Re: General Movie Discussion Part II
Raging Bull (1980)
So it took me a lot longer to watch this compared to when I said I'd watch it not long after I saw Taxi Driver, but it was worth the wait. I still think Taxi Driver is the superior film overall, but this was still a really fascinating and gripping tale of paranoia, anger and self-destruction which destines a dominant boxing career but slowly unravels the home life of Jake La Motta. The cinematography is beautiful in capturing the raw violence in every boxing fight shown and I personally loved some of the more subtle elements thrown in to reflect the emotion of La Motta at the time of the fight. The key example here is the difference in visual presentation between his victory over Sugar Ray Robinson and his last fight with the same boxer, where the smoke and dimly lit ring paints the picture of a bleak and frightful future for La Motta who by this point has let his paranoia, jealously and anger drive away the closest person in his life and forced his wife into slowly resenting his presence.
De Niro and Pesci are marvellous throughout and share some incredible chemistry, most notably the extended scene where La Motta accuses Joey of sleeping with his wife and slowly becoming demented and unglued as Joey chastises his accusations and the scene drags on, before marching upstairs and violently abusing his wife for what he mistakes to be an illicit affair. I thought the slow build and manifestation of La Motta's uncontrollable violence to get to that point where he finally explodes at someone he cares about was a beautiful touch in adding tension to the entire fallout between him & Joey, the beating of his wife and eventually the brual beating of Joey immediately after. Scorsese's decision to film the boxing scenes as if the viewer was inside the ring was also imo a great move as it really allows De Niro to demonstrate the animalistic violence La Motta possesses and coupled with the progressive deterioration of his personal life makes for eerily piercing tension whenever La Motta threatens to unhinge around those closest to him. The beatings he dishes out (notably to the boxer his wife calls a pretty man) allows us to see how his emotions and feelings translate into his boxing and his merciless attacks on anyone who faces him.
Pesci also imo deserves great credit for how he managed to play Joey as an equally erratic individual who lets the pressures of trying to control La Motta affect his life (having to beat up Sally for having dinner with Jake's wife because of the pressure Jake put on him to ensure his wife wasn't having an affair) whilst also displaying a fine balance between having the confidence to talk directly to Jake whilst showing a subtle but obvious fear when he sees Jake begin to grow more loathesome.
Very well acted, beautifully shot and directed in combining the boxing and personal life of Jake La Motta and how it intersects at any given moment and just a tremendously well written, paced and crafted bit of cinema.