March 21, 1982 [The King of Comedy]

Rupert Pupkin woos Rita in The King of Comedy with as much stiff-limbed passion as he brings to his stand-up routine--calculated, yes, but none of the figures come out right. They're in the bar, and he's barreling along, his chin down, his eyes up, that little mustache--a funny little thing, so why does it make me uneasy?--jutting just enough to drive home one scripted point after another, moving with the words that keep coming, all of it unbearably embarrassing.

--And at his back a guy mimics his gestures, amused by the flashy little jerk, not sitting close, but close enough to mock an idiot. But I'm not sure if Rita sees him--and I barely noticed the man--but when I did I thought he was looking at me: he'd seen the camera and was mugging it up just to ruin the shot, an actual customer in a not-actual bar, like those kids in the background as news reporters drone on--except why doesn't Scorsese yell Cut! and have the guy tossed out? How is it that this is even happening, the fake movie with real discomfort all-but-interrupted by a real heckler listening to a scripted performance by a character whose whole life is a script, a set filled with laughter and success?

Do I need the rest of the movie, as appallingly perfect as it is? Isn't this one scene enough to hammer a nail into the forehead of a man whose life, not just name, is often misspelled and mispronounced? Do I need Jerry Lewis, reminding me more of Karloff than Carson? Or Sandra Bernhardt's carnivorous mouth opening to swallow Jerry's head like the last trick of a real trooper lion tamer? Or Liza Minnelli in cardboard--or the Moment itself at the end, Rupert's fifteen minutes of fame as real as anything that ever settled for good in his head, plodding along through one self-loathing observation after another? Isn't he, at the moment in the bar when he tries to correct his life, already deciding to be both king for a night AND schmuck for a lifetime? Yes, and the movie could've been only five excruciating minutes long, and I could've left the thing behind and tried my best to forget my lines and miss my mark and get off the damned stage.


  1. Excellent review,
    I thought this film was definitely one of Scorsese's best, it is so funny yet so scary at the same time, and holds up surprisingly well today, as many of it's themes such as celebrity and such are still very relevant today in my opinion...

    Anyway, great review and I like your blog a lot!

  2. @ Jack L: Yeah, a bad stretch of road. imdb claims it was such an emotionally draining shoot for Scorsese and DeNiro that they couldn't work together for years.

  3. I didn't know that, but despite their hard times those two really were one of the greatest partnerships in Cinema, I sincerely hope they team up again for one last film, hopefully a good old Gangster flick...

  4. I just don't understand what Scorsese sees in DeCaprio...sure...he's a good actor...but he is NOWHERE as good as De Niro.

    I want Scorsese/De Niro back!!

  5. De Niro vs. DeCaprio? Well, after "Raging Bull" I just assumed De Niro was the best screen actor ever--but DeCaprio has gotten exponentially better under Scorsese. I watched "Shutter Island" again about a week ago, and DeCaprio was exactly what he needed to be--the final scenes are pretty much perfect.

    Maybe Scorsese simply exhausted De Niro--even in "Casino" he seems guarded, saving himself a little--even though he was his usual compelling self. And after all those Fockers, I wonder if he even wants to roll that rock up the hill any more.

    Then again, for ten years or so I've been imagining Scorsese directing De Niro in "King Lear"--one more chance to bar no holds.

  6. De Niro as King Lear...

    That may be the greatest idea that I have ever heard in my life....

  7. RE De Niro as Lear: Look at him suspicious of everyone who loves him in "Raging Bull"; he's been ready to howl on the blasted heath for a long time--there are glimmers of this even in "Frankenstein."

    And you're right, Nathanael: It IS the greatest idea of all time. That's why you visit this site, yes? I'll attempt at least one greatest idea of all time per week!


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