Raging Bull – 1980

I’m not a big Martin Scorsese fan. Okay, that isn’t entirely true. I dig Marty. He’s personable and funny and knows more about film making than I could ever hope. But his films, the violence bothers me. Ridiculous, I know, especially since I count the movie Saw among my favorites (I’m a sucker for a good horror movie), but his violence is so real.  So that’s the issue for me.  I like Martin Scorsese and I know his films are brilliant but the violence makes it tough for me to make it through them.  (Except The Departed.  I love that movie more than words can explain.)

So since I wanted to watch a Scorsese film I hadn’t seen before (and only just watched Taxi Driver before I decided to do this blog) I chose Raging Bull because it’s On Demand this month.  I’m expecting a lot of cringing and closing my eyes.

I know this is about a fighter who is, obviously, an asshole too, but knowing that doesn’t make watching the scene between LaMotta and his wife any easier to watch.  Even in movies, where it isn’t real, it bugs me to watch women being abused, even if only verbally.  It’s especially tough to watch women accept it.  One of my biggest problems with most of Scorsese’s films is how detestable most of the people in them are.  It’s tough to like a movie where I hate everyone in it.  (As an aside, I found that I really liked Travis Bickle.  That was unexpected.)

The scene in the kitchen when De Niro makes Pesci wrap his fist and punch him in the face has to be one of the worst movie fights I’ve ever seen.  Not one punch looks like it actually landed even though De Niro tries to sell it.

I dig Cathy Moriarty and am impressed at how good she looks now and how gorgeous she was then.  But even at 20 years old (which she was when this film was made) she can’t pass for 15.  Sorry, Marty.

I feel the need to point out, as someone who grew up partly in an Italian-American family, that Italians don’t yell half as much as Martin Scorsese makes people think.

I couldn’t help myself.  I had to Google Jake LaMotta.  He’s 89 and still alive while his ex-wife Vicki and his two sons with her are all dead.  Damn.

Good Lord in Heaven, De Niro and Moriarty have no chemistry.  And while she isn’t awful (and I know she got nominated for an Academy Award for this film) she really is no match for De Niro.  I suppose not many people are (I felt like Harvey Keitel was trying way too hard to be as good as him in Taxi Driver) but the scenes between De Niro and Pesci are freaking magic.  Sad that Pesci’s career has tanked in recent years because a film like this just shows how good he really is.

This is bugging me.  They did an absolutely fantastic job on De Niro’s makeup.  Holy cow it’s perfect.  So why didn’t they hide his mole?  LaMotta didn’t have a mole.  With all the time spent on his makeup would it have been so tough to hide the mole?

Okay, I could have gone my whole life without seeing Robert De Niro pour ice water in his underwear.

Ah, the musical montage.  Et tu, Marty?  Although, admittedly, the music is gorgeous.  Bravo, Pietro Mascagni.

I know it’s historical and a modern classic and all…but I want both De Niro and Pesci to die terrible deaths in this film.  Sadly, thanks to Wikipedia, I know this doesn’t happen.

It’s tough to watch Theresa Saldana in this and not remember what happened to her.  I had just started high school when she got attacked and it freaked me out that something like that could happen.  For a long time, my friends and I used her as an example of why we didn’t want to be famous.

So as the film goes on, Cathy Moriarty gets increasingly better.  I’m starting to see why she got nominated.  Even so, her scenes with Joe Pesci and much better than her scenes with Robert De Niro.  Again, this just proves to me what an exceptional actor De Niro is…it’s tough to find someone who can share screen time with him and not be out-shined.

Interesting that the most violence, thus far, is a scene with Joe Pesci and not a scene in the boxing ring.

I know this betrays me as a plebeian but none of the boxing scenes in this movie make me feel anything but dislike for the “sport”.

Robert De Niro crying after he took the dive makes me long for Marlon Brando to show up, slap him in the face and tell him to “be a man”.

De Niro smacks his wife and screams at his brother and I’m reminded of someone I used to know.   This is why Scorsese films kill me…too much reality for me.

As kind of an aside, I’ll never understand why people take troubled kids and turn them into fighters.  Why get them involved in something so violent?  I really despise fighting.  The idea that many fighters have anger issues in real life shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

“I heard some things” – Just kick his ass and be done with it, Jake.

I don’t really miss Joe Pesci in film.  I like most of what he’s in but I really get twitchy when he starts getting all Joe Pesci-y on us.

“I’m not going to answer that question” isn’t the way to answer the question “Did you fuck my wife?”.  Trouble’s coming, Joey.

The crucifix above the bed…always a nice touch.

Now, here’s the thing.  I don’t think anyone deserves to be killed over infidelity, but it’s tough to not understand why he’s so pissed that his wife and his brother slept together.  Who would go out of their way to piss off an already unstable guy whose fists are registered freaking weapons?

Jarring transition from the softness of the hug between Jake and Vikki and Jake getting punched in the face in another fight.  No time for sentiment in this film.

It’s remarkable to think about how technology has changed our lives.  If there was Caller ID in the 1950s, Joey would have known it was Jake, not Salvy, on the phone and they could have had a kiss and make up scene.  Instead, Jake goes and gets his ass kicked on purpose.

I remember all the hubbub about the violence in this movie when it came out.  In comparing it to other Scorsese films, it really isn’t that bad (maybe being in black and white helps too).  All the violence in this movie is important to the story.

It can’t go unappreciated what Robert De Niro has done to his body in the name of his craft.  It’s mind-blowing.  Must be clean living that keeps him looking so good now.

Now that he’s retired, the film is dragging.  Pick up the pace, Marty, I have a football game to watch.

Vikki’s bolting and taking the kids.  Based on what Jake said in the nightclub, she’s not even 30.  So she was suddenly smart enough to leave the angry, abusive husband only after he stopped making money as a fighter.  I think these two kind of deserved each other.

Ooh, LaMotta hooked up 14 year-olds with men in his club.  Something I didn’t know about him. The guy went to jail and they don’t find it important enough to mention this on his Wikipedia page?  And I thought you could always count on Wikipedia!!  (Wikipedia does mention that he had an interest in baseball that the film excludes…something that cold have been interesting on film.)

Okay, I dig me the De Niro but this banging his head in the cell while yelling “Why???” is straight out of the Al Pacino book of over-acting.

LaMotta working in a trashy strip club makes me happy.  I wonder if that was what Scorsese was going for?

I fail to see how his brother has any high ground.  He slept with his wife.  Sure, Jake tried to kill him in front of his wife and family, but he slept with his brother’s wife.   They both equally suck.

Jake LaMotta quoting from On the Waterfront makes me squeamish.  He might have been the Champ, but he was a bum too.

This film is definitely one of those where I have to step back from the subject and take it for what it’s worth as a whole…and as much as I hate to admit it, in its entirety this movie is freaking brilliant.  Since the credits rolled, I can’t stop thinking about De Niro’s performance and Scorsese’s directing.  It’s a similar feeling I had at the end of The Departed where I was uncomfortable with some of the film but, all in all, really loved it.  Enough to watch again.  Right now.  Alas, the Patriots are calling.

You win this round, Marty.

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