Raging Bull

Director: Martin Scorsese

1980. Black and white. Dolby stereo. 129 mins.

Director Martin Scorsese’s extraordinary Raging Bull is based on the life and career of former middleweight boxing champion Jake La Motta. Nicknamed the ‘Bronx Bull’, the ferocious fighter battered his way through family, friends and foes in the 1940s, suffered a series of bruising humiliations in the ’50s, and ended up as a sad celebrity entertainer in the ’60s. The extremes of La Motta’s violent story don’t make for a conventional movie biography or boxing picture, and Scorsese uses the material to explore the very frightening limits of destructive, sado-masochistic male aggression. It’s a work of enormous courage and dazzling technical virtuosity in which the language of violence and the violence of language become the binding elements. As La Motta, Robert De Niro pushes to extremes what used to be know as the ‘Method’ school of acting in a performance that’s physically and emotionally overwhelming. He deserved his Oscar, as did Thelma Schoonmaker for her brilliant editing of a film with more important priorities than the niceties of narrative exposition. Inexplicably, Scorsese was overlooked by the Academy.

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