It’s been a while since my last Scorsese film Taxi Driver (1973) which blew my mind with what was built up on-screen. Here I saw the pairing of Robert DeNiro again and the skilled director in The King of Comedy (1982). a disturbing portrait of a fanatic fan, real emphasis on the fanatic.
Following the live and day-dreams of wannabe stand-up comic Rupert Pupkin (DeNiro) which often said and pronounced wrong, has a fascination with stand-up comedian Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) who is tired of the attraction of fame, just wanting to do his job without harassment. Something that constantly plaques him in the form of the adoring public that sometimes never keeps its distance for long enough.
We are invited into the screwed world of the fanatic and the extremes that they go to. First we see the casual fan trying to catch a glimpse of a the comedy star Jerry Langford, which soon turns into a more dark a serious tone when one fan saves him from another Marsha (Sandra Bernhard) who personifies the other extremes that we associate with the unstable characters who stalk the rich and famous. As we learn this is all part of a carefully worked plan to get to the comedian who wants to be left alone, whilst an aspiring Pupkin wants to learn and get near to him. We are let into his dreams and the sad life he really lives. Harassing Langford’s team, all to get his big break. A careful balance between reality and fantasy is on display, throwing the audience into confusion, just as Pupkin tries to make his fantasy a reality, a goal that is slowly slipping away from his grasp. DeNiro is taken a break from his heavy gangster roles to gives us another intense performance which sees him become what he may indeed fear himself at times, the super-fan, who has for some famous people has cost them their privacy or even lives. Playing opposite Sandra Bernhard who strangely suits her role down to the ground, on a different level of delusion, wanting other things from the comedian.
A symptom of modern western life, that for those who want and achieve fame comes the darker side, those who are loved by the fans can become some dark and dangerous, as the seemingly sad man who stalks Langford seeing him as more than an inspiration, but the way to fame and fortune. To access him is to achieve his goal of being a stand-up comedian. Going to extremes that most would never dream of. Of course we all have moments where we would want to meet a famous person, even do more, but then dreams can take on a more dangerous form, reality for those who want only to do their job.
A very contemporary film that will never lose its edge, with serious performances by DeNiro and Bernhardwho together paint a dark picture of modern life, how fame can create desires and mental instability that is fuelled by the media, that used to be good for the famous, even protect them. Which now has taken a new form to be able to communicate on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, we want to know more, to know what they are doing. Magazines dedicated to what they eat, wear and go on holiday. The final touch in the whole film is turned on its head, becoming a fictional account of the film we have just seen. Making a fictional biopic of a fictional account, a false fact, a confusing and intelligent thing to do at the end.
- The King of Comedy (1982) (myfilmviews.com)
- Top Ten Robert De Niro Roles (billstoptenlists.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 Martin Scorsese Films (jordanandeddie.wordpress.com)
- Sandra Bernhard Glee-fully disses hit TV show on her way to Miami for shows at Prelude by Barton G. (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- The 5 best movie cameos (atlmalcontent.wordpress.com)
- Robert De Niro: At 70th birthday, he remains a man of many facets (cnn.com)
The 1970′s really did produce some real gems of cinema that just aren’t quite matched today, at least in quantity. When looking at Taxi Driver (1976) I knew I was in for something special, seen partly as Martin Scorsese’s The Searchers (1956) that sees a Vietnam war veteran adjusts to life on the streets of New York, something he has a hard time doing.
Unable to sleep during the nights he decides to take up a job as a New York taxi driver, something that allows him to earn a living and take his mind of being alone, picking up and dropping all walks of life which take him all over the vast city. He begins to detest the “scum” that walks the streets, something he didn’t fight for. Wanting to clean up the streets he later develops his own personal method that we see much later on.
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) our lone man of the streets constantly writes to his parents, announcing that he has found a girl who he hopes to protect. A woman who we learn is more confident and assured than we were first lead to believe as Travis creates his own ideas about Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) work at the campaign office a presidential candidate Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris). Travis is not the usual type that we believe she would be attracted to, surrounded by men such as Tom (Albert Brooks) more intelligent but not as confident in front of the lone soldier on a one man mission to clean up the streets of New York.
