Raging Bull @ Festival du Nouveau Cinema

Nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director (with 2 wins) – this film is thought of by most as a classic. This beautifully shot black-and-white film will be even clearer and crisper now that it has been remastered. All this plus the fact that this is one of director Martin Scorsese’s (The Departed, Shutter Island) best films, which is saying a mouthful considering he is one of our most talented living directors.

Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro – Meet the Fockers, Analyze This) is a boxer with tons of psychological and sexual issues. He lets them out in the ring.

La Motta is a middleweight boxer who has a career that is on its way up at the same time his personal life is going down the toilet. He destroys himself and those around him due to his temper. He gets involved with criminals, begins to through fights, beats his wife (Cathy Moriarty – The Bounty Hunter, Analyze That), and even attacks his own brother (Joe Pesci – Goodfellas, My Cousin Vinny). La Motta wrecks his career, gains weight, and ends up a lousy stand up comedian.

De Niro is a great actor. Even though in this film he is playing a rather despicable character he gets you to sympathize with him while he is doing horrible things. Quite a feat. De Niro was totally dedicated to his character. He gained 60 pounds to play the boxer. The physical transformation he underwent is on a par with any in film history. Joe Pesci is also wonderful as La Motta’s younger brother. He also underwent a physical transformation as he lost weight for the role. The close relationship between the brothers elevates the film from a film about boxing to a film about human beings.

Often compared to “Rocky”, the comparison is unfair. Based on a true story, “Raging Bull” is a deeper, more complexly human film. This is a raw film rather than inspiring. The two films do deal with boxing of a certain calibre, but a comparison is unfair.

Besides being one of Scorsese’s strongest films, “Raging Bull” often finds itself on lists of the best films of the 1980’s. The acting is impeccable, the directing is bang on, the black and white film is visually arresting, the story is engaging, and the fight scenes are realistic enough that they will have you covering your eyes on occasion. Definitely not your average boxing film.

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