Sometimes the opening frames of Raging Bull remind me of the linear roll of the marble in To Kill A Mockingbird’s opening sequence. Both opening sequences share the perfect music (Raging Bull’s theme is “Intermezzo” from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni), incredibly visualized soundscapes, beautiful black and white cinematography, and a refined sense of gritty production design.
A row of shapes sits in judgment, while old-timey flashbulbs pop and die with the slow pace of the tragedy that is about to unfold. What do those photos look like?
Robert DeNiro’s Jake La Motta is a coiled animal, caged like a note on sheet music: fierce, balletic, and balanced to its function. The ropes of the ring are framed like bars of music. Indeed, “give me a stage where this bull here can rage… that’s entertainment.”
Director Martin Scorsese:
I didn’t understand what the ring was. I couldn’t interpret it in my life… but I think at that time I was taking it too literally. Ultimately I came to understand that the ring is everywhere. It depends on how much of a fighter you are in life. The hardest opponent you have is yourself.
Listening to Scorsese’s commentary track for The Set-Up we learn of that superb film’s influence on what is arguably his magnum opus.
Audio commentary excerpt with Cinematographer Michael Chapman:
Title Design: Dan Perri