December 21, 1980 [Raging Bull]

In Raging Bull, De Niro plants himself square in the middle of the frame, his chin down, his eyes looking at me. “You never got me down, Ray,” he says, and it is a faint sound he makes drowning--his little hands at his side and his sunken chest expanding, bloating, as he runs the microphone along the girl’s dress, his big nose sticking where it shouldn’t--until he is blind in the hole--not an animal, he insists, not that guy, but he drives those little hands into the wall, and he squeals and grunts in the dark half of the screen.

Springsteen sings, “You’re born with nothing, and better off that way; soon as you got something they send someone to try and take it away.” And “nothing is forgotten or forgiven when it’s your last time around. I got stuff running round my head that I just can’t live down”--until you’re “left running burned and blind, chasing something in the night.”

I could quote him all night, listening to those songs, writing down the words, trying to get them to find some purchase under the lid, pry open Raging Bull. But all I can do is take slow and shallow breaths and think of Jake in the mirror, trying to quote stuff himself, insisting he’s the boss, he’s the boss, he’s the boss, he’s the boss--and Springsteen again, singing about that little girl with wrinkles around her eyes sitting on the porch of her daddy’s house, all her pretty dreams torn, staring “off alone into the night with the eyes of one who hates for just being born.”

But I can’t hate Jake, in Scorsese’s beautiful revelation, black and white and full of sound and fury--but Raging Bull signifies something: I was blind, and now I see. What else can I hope for, but to look at myself in the face, try to let go, and be forgiven.


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