Raging Bull (1980)
Directed by: Martin Scorsese | 129 minutes | drama, biography, sports | Actors: Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto, Therese Saldana, Mario Gallo, Frank Adonis, Joseph Bono, Frank Topham, Lori Anne Flax, Charles Scorsese, Don Dunphy, Bill Hanrahan, Rita Bennett, John Turturro
What would the members of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have against Martin Scorsese? The gifted director has already been nominated five times for an Oscar – successively for ‘Raging Bull’, ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Gangs of New York’ and ‘The Aviator’ – but he was never allowed the coveted gem. take home. Moreover, Scorsese had earned at least one nomination for films such as ‘Mean Streets’, ‘The King of Comedy’, ‘Casino’, ‘Cape Fear’ and especially ‘Taxi Driver’. That none of these films earned him an Oscar is bad enough, but the fact that the Oscar for Best Director in 1981 went to Robert Redford’s ‘Ordinary People’ and not to the superior ‘Raging Bull’ can rightfully be one of the biggest blunders. of the electors. And that while they really have nothing against boxing films, as witnessed by the triumphs of genre peers ‘Rocky’ and more recently ‘Million Dollar Baby’.
Robert De Niro, protagonist in ‘Raging Bull’, is fortunately better at The Academy. He has been nominated for an Oscar six times and won two – including his role in ‘Raging Bull’. And rightly so, as his portrayal of boxer Jake La Motta is one of the most memorable in movie history. As befits a good ‘Method Actor’, De Niro completely lost himself in the role. He trained with the real Jake La Motta and fought three matches in Brooklyn, winning two of them. Also, for the scenes where La Motta becomes an obese individualist, nothing more than a shadow of his former self, elaborate make-up or fat suits were used. No, De Niro was fed up and the result is still one of the most believable, hallucinatingly real renditions.
The film tells the true story of Jake La Motta, a very aggressive boxer who triumphs in the ring but ends up falling victim to paranoia, jealousy, anger and gluttony. The film follows the course of La Motta’s life and shows how he evolves from a celebrated champion to an overweight self-proclaimed comedian.
In addition to De Niro, Joe Pesci and then only 19-year-old Cathy Moriarty also star as La Motta’s brother and wife, respectively. For Pesci, the film marked the breakthrough and as Joey, who is suspected by Jake of sleeping with his wife (Immortal are De Niro’s terrifyingly cool words towards Pesci: ‘You fuck my wife?’), he complements his opponent perfectly. Cathy Moriarty is also excellent as Jake’s second wife Vickie, who is confronted with her husband’s infernal jealousy. Both actors were nominated for an Oscar for their roles.
‘Raging Bull’ – incidentally based on a screenplay by Paul Schrader, who previously worked with Scorsese and De Niro for ‘Taxi Driver’ – is a peak in Martin Scorsese’s career. The man is not called the best post-war cinematographer for nothing by connoisseurs. The film was directed near-perfectly and extensively showcases Scorsese’s inexhaustible talent. The beautiful opening line, with a slow-motion training La Motta in the ring, immediately sets the right tone and Michael Chapman’s stunning, Oscar-nominated black-and-white photography is nothing short of genius. Nowhere are there more realistic boxing scenes to admire in the ring than in this film. Scorsese takes his audience into the ring where it is almost smashed together by the sledgehammer blows of the boxers, that’s how close the film is to you.
Even for those who don’t like boxing films, ‘Raging Bull’ is an unmissable masterpiece. If only because of the sublime acting of Robert De Niro. His total dedication to this role set a new standard, that’s how deep he went to empathize for this role. ‘Raging Bull’ is definitely one of the best movies of the eighties!