Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Raging Bull (1980)

****½
USA

Probably the most hosannaed of Scorsese's pictures, his biography of prizefighter Jake La Motta is an indictment of male values founded on aggression from a man who has made a career of gawking at such values with the awe of a schoolboy. A tension persists throughout the movie between the raw tragedy of La Motta's self-destruction and Scorsese's infatuation with the movie gangster. It's that much more uncomfortable to witness the patently despicable acts that define La Motta's persona, filtered as they are through the cinematic codes of on-screen machismo which for decades have sneakily rendered such behaviour acceptable. The committed rawness of the performances and dialogue and the slow-mo extreme-close-up brutality of the violence play off the glamourising movie-ness of Scorsese's orchestration, charging La Motta's tale of damage and devolution into the realm of the operatic. It's a shame therefore that in the crucial moments Scorsese hurtles it into the realm of the redundant: he taints the final, visceral impact of his movie with some undergrad-level solemn posturing, capping things off as he does with no less than a quote from the Bible.

dir: Martin Scorsese
wr: Paul Schrader, Mardik Martin
ph: Michael Chapman
ed: Thelma Schoonmaker
cast: Robert de Niro, Cathy Moriarty, Joe Pesci, Frank Vincent, Nicholas Colasanto

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