Thirty-two years since its release, Martin Scorsese's masterpiece Raging Bull has been crowned with so many critical laurels that another word in praise of it might seem hopelessly redundant. The film showcases Scorsese's artistic genius in its purest form -- unsullied by ego, commercial pressures, or the self-doubt that can cloud a more jaded artist's vision.
Bio-pics should neither be overblown hero-worships nor a dry and dull textbook accounts. We rarely come across "based on the life of......" movie like 'Raging Bull,' which explodes with imagination and life, revealing the thunderous life of the boxer, Jake La Motta. 'Raging Bull' is the benchmark and a brilliant argument for film-makers to continue to work in this genre.
PlotHe is as tough as nails in 1941, a real comer on the boxing scene. But no one wants to fight him. Jake La Motta(Robert De Niro). The Bronx Bull. His brother Joey(Joe Pesci) serves as his manager, bearing his insults, moods, and rages. He is consumed by the idea of becoming the middleweight champion of the world.
Meanwhile, away from the ring, La Motta falls in love with 15-year old Vicki(Cathy Moriarty), who he marries after discarding his shrewish first wife. Vicki becomes Jake's greatest prize and the source of his most extreme pain. His own insecurity is so great that he cannot accept that a woman as beautiful as Vicki could be faithful to him. LaMotta spent most of the 1940s in a fiery rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson, idly waiting for his title shot. When it finally came, however, LaMotta had all but destroyed his relationships with the people that helped him get there, including his manager brother, Joey.
AnalysisIn his dedication to the art of method acting, De Niro delivers one of the finest performances of his career. Training with the real-life LaMotta in order to physically prepare for the role (which included participating in a few very real boxing matches), De Niro then put on 55 pounds to portray the older LaMotta, who retired from the sport to become a nightclub host. De Niro's performance remains a monumental feat. De Niro doesn't play LaMotta with any actorly distance, embracing Jake's essence as primal instinct rather than psychological portraiture.
De Niro also gets wonderful support from both Pesci and Moriarty, but it’s his relationship with Scorsese that makes the biggest impact. There’s no other cinematic team-up in Hollywood that has achieved quite as much as when these two guys collaborate on a project. Like other Scorsese’s films, Raging Bull describes a man who’s unable to understand a woman except in terms of the only two roles he knows how to assign her: virgin or whore.
Scorsese and cinematographer Michael Chapman elected to shoot the bulk of Raging Bull in black-and-white. The choice is perfect for the movie, giving Raging Bull a unique look in an era when a black-and-white approach is almost unheard of. ''Raging Bull,'' has an unusually intelligent screenplay by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin.
Scripter Paul Schrader once observed that it’s impossible to explain the mysterious enigma that the real-life prizefighter LaMotta was–and still is. He said: "I dont believe that you can ever really explain or understand an individual psyche. One of the wonderful things that art does is to give audiences enough clues to come to their own conclusion." Michael Chapman's cinematography and Thelma Schoonmaker's editing --both sublime-- combine to jolt Scorsese's intimate touches and to form a cinematic experience as exhilarating as anything in that era.
Men throw one another into and out of the boxing ring while a female spectator gets trampled by the enraged mob—a pitiless example of most women's fate in Raging Bull's world of hard line masculinity. But, no matter how beaten up you might feel after watching the destructive path that Jake LaMotta’s life has taken, you can’t help but feel sorry for the guy. LaMotta used the boxing ring not just as an arena for sport, but an ever-shifting psychic space: a battleground to defend his wounded ego; a showcase to intimidate and silence his family.
Raging Bull reigns a spectacle and presents a disturbing vision of such a beastly character, who showed savagery in the ring, at home, yet he was idolized to a certain extent by the pop culture. Raging Bull is not just a bio-pic of Jake La Motta, a enigmatic boxer. It is cinematic achievement.
Robert De Niro's Oscar Acceptance Speech
Raging Bull - Imdb