Sunday, April 5, 2015

#555: The King of Comedy

1983, TSPDT Rank #336

After making Raging Bull, Martin Scorsese intended to make The Last Temptation of Christ as a follow-up - with Robert De Niro in the role of Jesus. Instead, De Niro wanted his next collaboration with Scorsese to be a comedy, the result of which was this fantastic satire of celebrity culture, and the lengths to which the fame-obsessed can be driven to, given the circumstances. De Niro's performance as a delusional, obsessive would-be stand-up comedian is a complete turnaround from his intense, brutal performance in Raging Bull, and Jerry Lewis is also impressive as the object of De Niro's obsession, a late-night talk show host suffering under the burden of success and the proliferation of lunatics which it attracts. The film blends comedy, suspense, and social commentary with ease, but its main accomplishment is the way that the first half of the film sets up the action to come - integrating glimpses of De Niro's delusional fantasies into the narrative framework of the film, until the two worlds eventually converge and become one in the film's second half. In this way, The King of Comedy is one of the most unique commentaries on celebrity in America, and certainly one of the most sucessful in showing the insanity that often accompanies it. It also stands as one of the many great Martin Scorsese films that often fly under the radar due to the overwhelming popularity of the crime/gangster films that he is most well known for.

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