Alas, I actually learned quite a bit about this movie from Ebert's essay and Wikipedia. I never realized that Scorsese was a drug addict. Ebert writes that, "The project languished while Scorsese and De Niro made the ambitious but unfocused musical ``New York, New York,'' and then languished some more as Scorsese's drug use led to a crisis. De Niro visited his friend in the hospital, threw the book on his bed, and said, ``I think we should make this.'' And the making of ``Raging Bull,'' with a screenplay further sculpted by Mardik Martin (``Mean Streets''), became therapy and rebirth for the filmmaker" (The Great Movies, 385). I didn't know this story, and it was really nice to hear it - it was touching. I really feel for any type of addicts, be it OCD or substance abuse, and I felt really happy that such an incredible movie was such great therapy for Scorsese. Like most creative endeavors, for some reason, movies that come out of a depression seem to be the most powerful and some of the best. Personally, I seem to be able to focus better when I'm in bad states of mind. I have patience to be meticulous and methodical, and I spend more time writing and creating than I would otherwise. I guess I felt sort of endeared to Scorsese, more than I already do, after reading that.
I think that a lot of people see this movie and just see it as a movie about boxing. Which it is, but it has so much more going on. The movie is a biopic on a boxer, but it also is about some deeper issue. It's about what motivates him, and in this case, it is insecurity. He is insecure in himself, in all ways, especially sexually. So much of what he does is motivated by his jealousy and his fears that Vicki is cheating on him. There is a tense scene where Vicki causally mentions that one of Jake's opponents is good looking. This sends Jake into a rage. How dare she know anything about another man. During the fight, he ruins the face of the attractive man. Afterward, he looks at Vicki - the fight was more about his possessiveness than boxing. Ebert hits on the deeper meaning of the film in the end of his essay, writing, "``Raging Bull'' is the most painful and heartrending portrait of jealousy in the cinema--an ``Othello'' for our times. It's the best film I've seen about the low self-esteem, sexual inadequacy and fear that lead some men to abuse women. Boxing is the arena, not the subject. LaMotta was famous for refusing to be knocked down in the ring. There are scenes where he stands passively, his hands at his side, allowing himself to be hammered. We sense why he didn't go down. He hurt too much to allow the pain to stop (The Great Movies, 389). I have studied Scorsese a lot, and I always got this sense that he had a disgust with what I would call "everyday violence" - the sort of violence that goes on ignored in homes and neighborhoods. Here is another film where that idea plays a huge role, and Scorsese shows how troublesome it really is, why it shouldn't be ignored or accepted.
If you haven't seen this movie, it's a must-see. Everything about it is beautiful and it's such a masterpiece. The boxing is really realistic as well, and the fight scenes are so wonderfully directed and shot. Its very worth revisiting as well - I've seen it a lot recently and I have yet to become tired of it. I just bought it on Blu-ray from one of the many Blockbuster stores in my area that is closing, and it looks really great in high-def as well. I'm always impressed by how good black and white looks when it's remastered - it's almost more noticeably gorgeous than color, to me. If you can check it out on Blu-ray, it's so worth it. I know this is another short blog post, but there is so much information out there about this movie already, and I don't want to just summarize so much. I feel like other than saying that I love it, there isn't a lot of new things I can bring to the table.
Have any thoughts on Raging Bull? Share them with me in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Raging Bull