Thursday, April 12, 2012

Masterpieces Classics: Raging Bull (1980)

Not so often in history is a film that seems like a surreal escape to the movies, yet it maintains reality. One fine example is Martin Scorsese's Raging Bull, a human drama about an angry boxer, Jake LaMotta, his relationships, and the punches in between.

The performances here are top notch, mainly Robert De Niro. His transformation is powerful as it is shocking, from being on top of the world to a painful plummet to the bottom. Pesci and Moriarty also deliver as Jake's brother and wife respectively.

The dialogue here is written with savvy, wit, reality, and anger. There are feuds and fights where you can't bear to watch, and there are also moments of happiness that are just equally painful (in a good way). One of my favorite moments in this film is a montage that plays between years of Jake's life, and it is probably one happy moment without bloodshed.

Bloodshed. This is the fire in what makes this film a classic. Every boxing match does not shy away from the brutality, and the verbal feuds that Jake puts on himself might be even more of a knockout. Thank heavens most of the film is in black and white, for it beautifies the film, and tones down the violence.

The previously mentioned montage is the only thing in color, besides the opening titles. What makes this montage standout is the happiness between Jake and his wife Vicky. Their marriage is expressed happily, and so is their outings to the pool, caressing each other.

What makes this film also stand out is Thelma Schoonmaker's tight editing, and Scorsese's direction. It's Scorsese's vision that makes the film great, and though it is bloody, it is not a blood stain on Scorsese's filmography.

I would actually say the vision is partly De Niro's, who helped Scorsese make this masterpiece. You see, De Niro suggested to Scorsese that they adapt Jake La Motta's autobiography into a movie. Scorsese, at the time, was addicted to drugs due to the failure of his previous film, New York New York. But the firey anger and passion put into this project is not all Scorsese's, but De Niro's.

Lastly, what makes this film so great is it's human condition. When Jake La Motta saw the film, he was shocked, and asked the real-life Vicky if he was like that in real life. She replied "You were worse.". I can't imagine the regrets that ran through LaMotta's mind.

But you will definitely won't regret seeing this. Without a doubt, this is one of the greatest films of all time, and I think that it is. 

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