Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

1, 2, Auto-Destruct

De Niro is my favorite actor. When I look at my favorite movies of all time, he is in most of them. Scorsese is one my favorite directors, he has a knack for yanking the best performances out of any actor. So, why is it that it took me 26 years to see this film since it combined both De Niro and Scorsese? I don't know but I'll be adding this one to the collection.

Raging Bull

Raging Bull is the biography of Jake LaMotta, the Bronx Bull, one time middle weight boxing champ in the 40's and 50's. One of the aspects of this film that I found interesting was that De Niro went to Scorsese and insisted that he make the film after reading LaMotta's memoirs. Scorsese, as the story goes, wasn't terribly interested but De Niro persisted and eventually the film was made.

De Niro spent an amazing amount of time with LaMotta before and during the making of the film, is essence, living as LaMotta lived. He leaned up and worked out before the filming to resemble LaMotta during his career peak, keep in mind De Niro was almost 40 when he made this one. Then he gained over 60 pounds during the making to accurately represent LaMotta in his later life. I think this is what I like about De Niro the most, his intensity and unbounded willingness to lose himself in a character.

Another interesting aspect of the film was that Joe Pesci, who subsequently went on to have a successful film career, had decided to leave showbiz in the late 70's after a self-proclaimed failed attempt. He had decided that is, until Scorsese saw him in some bad B movie one night and decided he would make a good Joey LaMotta, Jake LaMotta's quirky brother.

On the surface the story is about boxing, winning and losing, but deeper this is more about how insecurity and paranoia won out over physical strength to lead one man into a spiraling, self-fighting, auto-destruct cycle, which eventually left him broken and isolated.

IHMO, this is De Niro's best performance, better than Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Godfather. The scene where De Niro accuses Pesci of sleeping with his wife is some of the best acting, dialogue, directing and filming around. The scene with De Niro having a mental breakdown, slamming his head and fists into the wall of his small jail cell is also disturbingly riveting; you have to wonder where De Niro pulls from to give such scary-real performances.

Raging Bull won De Niro his second Academy Award and was nominated for just about every category in 1980. But more importantly, the success of the film caused the real Jake LaMotta to be thrust back to into the spotlight of adoring fans, giving him the happy ending he didn't get at the end of his boxing career.



Blogger steve'swhirlyworld said...

I've never seen it either...hmmm. I guess I'll have to add it to the list.

9:10 PM

Blogger Jason said...

I love Raging Bull. This and Taxi Driver are my favorite Scorsese films. I just looked for my copy of RB, and cannot find it. I'll have to queue it up on my Netflix, it's been a few years since I've seen it.

Now is this a "two thumbs up" film, and/or your variation of that???

9:15 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Definitely try to see it Steve, its a masterpiece.

11:41 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Definitely a 10, Jason, right up there with Godfather, Taxi Drive, LOTR and Crash.

11:50 PM

Blogger Ryan Charisma said...


You had me until you mentioned that awful horrible movie CRASH. Why did you have to ruin it? If Raging Bull is anything like that contrived piece of drivel - I'll pass. Besides everyone knows there's no such thing as a black & white movie.

9:44 AM

Blogger Jim said...

LOL Ryan, I hear they are remaking Crash in B&W (everyone stand back while Ryan's head explodes!)

10:18 AM

Blogger David said...

Ive been meaning to watch RB for years, have just added to my order list, thanks for reminding me of it !

11:22 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Enjoy David!

10:24 PM

Blogger john said...

A movie I must look up.

9:38 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Definitely John, enjoy!

9:19 PM

Blogger ziggystardust73 said...

I love this movie!

And Taxi Driver was even better. And De Niro was absolutely gorgeous then. (in a slightly scary way but still!)

10:57 AM

Blogger Jim said...

Agreed Zig, he had that over-the-top look in Taxi Driver!

7:13 PM


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