Thursday, 8 July 2010

Fuck Him Or Fight Him.

Hmm, I don't know what it is with Scorsese. Maybe he's a director I have to be in the mood for. Like, I gave Goodfellas 5 stars, and thinking back on it I don't know if I still would. Then I gave Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore 4 stars, where I'd probably now give it more. But I'd still probably give Shutter Island 2 stars. Maybe three, depending on my mood. I think that two stars is more related to the fact that I just wanted more from the film, from Scorsese.

With Raging Bull, I think my biggest obstacle is the fact that I thought it would knock me for six. I was waiting for it to blow me out of my chair, to completely astound me. I went in with three decades of expectations (well, less than two decades of that I was aware of it, but still, it was made thirty years ago) and came out thinking it should have been a little more. Not that it wasn't fantastic. There is something not quite grabbing me around my organs, which I can normally identify with those truly incredible movies, however. There isn't an overwhelming urge to go and watch it again, immediately. Though I must say the depth and texture of the film, and particularly De Niro's Oscar-winning lead performance, is drawing me back towards it.

De Niro plays a boxer, the raging bull of the title, one Jake La Motta. The story follows him over twenty years, with marriages, arguments, family fall outs (his brother is played terrifically by Scorsese regular Joe Pesci (does three films count as a regular? Sure. Let's go with it), bar purchases, mob run-ins - the full gamut of Italian-American boxing life in the 40s to the 60s. De Niro is at his powerful best, proving what an inimitable force he can be when given the right material, and when he really puts his back into it. God knows what path he's wandering down now, but give him back some meaty material and Marty and maybe we'll see him as good as he can be.

Scorsese takes Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin's adaptation of La Motta's autobiography and hones it into a taught biopic, spanning twenty years without dragging. And his fight scenes - holy gemini. The boxing scenes were truly beautiful to watch, in that they were also quite horrific. Cinematographer MIchael Chapman gave editor Thelma Schoonmaker some beautiful images to work with (and she won an Oscar for her terrific efforts). 

The film is very, very good. It's a terrific show of craft, and I think that's what I mean when I talk about it missing something to truly grab me by the balls and shake. I think this is a problem I have with many of Scorsese's films, in fact. I think they are incredible examples of craft, but somewhere along the line the heart goes missing. I'm not feeling this film. I'm watching it, I'm liking it, but I'm not feeling it.

Having said that, it is very good. Terrific, even. 4.5 stars.

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