Even though the Best Director statuette has eluded Martin Scorsese throughout his illustrious career, his work reflects the paramount of filmmaking. Reteaming with “Taxi Driver” and “Mean Streets” collaborator Robert DeNiro, “Raging Bull” re-imagines boxing as a metaphor for the paranoia and rage that filled the life of middleweight champ Jake LaMotta.

“Raging Bull,” released theatrically in 1980, is a timeless classic. Shot almost entirely in black and white, the film follows LaMotta’s meteoric rise and disheartening fall from grace in vivid and brutal detail.

DeNiro earns his Best Actor Oscar by delivering the most complex and intense performance of his career. The supporting cast is just as impressive, exemplified by Joe Pesci as LaMotta’s streetwise brother and Cathy Moriarity as his abused wife.

The beautiful cinematography accentuates LaMotta’s destructive behavior both in and out of the ring. Scorsese stages the boxing matches as a sort of brutal ballet, which enhances their effectiveness as a part of LaMotta’s downward spiral. Yet, the sweet science is almost an afterthought as most of the picture focuses on the volatile relationship between LaMotta, his wife and his brother. Through the director and DeNiro, the viewer enters LaMotta’s fractured mind and descends into the darkness with him.

MGM’s release delivers an impressive array of extras that are worthy of the cinematic classic, unlike the previous barebones release. The first disc features three commentary tracks. Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker discuss the intricate details of the film’s structure, themes and the shoot in a captivating manner. The next commentary, with producers and assorted members of the crew, doesn’t entertain or inform nearly to the degree of the first. Surprisingly, the third commentary, which features the real Jake LaMotta and the screenwriter Paul Schrader, trumps Scorsese’s though. LaMotta’s own interpretation of his cinematic doppelganger recounts the validity of the film and even offers rationales and apologies for his choices in life.

The featurettes on disc two break down the process of filming — from Scorsese’s initial reluctance to take the project to DeNiro’s weight gain, which halted production for months. Additionally there is a featurette comparing LaMotta’s fight footage from old newsreels with DeNiro’s recreations in the film.

“Raging Bull” deserved the five-star DVD treatment the first time out, but this release is good reparation. The film is an essential piece to any cinephile’s DVD collection.

 

Ratings

Film: 5 out of 5 stars

Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars

Features: 4 out of 5 stars

 

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