His time as a taxi driver starts to wear him down, especially after having an angry husband who boasts about killing his philandering wife who is only two floors above. Finding solace in his fellow drivers who have armed themselves with guns. Turning also to a wise man of the yellow cab; The Wizard (Peter Boyle) who has seen it all in the world of a taxi driver. Needing to feel save he later invests in not one but for guns to arm and protect himself. They become a suit of armour which he crafts to his body in the event he may need to use them. When he is unable to hold down a relationship with Betsy his energy of romance turns to revenge,wanting to take it out on the presidential candidate which he builds up-towards, un-nerving the audience as to when he will carry out this assassination, to right the wrong of not having Betsy in his life.
There is however a glimmer of hope and shred of humanity in him, wanting to find once more the young prostitute that he nearly took away from her life on the streets. When he finally tracks her down we discover her Iris (Jodie Foster) a confident 12 1/2 years old girl who has adapted to a life of prostitution. Travis sees the innocence in the young girl wanting to restore what is left and return her to her parents. Something that she doesn’t want. Already having had to grow-up faster yet with a lot still to learn. Portrayed by the amazingly talented and young Jodie Foster.
We are seeing two sides to this man, one who arms himself to the teeth and the kind man who wants to save a young girl/woman from a terrible life on the streets. channelling his energy he once had for Betsy into this young girl who doesn’t know she needs to be saved. This is at the end of a long and disturbing journey from freshly released onto the streets veteran of the Marine Corps to wannabe assassin who transforms himself into a dangerous man with a heart. Living by the trigger of a gun to keep him safe on the streets that he wants to clean up, having lost faith in the politicians who have failed his country and damaged the man who returned from war.
An incredible film that doesn’t put a foot wrong, like many of the period, I want to re-watch this with the same passion I have for the near-perfect Chinatown (1974). With one of the last scored by the great composer Bernard Herrmann create a subdued jazzy atmosphere of the streets if New York. I’m not even bothered by the cheeky cameo by Scorsese which builds up his relationship with the De Niro that has worked so well over 30-plus years. We see a troubled man return to civilian life, struggle to adjust and finding hope in a real damsel in distress. The modern cowboy who great and dangerous feats, a man who has all but lost faith in humanity in a dirty world that he fought to protect.
- Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese (1976) (spfilmjournal.wordpress.com)
- Cinema of moments (embodimentblog.wordpress.com)
- Taxi Driver (criticoffilm.wordpress.com)
- Taxi Driver (taxiconfessions.wordpress.com)
Taking the winning formula of Goodfellas (1990) to Las Vegas again with Robert De Niro in Casino (1995), where we see the Mafia taking over the casino’s. Placing a guy who wants a straight job at the front line of the Tangier casino.
Through the constantly moving camera work we are taken into the underworld that runs the casino. A multi-layered world of everyone watching everyone, there’s a lot to take in, in this complex world or organized crime.
We follow the rise and fall of Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein (De Niro) the head of the casino a man with a reputation for always betting on the winner, surely this is the right place for him. Along with his cronies that follow him, mainly Billy Sherbert (Don Rickles) who never leaves his side. It’s smooth sailing until his old friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) turns up to make a name for himself, away from the elders who could keep their eyes on him. Pesci once more plays a trigger happy man who flips faster than a switch, First working for Rothstein using his mouth and his fists at the same rate to get through to those who don’t pay up.
Just to spice things up and complete the film Martin Scorsese gives us Ginger McKenna (Sharon Stone) a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. A prostitute who knows more than just the game, the ways of the table, how to use her best assets to her advantage, which isn’t just her body. Before catching the eye of Rothstein who wont let her go. Whilst she has more intentions with the slimy pimp Lester Diamond (James Woods) who is on the sidelines of the film, whilst he causes a stir, making himself known, there are times we hardly noticing him because we are focused on the actions of both Rothstien and Santoro who are each out for themselves. Yet they are both on the same side, trying to look out for each other, it becomes harder as the film progresses.
The intermittent narration by these two adds a real texture to the film, building on that given by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas who is the centre of the film. Here we have two men trying to make sense of the events as they unfolded in retrospect, leading up to the climatic ending we are shown at the end. Which we come to as everyone is tearing each other to shreds, the stakes are raised to the point where no-one knows what’s going to happen.
