Greeted with mixed, if generally positive, reviews after its initial release, Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull has since gone on to establish a position of prominence among that handful of Truly Exceptional American Films. The nasty, brutish and short career of middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) — as written by Paul Schrader and shot by Michael Chapman — left audiences bruised with its unflattering honesty and kinetic visual style. The fight scenes in particular reflect the filmmakers’ determination in delivering a visceral experience. Enormous rolls of black fabric were draped around the ring to contain and better highlight the wispy smoke that floats around the pugilists. And to capture the range of emotions that can streak across a fighter’s face in half a second, Scorsese would keep at least one camera rolling tight on his actors’ faces.
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