02 February 2008

76. raging bull

another boxing movie? i thought i just watched "rocky"...

this movie makes me feel similar to how i feel when i watch a hitchcock picture for this list: they are necessarily well-written (since picking appropriate material is part of a good director's job), but the writing isn't what you focus on. what you focus on is the power of these directors in bringing a very specific story to the screen, and the filmmaking prowess displayed in doing so.

in this particular case, we marvel at scorsese's recreation of the 1940s-1960s. he gets the details right -- the cut of the suits, the period cars, the effect a good had on the audience as well as the communities that surrounded the fighter. scorsese controls the mise-en-scene so well that we are enveloped in those worlds of little italy and later, old miami, and it seems effortless when it is anything but.

scorsese is also brilliant in his use of POV and slow motion to show la motta's thoughts. the movie's main theme is how consuming sexual jealous -- and by extension, any obsession -- can be, and he extends the filmmaker's palette by using slow-motion with regular speed dialogue to allow us into la motta's warped world of assuming everyone is fucking his wife. and that includes his brother, in an infamous exchange.

scorsese is at the top of his game, but what can we say about de niro? i've said before the scorsese is never thought of as an actor's director even though he most certainly is, and he gives his friend de niro free reign to create a monster. so much has been written about this performance and the remarkable physical changes de niro made to bring la motta to life, but i am always so excited and awed when an actor can create a character who would otherwise be considered dispicable and make us empathize with him. other recent examples of this are phil hoffman in "capote" and daniel day lewis as daniel plainview in "there will be blood", and they are all oscar winners for a reason.

can you say bad things about such an iconic movie? sure you can. here's my gripe: jake is a bit of a broken record as written. we empathize with him only because of de niro's performance -- his charisma and technicality in create a full person instead of a caricature of another italian misogynist. paul schrader et al. are lucky scorsese knew how to cast correctly.


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