Talk with Martin Scorsese
FILM CLIP: And though I’m no Oliver, but if he fight Sugar Ray he would say, that the thing ain’t the ring, it’s the play. So give me a stage where this bull can rage, and though I can fight I much rather recite. That’s entertainment!
THE HOSTESS: That’s got to be one of the most memorable opening scenes in cinema. The monologue from, boxing champion Jake LaMotta that opens “The Raging Bull”, Oscar-winningly delivered by Robert DeNiro. The 1980 classic from Martin Scorsese has become one of the best loved films of American Cinema. And you can watch it on a big screen again, because Raging Bull is getting a re-release. It came out of the relationship between Scorsese and DeNiro, that had already matured in films like “Mean Streets” and “Taxi Driver”. Scorsese even gave himself a small part, as a passenger, in DeNiro’s “Taxi”.
FILM CLIP: What are you doing? What are you doing with the meter? Did I tell you put…Did I do…Did I tell you to do that with the meter? Put the meter back. Let the numbers go on. I don’t care what I have to pay. I didn’t say… I’m not getting out. Put the meter back on. Put it down.
THE HOSTESS: Martin Scorsese as a rather neurotic passenger addressing a silent Robert DeNiro in a 1976’s “Taxi Driver”. Four years later, DeNiro asked Scorsese to make a film about real life boxing champion Jake LaMotta, with himself playing LaMotta. DeNiro had read his autobiography and was desperate to bring this story to the screen. The film was plagued by troubles. Most people on the shoot thought that it wasn’t going to work. Even the Hollywood studio which was financing it tried to get rid of it. Once filming was up and running and nobody else wanted to touch it. The film opened to mild reviews in 1980, but at the Oscar’s the following year; the “Raging Bull” got 8 nominations and One Best Film Editing for Thelma Schoonmaker and Best Actor for DeNiro. The other brilliant performance, of course, comes from the then little known actor, by the name of Joe Pesci, as LaMotta’s brother, Joey.
FILM CLIP: Ey! I’m your brother. You’re supposed to believe me. Don’t you trust me? No I don’t. No you don’t. That’s nice. I don’t trust you when it comes to her. I don’t trust nobody. I gotta accept your answer you know. I’m telling you now, if I hear anything, I swear on our mother, I’m gonna kill somebody.
THE HOSTESS: Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, in one of their many tense moments in “The Raging Bull”. The BBC’s Francing Stock asked Martin Scorsese if following his badly received movie-musical “New York, New York” in 1977, he took the film on to re-engage with the process of film making.
SCORSESE: Well, I think that is a good way of putting it. I guess that that was what I was looking for, or, although, I couldn’t really say that at the time. But, I think I was looking for something again that I could feel strongly about I…I’d have passion for. I mean, in a way “Taxi Driver” had that pulchritude script.
FILM CLIP: You talking to me? You talking to me? Well who the hell else are you talking to? You talking to me? Well I’m the only one here.
SCORSESE: I had that feeling for “The Mean Streets” of course and to a certain extent “New York, New York” there’s no doubt. But, I didn’t feel I had succeeded in what I wanted to do on the film. The “Last Waltz” kept me creatively excited, and during the period of ‘76 to ‘78, I was really during those two years, I was searching for something that would have an impact on me that would make me pull together and actually physically shoot a film again. To go on a set and deal with all the problems and deal with how to make a movie. When one deals with that, one doesn’t think of them, except in practical terms. But, I knew that in the middle of September 1978, October, when I just finally realised that this may be the right thing to do.
FILM CLIP: I just said to over cook it. You over cooked it. Bring it over. You want your steak? Bring it over. It’s like a piece of chalk board. Bring it over here! You want your steak? Yeah! Right now! Good, Here’s your steak! Can’t wait for it to be done. Yeah, I can’t wait. Good!
THE HOSTESS: And the decision to film in black and white, and I know Michael Power was instrumental in this, he observed how with some early footage how very very vivid the boxing gloves were, but I wonder what you think black and white gives the picture.