Equally violent as the other Scorsese gangster films, making you pull away momentarily at the brutality of the world we are spending time in. If we didn’t see it, we wouldn’t learn how dangerous it is. It could be argued that he wants to repeated the winning formula, yet they are both so different, even with De Niro and Pesci playing similar roles as before, more so for Pesci but that’s what he does best, flying off the wall at everyone that comes his way. Whilst De Niro is no longer the mentor, looking over the new boy, he wants to go straight in his own way in the world of organized crime. That’s what makes the two films stand apart, with so much in common Casino stands alone on the basis that it chooses to work with a winning formula adding the dangerous ingredient of Stone who sizzles, holding her own against the all male cast.
- Casino * * * * 1/2 (mrmarakai.wordpress.com)
- Film: Great Job, Internet!: A fan-made poster captures the essence of Martin Scorsese’s Casino (avclub.com)
- De Niro and O. Russell Together Again (reelgood.co.uk)
- Showcasing a genius (thehindu.com)
It’s not hard to see why Raging Bull (1980) is so well-respected. I can see how Martin Scorsese has been informed by the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s films, Mostly Red Shoes (1948) in the ring, whilst in the world a family joy he is heavily in formed by the A Matter of Life and Death (1946) that used colour for life back on earth whilst heaven is black and white. Here in Raging Bull the home videos are in colour, away from the majority of the film that depicts the rise and fall of Jake La Motta (Robert De Niro) a one time middle-weight champion boxer.
A conflict life in and out of the ring in this biopic that saw a rising star in the Bronx fight his way to the top, full of struggle and glory. We spend more time out of the ring the personal family life of the Jake La Motta, where he really did earn his nick name of Raging Bull. A man who jumped to conclusions, living by his wits and his fists, turning more and more into an animal.
The film only touches on what could easily be domestic violence towards his second wife and live of his life Vickie La Motta (Cathy Moriaty) who has her own breaking point before leaving the ring of his life more gracefully.
The decision to photograph in black and white is one of genius, allow the grit and dirt of every day life to be seen through the eyes of onlookers who see only the photographs in a paper, not knowing what really happened until you are in the moment. It also allows the acting to take centre stage in the film La Motta literally becomes a bull in the china shop of his life, pushing away all those close to him away. Becoming washed up and all alone in life, like many sports man of his time. Not looked after, with all the pressure that their careers put on them to perform, to be at his best all the time, wanting respect and adoration that he feels he deserves.
De Niro is once again so immersed in his role that we no longer see him on the screen but the boxing legend that has fallen from grace to floor of the ring to celebrity obscurity where he must build his life up. Supported by life long friend Joe Pesci (Joey) who holds his own on-screen as his brother who is as tough, if not tougher than his more successful brother who knows where to draw the line, even he does cross it himself.
It’s his older self in the early sixties that we see a washed up man of beautiful words that has come out the other side of his life to see what he has become, the journey and life he has led. Taking account for himself, and going on in the life he has to make for himself.
- De Niro cemented into Hollywood history (bigpondnews.com)
- Oscar Nominees, Then and Now (usnews.com)
- Crocky v The Ageing Bull: Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro pictured on Grudge Match set (mirror.co.uk)
- “Martin Scorsese” exhibition features items from Ransom Center (utexas.edu)
- LOOK: Robert De Niro’s Early Oscars (huffingtonpost.com)
- Scorsese and the sickness of celebrity (newstatesman.com)
- Oscars: ‘Silver’ matches ‘Raging Bull’ (espn.go.com)
- Martin Scorsese at the time of “GoodFellas” (somecamerunning.typepad.com)
- First Look at Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone in GRUDGE MATCH (collider.com)
- Top 10 Oscars Snubs (Best Picture) (moeatthemovies.com)
After all the posts I have made about this documentary, I sat down and rented the film from iTunes, something I don’t really ever do, or will ever do again. Having heard, and read so much about this documentary, I just couldn’t wait to watch this important film Side by Side (2012).
I feel that it’s a very important documentary that covers a lot of ground in just 90 minutes. A stimulating piece that was almost as engaging as The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) on More4. Here Keanu Reeves covers all the important aspects of the history of celluloid film to the introduction of digital in the early nineties to its current form today and other aspects around them both.
