I have finally got round to watching The King of Comedy; a very underrated Scorsese and De Niro cinematic compilation. I felt the film’s dark tones and messages were balanced well, and enhanced, by the film’s wit and charm. De Niro here is in his prime. This is not only one of my favourite De Niro characters, but quite possibly my favourite of the duo’s 8 collaborative films; it may be a close second just behind Casino. It is very late and I really should be sleeping but I couldn’t resist expressing the excitement that comes over me when I witness De Niro in a strong and moving role.
It may come as a surprise to some that Scorsese speaks of this film in a very negative way. During the shooting of this film, not only was De Niro’s intensity of the character causing severe friction on set but the director was at the height of his drug abuse and addiction. Although this is clearly a forgotten masterpiece in the eyes of many, Scorsese seems to only remember the nightmare of production.
The King of Comedy was an utter flop during its original release in 1983. The production budget of $18,000,000 never came close to being rejuvenated through the box office figures. It was quickly dropped from the cinema circuit.The chaos of the production and reception of The King of Comedy almost reflects the film’s themes of failed dreams and the frustration of the under-appreciated. The film’s representation of celebrity culture and the delusions it can create seems as relevant today as it would have been in 1983.
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro haven’t worked on a film together in decades and I am gradually learning to accept that they probably never will again. As I painfully watch De Niro, one of my true cinematic idols, stomp all over his past success and substance in putrid drivel such as Hide and Seek and Meet the Fockers I often forget how sensational he once was. Tonight, watching his portrayal of our unhinged protagonist, Rupert Pupkin, I felt nostalgic. Although the film was new to me, the knowledge of his talent was not. When I watch De Niro in such sensational work as this, the respect and admiration I have for him all comes flooding back.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.