My College Entrance Essay on Raging Bull
I wrote this piece in grade 12, and following that, I used it as my entrance essay for journalism school. I was accepted but went only for a day. A year later, I entered film school, with a year’s experience and this same piece. It’s funny to reflect on work that at a post-secondary entrance level was my calling card. To have the content still hold resonance, amidst the immense changes particularly in entertainment, and in my interests diversified. Raging Bull still holds a romanticism for me. A lover of film history, and storytelling in general, it’s how we connect with others. If you are an auteur like Mr. Scorsese or a writer that I have found purpose in, it is understanding that we have this unbounded ability to connect, regardless of how we look, where we live, or our beliefs.
Left Jab, Right hook, uppercut! A deadly combination from Jake La Motta!
Twenty-five years later, Raging Bull is still considered one of the best films of all time and has been named the best film of the 80’s. It is considered to be one of Scorsese’s best works. Robert DeNiro shines in his academy award-winning role as the ‘Bronx Bull’ Jake La Motta. As the tumultuous life of La Motta plays out on the screen you can’t help but notice the beauty in this film with such ugly content.
Raging Bull shows the ups & downs of Jake La Motta beginning in 1941 when his boxing career begins the fight to make it to the top of the upper middleweight class. The boxing scenes are perhaps the best captured on film. Although they are raw and gritty, there is a beauty when La Motta takes a shot, almost with grace. Scorsese gets the best angles with extreme close-up shots and high angles making La Motta seem larger than life in the ring.
Raging Bull is a character-driven piece, focusing on all of La Motta rather than just his boxing career. Robert DeNiro truly dedicated himself to the role, training for the fight scenes and gaining fifty pounds to play an older Jake. The storyline is derived from La Motta’s autobiography which DeNiro originally read years before the film was approved by the studios. He brought the story to Scorsese and he fought like a true champion to make this film. Raging Bull is a phenomenally done biopic because it tells the true story of the ‘Bronx Bull’ himself and Robert DeNiro is Jake La Motta in the film.
A film that is so original for the eighties, because it is a strong, hard-hitting movie that leaves you in awe. It is in black & white with only some home movies of Jake and his family in color. The black & white, from an artistic point of view, was used to emphasize the darkness of La Motta’s psyche, and the fight scenes are that much better because the black & white makes it so dramatic. Compared to a certain franchise of boxing movies at that time, Rocky, this piece is more artistic and not flashy. Scorsese also made it a complete opposite to Rocky by showing the grimy underside of boxing, and outside of the ring. Racketeering is or was common and went hand in hand with boxing during that era, as well as the violence coming from Jake directed towards his friends and family.
The supporting roles are played by Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, who were both nominated for Oscars. Pesci for his portrayal of Jake’s brother, Joey, and Moriarty as Jake’s beautiful young wife Vicky. Both were outstanding in their roles as they had to put up with Jake’s constant anger and jealousy. They both change throughout the film, eventually unable to cope with Jake’s unpredictable temper and irrationality. The character piece needs them as they are the root of many emotions for La Motta.
Unsuccessful at the box office twenty-five years ago and now it is hailed as one of the best films of all time. Also, Raging Bull is referred to as Scorsese’s masterpiece, with his signature raw feeling, but with a flawed beauty. Now seen as a work of art, Raging Bull is a must-see for all film buffs and everyone else with a pulse. The rage is real and worth the time to feel what this movie has to offer.
- Note the 25 years reference, the film is now *gulp* approaching its 41st anniversary.
I still feel like this essay is reflective of me, my lifelong love affair with film and the human condition. 2020 and now into 2021 have seemed to bring a lot of experiences full circle. I both delved head first into writing for some professional esteem, and using it as a form of catharsis to take me back to things I have long loved. Raging Bull in particular and the life of Jake La Motta, along with DeNiro’s dedication to the character, is a metaphor for the choices we make and seeing their implications unfold with the law of cause and effect. Also, the delayed appreciation of good things, such as the movie’s late onset success, and I taking the long way round to get here.