16 March 2010

WWQTW?: Raging Bull

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Last night was the first meeting of WWQTW movie club and it was a complete success! We enjoyed an intimate movie watching experience with 5 (plus me) ladies. For future reference, planning a movie night so close to the St. Patrick's Day celebrations was probably not a great idea. Oh well, you live and learn! I couldn't be more pleased with how everything turned out. Everyone was enraptured by the movie and the dialogue following was insightful and revealing. "He makes you pay attention...[afraid you'll] miss something", says Word-of-the-Day Jennie.

If you haven't seen "Raging Bull", here's the 411:

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring his frequent collaborator Robert DeNiro, it tells the true story of Jake LaMotta; rising boxing star from the Bronx. The movie co-stars Cathy Moriarty (her first film!) and Joe Pesci (his 2nd!). Shot in beautifully black and white by Michael Chapman (DP on over 45 movies) and edited by Thelma Shoonmaker (go lady! She has been Scorsese's editor ever since). It was nominated for 9 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and best Supporting Actor and Actress. It won for Best Editing and Best Actor. It was nominated for 4 BAFTA's and won Best Editing and Outstanding Newcomer-Male for Pesci. It was nominated for 7 Golden Globes and won for Best Actor. At the time, no one would have predicted it would now be named the 4th most important film in history by AFI.

This acclaim surprised no one more than the director himself. Having come off a loss ("New York, New York" aslo with DeNiro), Scorsese believed this film might be his last. In reality, it cemented his legacy as a prolific American filmmaker, the visual style for which he would become known, and influenced generations to follow.

What I love most about the film, is the relationship between DeNiro and Pesci. Few could argue that their brotherly report is bordering on documentary. In particular, I direct you to a scene at the beginning of the movie when Pesci breaks up a fight between LaMotta and his then wife. Their conversation at the breakfast table is stable and even keeled, even as they get heated at each other. The scene closes with DeNiro ribbing Pesci into hitting him. It also draws a direct reference to "on the Waterfront", a movie quoted at the end of the film. My friend Steph Too said it best, "You want them to get their heads out of their asses! You're killing me!". This struck me as especially funny seeing as she is the only mother in our group.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is shot in black and white. There doesn't seem to be any concrete reason why, however there is speculation galore! Scorsese has been quoted as saying it was because he was not satisfied with the quality of color film stock at the time. This makes sense- just look at other films from the last 70's/early 80's. Many seem dated, while "Raging Bull" is timeless. Other's believe it was to separate the film from another recently released- "Rocky"(1976). Other's involved with the making of the film say it was in direct reference to boxing movies from the time (40's-50's). Steph Too also pointed out the transitional editing, particularly how "the scene opens fuzzy, then become very crisp". The camera shots and editing were revolutionary at the time, but seem so common place to us now. During fight scenes, the speed slows down when there is contact between boxers allowing us to see the fight in all it's sweaty and bloody glory. At other times it speeds up, shooting the action from below, their gloves raging over the lens- we can't escape the punches any more than the other boxer.

Suggested Viewing: "On the Waterfront", anything by Scorsese particularly "Taxi Driver" and "Casino", "Rocky", "Rocky Marciano", and documentary "Easy Riders and Raging Bulls"

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