Sunday, February 8, 2009

You Never Knocked Me Down Ray

So as promised, here is another of the best title sequences of all time, from Scorsese's seminal Raging Bull. Scorsese has stated that the sequence was the greatest 60 seconds he ever filmed, and it is tough to disagree with him.

From Art of the Title:

Sometimes the opening frames of Raging Bull remind me of the linear roll of a 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 slowness of the tragedy that is about to unfold. What do those photos look like?
Robert DeNiro’s Jake La Motta is a coiled human 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.

I decided to include the youtube clip of it as well, because of the importance of the music to this sequence. Scorsese chooses to use Cavalleria Rusticana, by Pietro Mascagni (and Francis Ford Coppolla would later use this same piece for the finale of Godfather III to astonishing effect). Now this is true genius. Do yourself a favor and check it out.