jake himself in particular. Joey will often insult his brother, but even this is for the greater good, in helping his brother succeed. Joey is an extremely likeable character, unlike Jake.
It all starts with the look at the end, in 1964. In the beginning (end of plot) he is overweight, and reciting a comedy act he has devised before he does some stand-up. It than goes back to 1941, where he is in a fight with Jimmy Reeves, in which he loses by a decision after almost knocking him out -- the bell rang a second before knock-out was called. It than shows him in his apartment arguing with his wife, already showing that he is violent, and that his current marriage is already failing. His brother discusses that he is able to get him a shot at the middleweight title, with some mafia connections. LaMotta than meets a fifteen years old girl called Vickie. They soon begin to date each other, despite LaMotta's current marriage. It than jumps a head to 1943, he and Vickie are married and there is no talk of his previous wife Irma. The film than follows a long string of fights and the self-destruction of LaMotta. Through jealousy, monstrous appetite and uncontrollable rage, he slowly destroys himself. He does such things as beat up his brother Joey and his wife Vickie, because she admits to have had a sexual relationship with him (although it is not true, she just said it to make him angry, she says that she has slept with everybody in the neighbourhood, a lie which Jake could not realise, because of his rage). Jake then beats both his brother and his wife. After begging to his wife, she stays, but he does not speak to his brother again for many years to come.
In the end LaMotta loses to his old nemesis, Sugar Ray Robinson, who he had versed numerous times earlier most of the times winning, defeats him for the title. After retirement, LaMotta starts a comedy act, which is failing and very low in popularity. Vickie than divorces LaMotta and takes custody of the children. LaMotta is than arrested for introducing two under-aged women to some men, who told him they were twenty-one. After the police arrested him, he is than put in a cell, where he punches the wall repeatedly. LaMotta is now overweight, and has nothing left, having to destroy his middleweight championship belt to pay for bail, which did not work anyway. He later meets up with his brother Joey, who rejects his wanting to forget the past and become friends again.
In the end of the film, LaMotta is where he was at the beginning of the film. After reciting the material he said at the beginning of the film, he begins to recites the words from On the Waterfront starring Marlon Brando.
At the end, the following comes up on a black screen:
"So, for the second time, [the Pharisees]
Summoned the man who had been blind and said:
'Speak the truth before God.
We know this fellow is a sinner.'
'Whether or not he is a sinner, I do not know.'
The man replied.
'All I know is this:
Once I was blind and now I can see.'
John IX. 24-26
The New English Bible"
The credits role and the beautiful music score from the beginning of the film plays. This is one of the greatest films of all time. It is nothing short of perfect. I must say the ending was a bit hard to watch, for it was sad to see him in such a state. The film works in an interesting way, because the protagonist has very little empathy from the audience, but gains some at the end. This film is a prime example of self-destruction. How he rose to the top that fell shortly after, by his own actions. De Niro did excellent, in what I believe to be his best role ever, and one of the best roles anyone has done. The film is just so beautifully done and so good. This is certainly Scorsese's best film.