Movie of the Week: Raging Bull (1980)

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Martin Scorsese directs Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty in this boxing biopic following the rise and fall of the always combative, Jake LaMotta. 

De Niro greatest performance, back when he fully inhabited roles rather tried to do some strange Bobby DeNiro impression. He and Scorsese know that Jake LaMotta (the tragic anti-hero, the restless champion, the misanthrope who everyone wants a piece of) is a modern day Shakespearean lead. He destroys all he touches, crushes the love out of any human interaction he has, leaves himself grief stricken as he closes off all relationships. The monochrome cinematography is beautiful capturing the blood, sweat and even more blood of the fights. They used chocolate sauce to recreate the gory spatter in some bouts. Scorsese plays with space surreally… the rings extend into eternity and traps us tightly from cut to to cut. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing discombobutes with expert shifts of pace… ominous tranquility of the domestic conflicts gives way to rapid fire chopping on fight night. The penultimate scene where LaMotta has a chance encounter with his estranged brother, bullies him into accepting a pantomime conciliation is pure brilliance. It is a subtle moment of heartbreaking acting from De Niro and Joe Pesci, a form neither actor really embraced again afterwards.

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