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My shot.

I have a very suprising affection [suprising in terms of not expecting to feel so affectionate] for Raging Bull (1980), and it is a film that I can watch again and again over a short period of time, and still find new things to be amazed with every time.



I bought Raging Bull on DVD without having ever seen it. All I knew was that it was a Scorsese picture, that it was there, that I could buy it, and so I did. At first I was unimpressed. It is a hard film. Hard to take at first. Jake La Motta [Bobby DeNiro] is one of the most obnoxious jerks in cinematic history. The first time I watched the film I found it hard to sympathise with him, and I wondered if my money had been wasted. Of course, it hadn't. Not by a long shot.

The second time I watched it I noticed a Hell of a lot more [and I sympathised a lot more; the prison scene kill me now]. The fact that Raging Bull is extremely funny, for example [that is something about most Scorsese films that you don't pick up in one viewing. These things are tragic, sure, but they're hilarious too]. There is no funnier lines in the film than when Jake tells his wife that in burning the steak "it defeats its own purpose" and Joey lamenting [after having punched Jake in the face per request], "Your cuts are opening up and everything." It is laugh out loud. You don't feel it that first time 'round, because the film is so overwhelming.

I don't think there is a better scene from the 80s than the scene in which Joey tells Jake how to tune the TV. There is so much about that scene that cements the genius of Scorsese for me [more so than even the fight sequences]. You've got two brilliant actors going at each other, you've got Cathy Moriarty in her near perfect performance, you've got some amazing editing from Thelma [so very subtle]. You've got that shot that lingers on the staircase before slowly panning back to Jake, who actually looks like a the raging bull that he is. Then you've got the dialogue exchange, "D'you f_ck my wife?" which results in the best reaction in the entire film, the result of Marty telling DeNiro to say, "D'you f_ck my mother" without letting Pesci know. It is just a masterpiece of a scene. It transcends film direction for me. It is just there. Perfectly formed.

I don't really need to discuss the fight scenes because enough people have already spoken for them, and they don't need me to add redundant praise. All I feel about the fight scenes is summed up when I mention the shot of the referee [you know the shot], as he passes through a hellish and almost liquid whisp of smoke. They lit a fire underneath the camera for that. And that one shot sums up the technical genius of the film, more than one of the best opening credit sequences in history, more than the drop of blood on the ropes. As the referee passes through that mirage you just know that Scorsese had seen this thing in his mind so long before [the story of his reasons for making the film are well known; the book, the hospital bed, the salvation] , how innovative he is, and how [to put it simply] passionate he is. To go to the lengths of lighting a fire under the camera. It doesn't sound like much, but it is. To want to do that. To think, "I'm going to light a fire under the camera for this one shot". That says something to me. For me, Raging Bull is the masterpiece. GoodFellas is the favourite, but Raging Bull is the masterpiece.