Thursday, October 4, 2007

The King of Comedy

The King of Comedy; black comedy, USA, 1983; D: Martin Scorsese, S: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard, Diahnne Abbott, Ed Herlihy, Shelley Hack

Peculiar Rupert Pupkin is a passionate fan of comedian Jerry Langford, who performs in a TV show with the same title. Ever since he saw him live in a limousine, Rupert, together with his girlfriend Masha, plots plans how to become more popular than him. He sends his tape with his stand-up comedy performance to the studio, but nobody even bothers to watch it, and the biggest disappointment happens when Jerry personally expels him from his mansion. Angered, Rupert kidnaps his idol with a gun and ties him up, threatening the police he won't say where he is unless he can perform in the show. Until Jerry frees himself, it's already too late: the audience is overwhelmed by Rupert, even though he lands in prison.

Martin Scorsese making a comedy? The famous director showed a sense for humor and loosened up in his opus full of too serious and uptight films. Still, out of eighth movies Scorsese and Robert De Niro made, comedy "The King of Comedy" was one of their least acclaimed films, mostly due to the not sharp enough satirical jabs, even though the movie gained a small cult following. The biggest highlight of this film is the long take near the finale, in which the main protagonist Pupkin does stand-up comedy in a TV show and tells jokes for almost 3 minutes, whereas the fact that they weren't particularly funny is the blame of the writers of the screenplay. Still, Scorsese made an interesting film, refreshingly relaxed and light, with an shrewd story about a man who wants to become more famous than his idol, so the running time passes quickly, and the whole cult revolving around (TV) celebrities and shallow lives of their fans was portrayed marvelously. The quirky script won a BAFTA, but Scorsese also rightfully acknowledged the performance by the once wacky comedian Jerry Lewis who here delivered a surprisingly mature, ambitious and demanding role, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA as best supporting actor. Still, wonderfully unusual Sandra Bernhard almost steals their whole show as Pupkin's bizarre girlfriend Masha. "The King of Comedy" isn't exactly a king of comedy, but it's definitely a quality made film.


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