Imagine this fight taking place, as the clash of every possible component of the cinematic and the social; everything is different between Jake and Randy, if not opposing: epochs, cinematic characters and style, not to mention principles. There are obvious similarities, though; wrestling and boxing have both the extreme physicality at stake: you have to endure to feel self-fulfilled. You have to suffer to bring joy and excitement, to deliver, to (metaphorically) save your audience -a bit like Jesus himself. A woman or two are always in the mix -what would a raging bull be without his butterfly? Last, but not least, a visual auteur is involved, to make this contradiction work. A hero soft at heart, trapped in the vicious circle of the social structure and inside his daunting shell of a body. No way out.
Scorsese's Jake La Motta, a Robert de Niro in full bloom versus Aronofsky's Randy the Ram, the bleached fallen angel of 9 1/2 Weeks -not the girl, no, I mean Mickey Rourke. A black and white picture with a neorealist touch versus a cinema verite slash mockumentary in colour, but in the bleak colour of the decadent life in a trailer park. The first is fighting to let his frustration out, only it's always there; even when there's nobody left to fight with him, because he has already beaten them all; his short temper explodes even around a table with women holding babies in their arms. The second one is giving a show; he is a crowd-pleaser, he is a clown in a body-builder's shape. It doesn't really matter if he will win or lose, the impression is what matters the most. He has to shed blood, he has to rise and fall, he ought to do an arresting routine with the most sensational manoeuvres. His opponent in the ring is his companion to the show, not a enemy, for god's sake, enemy you say? Come on, he's a good pal, him too is in the show-business of fake male sweat.
Wives, lovers, one-night-stands and abandoned daughters make me rest my case. These big, strong men revolve around female fragility or bitchiness, no kidding. Lust, tenderness or companionship, fear of death or the dread of an empty room with sacred paintings overlooking their sins, whatever it is, it makes strong men melt, hold on to the girl's eyes and smile, until they realise that they're all alone. We all are. Who are the loneliest ones, winners or losers? Up to you to figure out.
* The Wrestler (2009) by Darren Aronofky and Raging Bull (1980) by Martin Scorsese are both a vivid exception on how boxing/sports films are being made -no similarity to Rocky Balboa whatsoever. The inner pain of the protagonist, hidden from the audience and excluded from bets, is what the director tries to pin down here. No wonder that The Wrestler, is being praised as "Raging Bull of wrestling"; they both dig deep down. Take notice of the opening sequence that combines poetry with boxing, yes, Scorsese can do that. Just like Aronofsky can give an open ending to almost anything. Oh, well.
AGENDA: After being screened and then analysed during one of the Cinema Lessons Cycle organized by Cinematheque, Raging Bull will be screened two more times on 15/2/2012, 20.30, 20/2/2012, 18.30.