It seems there are more directors in favor of the digital film than the cinematographer who needs more convincing. I can see how it frees up production time and costs, which today is a great advantage. I felt sorry for Christopher Nolan, who as great a director he is, he’s a dying and stubborn breed of director who wont shift on the matter as easily as his other contemporaries. Yet I understand his position, the process of images being captured photochemically, at times being superior to the digital. But I am constantly reminded of the likes of George Lucas who gave a famous conference in 2000 stating that the new technology are just tools. Coming from the biggest innovator and supporter of digital.
Turning to the other aspects such as the editing of film which has changed radically in the last 20 years from film, and the physically cutting and sticking of film to the edit suites with quiet monitors and giant keyboards. I notice how one editor commented that the traditional technique wasn’t good enough. Again its a method to achieve the directors vision and that vision is what it’s important.
I noticed how balanced the discussion was, made up from the multiple interviewees, allowing for the audience to make their own minds up. I feel from my point of view of my practice, when filming, I rely on a small digital camera, and a fair-sized memory card. I have the images that I need to achieve the desired result. Yet I understand and appreciate the art of the photochemical process that comes with 35mm film, I just can’t afford it.
The discussion moves onto the possibilities of digital, an aspect of film where I have settled my opinion, and shared with Martin Scorsese who is unsure of what the audience believes anymore. We need to know whats real and not. However it’s a medium where we escape to the unreal, so where does that leave us. With all the advances, such as colour-correction they try to involve the cinematographer to ensure the vision is maintained, the aren’t trying to take away from the vision. Again its the vision that is all important.
And how we view these visions was another important aspect, noting that there is a steady conversion digital projection, which takes away from the cinematic experience, to hear the running of the film through the projector as it runs through. Taking us through to the storage of film, how it lasts for as long as the oldest prints in existence. With so many digital formats around, some are already obsolete. It’s the return of film that allows them to stand the test of time. Whilst some of the more cynical interviews cast a more bleak light.
The supporting material that accompanied Side by Side (2012) only serves to enrich the discussion that is presented in a balanced manner. I can only give you my conclusion that sees digital as the inevitable future of the film medium, how we view it is changing too, which scares me somewhat (and subject for another posts) as time progresses. The position of film maybe to archive and prestige films, much as Technicolor was used originally to enhance a film, celluloid will become a treat and rare. I will always appreciate the scratched and dust that appear in the older films, they are literally part of their fabric and should be appreciated and embraced.
- Keanu Reeves examines the future of film (updatednews.ca)
- Keanu Reeves: Side By Side. One-Off Screening in Athens, Greece (alexandrosmaragos.com)
- 35mm Film: The End of an Era (nowherebutpop.com)
- Trailer for “Side By Side” (0110idff.wordpress.com)
- “Side by Side”-Christopher Kenneally (jemia.wordpress.com)
- It’s going to happen to the Movie Industry too (atmtxphoto.com)
The legendary director John Huston‘s penultimate film as director, never loosing his touch as times and styles have changed. Even staying with the classical genre of the gangster he puts a new spin on things before Martin Scorsese comes in and reboots the genre with Goodfellas (1990).
Prizzi’s Honor (1985) follows the life of one Charlie Patanna (Jack Nicholson) a gangster by family who has fallen into his profession, in a world of casual cash bung’sand hits, that just happens. The Prizzi mafia are just another Sicilian family who have done well from a life of organised crime.
Starting at a wedding is a dangerous romance between Nicholson and the “blond dame” Irene Walker (Kathleen Turner) who is just as bad as him, they are perfect on paper.
Bring in Hustons daughter and best supporting actress Anjelica Huston as the shunned Prizzi daughter caught in the middle of the blossoming relationship. Having to deal with Charlie’s doubting mind. Playing a headstrong, at times deadpan performance of a woman who takes it on the chin. Whilst Nicholson plays against type, a bumbling gangster who does his best, almost the average joe… just with underworld connections.
Bringing in Kathleen Turner who is more trouble for him than she is a match.
Huston successfully balances the black comedy with the violence of the mafia world that we see little off unless necessary. The character just roll on by with their business making for a romantic gangster comedy that will attract both the guys and the dolls. We only get a glimpse into the life of the Prizzi world, the organisation they operate, the company they keep. I want to go back for more.
