Saturday, 5 April 2014

Raging Bull: A Miserable Mess of a Film

I like Scorsese as a director. He's done some great films: Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Aviator, Shutter Island, and Hugo were all excellent movies made under his direction. Scorese and Robert De Niro go together like Clint Eastwood and Sondra Locke, John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, or David Lynch and Jack Nance. Put the two of them together and you can get some really good movies... most of the time anyway.

During my short-lived stint in college, I was enrolled in a film studies course that had a frustrating way of working. Every week, our teacher would have a new movie for us to look at, but she only once ever screened a movie in full, and that was in preparation for the exam (we were expected to write a short essay comparing Out of the Past to one of two possible movies, one of which was Breathless; having to watch that film was my first real exposure to Jean-Luc Godard). Instead, she gave us a syllabus that labelled each week, and gave us a movie she expected us to watch on our own time.

Even more irritating was the fact that the majority of the movies on the syllabus were obscure and/or foreign movies. She expected us to somehow, in the period of a week, acquire some obscure movie from the other side of the movie on DVD and watch it. Once in a while we got something a bit more plausible (though I still ended up seeing North By Northwest a week late), but as you can imagine I quickly fell behind.

When I saw Raging Bull on the list, I got excited, since it just so happened I'd obtained a file of that movie, which wasn't the most ethical way of watching it but still allowed me to see it in time. I thought I could finally start catching up and things would get easier.

I didn't get more than thirty minutes in before I shut it off in frustration from not being able to understand it. I eventually had to sit down and watch it in full, frequently referring back to a plot synopsis to keep track of what was happening, but that was an extremely painful experience. This was really an Oscar winner? If you ask me this film stole an Oscar that rightfully belonged to the other black and white historical drama nominated that year: David Lynch's The Elephant Man.

So what's my problem with the film? Well, for starters there isn't much of a plot to it. Supposedly it's about a boxer who has a bad temper but it took a plot synopsis off IMDB to understand that. The movie really seemed to keep jumping all over the place without ever really developing anything. There were a lot of scenes of Robert De Niro in the boxing ring and occasionally his interactions with other characters. The way it does that is exceptionally jarring, and doesn't really draw you into the world of the story. I also never really found myself connecting with De Niro's protagonist.

If you want a good boxing drama, you'd be better off with something like Million Dollar Baby. That movie actually makes sense and has a point, and deserved the Oscars it won much more than Raging Bull ever did.


  1. Not exactly an insightful essay. Maybe you should be more attentive, instead of the immediately dismissing tha film and saying it doesn't have a point or a plot.

    1. Okay, I guess I see your point. I just really felt its plot didn't make a whole lot of sense and didn't seem to have much of a point. When the only way you can follow a film is to repeatedly have to pause and consult a plot synopsis on IMDB I think something's gone wrong somewhere down the line.