Friday, March 26, 2010

dear misters scorcese and de niro:

I love Taxi Driver. I really do. That one wins.

But between Raging Bull and the other boxing movies, I gotta say. I prefer Rocky.

I rewatched Raging Bull today which I haven't seen in years. I watched it the first time because I was a teen freak who paid careful attention to lists of the best in cinema. I combed the criterion collection, I saw all of the best picture winners (82 of them now, and as many nominees as possible which is a hefty pile). Anyway, I didn't really get RB the first time I saw it, kind of like Taxi Driver. The trick of TD, however, is that ever time I watch it I always start to think to myself how overrated it is, but by the time I finish it and for the days following I think about it a great deal and am usually prompted to watch it again. I've seen it a good 9 times now, I think, and only really "got it" the 3rd time. Raging Bull isn't really like that for me. It doesn't hold my interest the way TD does, and while I think Robert De Niro is great at playing big, intellectually stupid to the point of vulnerable, physically powerful characters-- here he is repellent (even before he slugs his wife)-- but I just don't think it's the best performance ever captured. I just really don't. Props to the in-the-ring filming, reminding me that boxing is never as fun as it sounds, and the weird talent that Scorsese has for capturing the New York Italian family-- where borderline abusive husbands are the norm, and would in fact be considered incredibly abusive if their wives weren't aware of their men's vulnerabilities. The wives know how to handle it, they are the "neck" as the mother of a famous Greek family once said, and they can turn their husband's head any-which way they want. When they can't do that, they can dish it out just as easily as their husbands can, and even provoke fights.

Jake's abuse of his wife and his first girlfriend is awful, however I kind of enjoy the shrewish behavior of his first girlfriend and how his ballsy wife screams at him exactly what he doesn't want to hear even when she knows he's going to slap her around. She follows him down the street, screaming at him and hitting him. Joey is also all about keeping his wife in line and is very insulting to her, but she knows how he is and she's not afraid to stand up to him. Maybe that's it. I wouldn't say anything about these relationships are healthy but there's something that diminishes the pain in them if the women are so capable of coming back. This is our impression of Italian women. They are passionate people. When we see Italian couples engaged in domestic disputes, we often roll our eyes and shake our heads at the reliability of the Italian family, even though all we know about it is what Scorsese and Fellini and Coppola have taught us. That's probably wrong, just as my affection for these loud-mouthed women is probably misplaced. Regardless, it is something that is strangely cinematically captivating-- when I think abused wife I think cowering, tiny, bruised white woman. When I see these representations of these tough Italian broads I think they have lousy husbands, but I don't think of these wives as abused. They're too strong for that.

Anyhoo. My original point was I prefer Rocky. It's a love story. Call me a sap, but it doesn't get much better than the new, underdog champ who has just changed his life, calling out blindly for his wife. She was the one changed his life, winning the fight doesn't really compare. Oh, if only Jake could see it that way.

ps, Raging Bull is definitely more artistic, though. B+W. Rope dripping with blood. Yeah.

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