A tense thriller that centres around a mental institution (Shutter Island (2010)) for the most dangerous criminals of the 1950′s. We follow a deputy marshal (Leonardo DeCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo)who arrive to investigate a missing prisoner. Rumours of the impenetrable prison leak to the visitors. The team of doctors led by Dr Cawley (Ben Kingsley) try to help their visitors investigation before it takes a turn for the personal as Teddy Daniels (DeCaprio) seeking out another patient who hurt him many years before.
Tortured with flashback as a soldier at Dachau prison camp when he came to liberate those lucky enough to survive. Unable to rid himself of his dead wives image. The tale unravels to that of torture and lobotomies on patients, treatments thought to only be carried out by the enemies of the U.S.
I won’t reveal the annoying twist that had me frustrated, still director Martin Scorsese stays true to the book (by Dennis Lehane) and his visual style that we love. Another superb pairing of Scorsese and DeCaprio, I don’t feel tired of this team as I do with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton who can’t seem to be apart for more than a few pictures. But thats for another article.
I remember when my digital TV back home was with NTL, which feels like a long, long time ago, their on-demand channel for films constantly ran trailers of Gangs of New York (2002), thinking little of it. Now with maturity and a growing appreciation of cinema, what it has to offer not just in the past but today, well this is 11 years old now. My interest in the Western has allowed me to understand, through a skewed version of American history, here focusing on the trouble between the gangs in a district of New York. Martin Scorsese his own version of a legend, much like John Ford and others.
THe first in a number of collaborations between Leonardo DeCaprio and Martin Scorsese bring this legend to life, DeCaprio plays opposite a fierce Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting the butcher who doesn’t restrict his trade to that of life-stock. The tools of his trade fall down into the ranks of his and other gangs who fight to stay alive amongst the poverty, racism, civil war and violence that lay the foundations for this epic tale. With Cameron Diaz who has found herself in one of her better roles, falling in between the lame comedies and more brutal films and blockbusters that have made her a star today.
Joined by a clearly British cast doing the majority of the Irish accents on the streets of New York giving some credibility to the accent that is put on by the American cast who produce the stereotypical accent that we have come to expect. Overlooking that we have a gangster film that Scorsese is known for, thrown back in time to the birth of America. He chooses not to shy away from the events of the time, pushing them to the extreme at times. His violent pallet translates to the fighting ground around them, and increased to match the rich dialogue by the key players placing us in the 1860′s.
Patriotism is taken to the extreme with the “native Americans” when it can be easily argued those they have already fought own that name. The label is a form of strength for the early generations to be born on American soil, feeling a strong bond to the land. The audience is thrown into a highly political atmosphere that erupts in the final act with some unexpected results.
At first I was expecting a crime in the planning from the classic gangster film. However I was given a near docudrama style of film that spent a period of time with this group of gangster. Focusing on Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel‘s characters. A mentor and student in the game of crime, honour, respect and how to survive. A number of plots are woven together to produce this Scorsese classic. the first in a line of gangster films by the now respected director who is finally being recognised for his work.
The hand-held camera work places you in the action of the film, trying to keep up with everything as it transpires. Mean Streets (1973) is a real flavour of a way of life for a small community, heightened or not we are immensely informed by the genre of gangster after viewing this film. It’s true that Goodfellas (1990) does go further in this world than his previous work.
Firstly I only decided to watch this based on Kate Blanchett’s portrayal of Katharine Hepburn, which itself was superb. Otherwise The Aviator (2005) directed by Martin Scorsese was an epic biopic of the aviation and Hollywood tycoon Howard Hughes between the twenties and forties.
The choice of colour pallet for the film, being mostly pinks and blues amongst many others in higher contrast worked wonderfully in this picture, creating a sense of nostalgia for the golden age of Hollywood and all things vintage.
What strick a chord with me was the depiction of obsessive compulsive disorder, not that I am a sufferer, thankfully, we were given the opportunity to see inside the workings of what was a great man and visionary that was still a fragile human being with all the faults that made him almost crumble into a state of insanity. Who was picked up by Ava Gardner portrayed by Kate Beckinsale.
The lead role played by Leonardo DiCaprio played a passionate, determined man who again like so many we hear of lived the american dream.