SCORSESE: It made it special, in the sense that they were…I was pointed at were four or five boxing films or films with boxing themes that were to be released that same year. One of them was “Rocky II” I think, another was “The Main Event” with Barbara Streisand and Ryan O’Neil. Another one was “Mathilda the Boxing Kangaroo”, but there were all in colour. I said this would make it separate, this would make it special. But in so doing, we also, had a residual effect, I should say not residual, but an added benefit that we got from the black and white, which was to frame it in the mind of the tabloids at the time. My father only read the tabloids, he did not read the New York Times. So the pictures from those newspapers were something I grew up with. It also picks up some residue from Film Noir coming out of late 1940s, early 1950s. It just does, the black and white, particularly with people dressed in that way. To all of that I was able to be more expressive with the way we photograph the boxing scenes. The amount of graphic detail in it, including the blood.
THE HOSTESS: Because you couldn’t have done that in colour. It would have been too much.
SCORSESE: In colour it might have been too much. But if you have seen some fights upfront, it might not have been exaggerating too much.
THE HOSTESS: And it is a film of double acts. On screen there is obviously Jake LaMotta and his brother and then you have the combination of DeNiro and Pesci working together. But also, obviously, you and DeNiro working together because there was some writing going on, as well as obviously, DeNiro having brought the idea to you in the first place. I mean, do you think in some ways that this film was your closest collaboration with him?
SCORSESE: I think so. I think it really, starting with “Mean Streets”, going through “Taxi Driver”, “New York, New York”, I think we went through a long process. Ultimately, I think we sort of put everything we knew, together, combined, into this picture, “Raging Bull”. I thought proudly, would be my last picture in America really, or that kind of film anyway.
THE HOSTESS: Why? Why did you think that?
SCORSESE: I didn’t know if I was interested, or could feel strongly about mounting a film again after that. In other words, you really have to feel strongly about the material, I think, or at least have something to prove. In other words, to prove a point about, dealing with, how should I put it… let’s say I want to make a film, make a film in the spirit of a B film 1955 or 1961 as I did in “Cape Fear” for example, but changed and reformulated for 1991, to reflect America at this point. That was kind of a challenge. That was a very specific, almost technical chore and there were other films in that respect that I did “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and “After Hours” even, to a certain extent. But, I didn’t know if these were going to come anymore. Those, along with, at least, if not, films for me, that were foremost in my body, in my mind, that I had to make a good or bad “Last Imitation of Christ” or “Goodfellas” and films like that. It was a little bit of a difficult time, because if you can’t draw on that reserve of caring about the work you do, then how could you work? Why make another movie? It’s not worth it.
THE HOSTESS: So, when was the moment that you did feel that you would carry on?
SCORSESE: That was a year or two later. I think, after the “King of Comedy” when Paul Schrader had finished writing “The Last Imitation of Christ” and I started checking out locations in January 1983, that was.
FILM CLIP: The good news is, you get a shot at the title. The bad news is you have to do the old ‘flip-flop’. So what else is new? What else did you expect? Did you know that was coming? Ehh… You win some, you lose some. This one you lose.
THE HOSTESS: And the very visceral sense of horror that one gets watching these scenes of course, enormously built up by the use of sound, and your sound editor Frank Warner, this extraordinary mix of noises that he used, I mean, explain for us a little about that.
SCORSESE: Thelma and I, Thelma Schoonmaker and I, really hadn’t placed too much on the sound effects while we were editing the film. We were doing the sound effects as we went along. Frank Warner was the man that really designed that. Actually, he became very possessive about the sound effects. He wouldn’t tell us what many of them were. There was a few that in the second Sugar Ray Fight that were done all long lenses there were some elephant cries and those sorts of things. But the actual punches, he told us a couple of ways he got them, but he would also, I believe, take his sound effects home with them or after the film destroy them. So nobody else would use them. Which would partially be apocryphal but I know he was very private about it.
THE HOSTESS: Was it sometimes surprising to you the effect that would have added on top of the edit.
SCORSESE: Very much so. It was very surprising when Frank put this stuff together with us and I would ask him certain things. He would come up with things, he’d come in. Finally, there was one point, when I said, what haven’t we used right now. He said silence. We would pull all the silence out and the sound comes back in with the final blow.
FILM CLIP: Big shots. How he can survive them, nobody knows.
THE HOSTESS: Martin Scorsese on “The Raging Bull”, getting a re-release in the UK. The Oscar Winning director is returning to his love of music for his next project “Shine A Light”. It’s a documentary on the Rolling Stones, in concert, in a small New York theatre. That’s due out in September.
Film Noir 黑色电影
double act 搭档演出