POSTERS: Raging Bull

Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta

After a close brush with death caused by a cocaine overdose in the late 70s, Martin Scorsese felt he was at the end of his career as a director. It wasn’t until his friend Robert DeNiro (Mean Streets) visited him in the hospital with a project based on a book he had shown him years earlier in hopes it would be his next film. Scorsese became inspired to get clean and go back into filmmaking because of this. The film turned out to be Raging Bull (1980), based on the life of middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta who rose to fame in the 1940s. LaMotta’s world had spun out of control due to his personal demons and Scorsese’s unflinching film is a deeply affecting character study of the suffering he caused both himself and others close to him including his wife Vickie (Cathy Moriarty) and brother Joey (Joe Pesci). Scorsese saw the boxing ring as an “allegory for life”, making it a human struggle story, something everyone could relate to. The film spans from the 1940s to the 1960s and DeNiro’s performance is truly remarkable as he starts out a lean, mean fighter and transforms into an older heavyset nightclub performer.

Scorsese and his cinematographer Michael Chapman opted to shoot the film in a beautiful, stark black and white for a few reasons, 1 ) to emphasize the ongoing problem of fading color film stock 2) one of his mentors, director Michael Powell had pointed out that the color of the boxing gloves in the 40s would’ve been dark red or black (not bright red) and 3) the black and white would help the film standout from others at that time. NOTE: There is actually some color in the film when LaMotta’s home movies are shown.

Raging Bull essentially became Scorsese’s own On The Waterfront. Both films are masterpieces that dealt with similar themes such as boxers, the criminal underworld, painful relationships and violence. Director Elia Kazan was also one of Scorsese’s biggest filmmaking heroes and he makes sure to have Jake recite lines from the film as a tribute.

The movie won two Academy Awards: one for Robert DeNiro (Acting) and the other for Thelma Schoonmaker (Editing).



Editor-In-Chief of The Grindhouse Cinema Database and Furious Cinema. Pete is an avid movie geek who enjoys everything from wild n' crazy exploitation and cult films to popular mainstream classics.

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