Each week on the Five Live show we single out the best film on television in the coming week. We never have time to discuss it so I've decided to do it here on the blog. My choice this week is Martin Scorsese's chilling 1983 King Of Comedy

Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Films on TV this Christmas

Mark's reviews on 5 live
Latest reviews

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments.

  • Comment number 59. Posted by Frank2010

    on 17 Dec 2012 21:39

    A truly great movie.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 59: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 59: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 58. Posted by downwiththechief

    on 24 Oct 2012 16:01

    What was so unsettling and effective about the film for me was that it's not until the conclusion that the rest of the narrative gains weight. The action is strangely screwball (gun isn't real, taped to the chair, the idea of nymphomanic stalker, uninvited guest) and then just plunges into darkness, taking the rest of the film with it. Pupkin's monologue is absolutely mediocre, but its content is utterly devastating -- it is his life and he longs to hold it up to open ridicule. And when he gives that all away, together with his sanity, the grotesque idea that with it comes true acceptance in the form of celebrity is genuinely sickening. So thanks for encouraging what is a re-watch... you're right: genuinely ahead of its time, startlingly bold and crushingly well executed.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 58: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 58: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 57. Posted by DrGaine

    on 24 Oct 2012 11:04

    @Palimun

    If the final scene is real, could Rupert be tearing up because he is so overwhelmed at being adored and desired (at least as he understands those concepts)? It may well be that he has used up all his material and now that he is finally appearing on TV he realises he has nothing more to say. I think the fact that we can debate it speaks to its ambiguity, which I applaud.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 57: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 57: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 56. Posted by Palimun

    on 22 Oct 2012 12:05

    @DrGaine

    Got to agree with you on the ambivalence to Scorsese (I thought Taxi Driver was over-rated....as you say, lacking forward momentum) but it was still a comparatively early work, as was King of Comedy. Never the less it always seems that he doesn't quite hit the nail square on the head.

    Not sure that King of Comedy ending is as ambiguous as you suggest - the laughter track on repeat and Pupkin's failure to start interacting on the implied cue suggests it's delusional....he's had his shot at the big time, used all his material and has nothing else....and I think if you look at DeNiro's final close-up, it looks as though he is tearing up, Pupkin's final realisation that his dream has been and gone and that he's all washed up. (still could have had a bit more punch though)

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 56: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 56: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 55. Posted by DrGaine

    on 21 Oct 2012 19:52

    Firstly, both Dr. K. and Nick Shakabuku neglect "Casino" - THAT was the last (to date) collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro, released in 1995 after "Cape Fear" in 1991.

    Secondly, Mark, why not include introductions like this for TV Movie of the Week as part of the Film Club? Some of the films offered on the Film Club have been a little obscure and not available in my local library or film rental outlet, and I wouldn't (usually) want to buy a film without seeing it first. But with a TV Movie that problem is solved and it expands the Film Club selection and responses.

    Speaking of responses, here is mine:

    I have long heard about "The King of Comedy" and seen it on some "Greatest Ever" lists. I run hot and cold with Scorsese - I always love his cinematic brio but sometimes find his films lack plot and forward momentum. I think this is true of "Raging Bull", "Mean Streets", "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas", which is not to say they are bad, I admire them all, but sometimes I like a bit more thrust. This is probably why my favourite Scorsese film (much to the fury of "Infernal Affairs" fans, doubtless) is "The Departed", although "Hugo" was my number one film of 2011.

    Nonetheless, my expectations for "The King of Comedy" were quite high, and I was not at all disappointed. The film is absorbing and engaging, creepy and disturbing. My wife and I watched it together and she described it as making her thoroughly uncomfortable throughout, and I felt the same way. It is strange that "painful" would normally be a criticism, but with "The King of Comedy" it is a compliment, as it is evident that the film is meant to make you squirm. The drawn-out scenes, the frequently distanced camera that captures events in all their awfulness within the alienating spaces, serve to express the scabrous and incisive dissection of celebrity culture.

