An appreciation of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Raging Bull’

 

In the autumn of 1980, Martin Scorsese arranged a preview on the Paramount lot of his latest film, a drama about prize fighter Jake LaMotta. Afterwards cinematographer Michael Chapman and Paul Schrader, one of two credited writers on the film, strolled out to the car park and mulled over what they had just seen. 'Wow,' said Chapman after a while. 'Marty really fucked that one up, didn't he?' Schrader drew a breath. 'Yeah,' he agreed. 'I don't know what went wrong there.' 

The following year, Raging Bull won two Oscars, having been nominated for eight. The American Film Institute recently voted it the fourth greatest US film of all time, just behind Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca. Robert De Niro's ferocious portrayal of LaMotta is widely considered to be a benchmark in the history of screen performances, not to mention a textbook lesson in how method actors will go that extra mile - or, in the case of De Niro, who prepared for scenes as the overweight LaMotta by embarking on a culinary tour of Italy, several thousand extra miles.

And yet the initial reaction of Chapman and Schrader anticipated the mood among cinemagoers. Despite the esteem in which Raging Bull is now held, its initial release was hardly a cause for widespread celebration. 

(Source: The Guardian)


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