    Rupert Pupkin is a grotesque creation, and what Nick Shakabuku (hello again!) says about "Taxi Driver" I would say about "The King of Comedy" - De Niro is utterly convincing without any tics or obvious indications that he is "acting". This is somewhat ironic, as he is playing a character who is entirely a performance. Is there any indication of the "real" Rupert Pupkin? I do not believe so. De Niro has built a career out of playing characters that exude silent, focused menace - from "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" to "Heat" and "Ronin", but Rupert stands out as a character who is loud and expansive, while also being pitiful and hopeless.

    @Palimun - I think the final shot is deliberately ambiguous and very effectively so. We may be seeing Rupert's triumphant arrival on his own TV show, his deranged scheme to become famous bearing fruit as audiences lap up crazy stunts proving successful (consider also "Chopper" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"), or we may be seeing just another of Rupert's delusions. I like that ambiguity, maintained by the cut to credits before he speaks. We can make up our own minds, and that makes the final scene a wonderfully handled piece of cinema which presents ideas to the viewer, and leaves us to draw our own conclusions.

    For further film comment, please visit

    http://vincentmgaine.wordpress.com

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 55: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 55: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 54. Posted by shriar

    on 19 Oct 2012 08:02

    I agree with you Dr.K. It felt very uncomfortable watching King of Comedy until the final monologue by Rupert Pupkin. Unlike most of the other Hollywood movies, the end of this movie is what brought it all together and is a very happy ending. If I was alive in 1983 I would have voted for it as the Feel Good Movie of the year.

    I do agree with you that this movie is the best partnership between Scorsese and De Niro, simply because of the more relatable subject matter and its critique on ones pursuit of fame and success which is much more topical now than it was three decades ago.

    The movie shows that if one wants something badly enough, you can get it. Be it by hook or crook. I really found Rupert Pupkin's monologue funny and it is very much along the lines of what Louis CK does currently, just that Louis CK did not take a short cut but really worked for his success since he was a teenager.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 54: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 54: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 53. Posted by Neonman

    on 18 Oct 2012 15:03

    You didn't mention Casino at the end there, would you say that's the best deNiro-Scorsese pairing?

    And while I still think Goodfellas, Raging Bull, and Taxi Driver are the better films, King of Comedy is still, in my opinion, at the bottom of Scorsese' best films -- it's a real treat.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 53: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 53: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 52. Posted by Palimun

    on 18 Oct 2012 07:22

    Sorry, don't think this is as good a film as is made out.

    De Niro plays Pupkin in a very one-dimensional way - there is no depth or shading to the character, whose personality and relentless optimism is as monotonous as his obsession with becoming famous. The real sinister - and the high point of the film - is in Jerry Lewis's performance. He makes you think that this character is a man who's lived this for real (duh) and had some pretty nasty experiences - and done some pretty nasty things - along the way.

    I'm sure you can make all kinds of cases for this all being the point of the film....as some kind of deeply intelectual study of American celebrity fixation or some such, but I think you'd be overstating the case.

    And the closing sequence isn't strong enough either. The stretched laughter and the final lingering shot of Pupkin's smiling face suggest that the fame and adulation is all part of Pupkin's delusion....that he's finally flipped and now lives inside his own delusion in a cell-bound dream. The scene is not strongly enough directed to make it a gut-punching ending (like the ending of Once Upon A Time In America) and, combined with the lack of empathy for a flat lead character leaves me unenthused - and ruefully thinking that the King of Comedy is not the great film that it could have been.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 52: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 52: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 51. Posted by belfossio

    on 17 Oct 2012 22:13

    Just finished watching the film and concur with the positive comments. Interestingly, I think a good companion piece to this is 'Network' by Sidney Lumet. King of Comedy investigates the lengths one man would go to in order to get his night of fame, and Network looks at the television suits who go to extreme lengths to hit massive TV ratings. Very interesting parallels between both these films.

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 51: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 51: 0
    Loading…
  • Comment number 50. Posted by Nick Shakabuku

    on 17 Oct 2012 19:35

    King of Comedy is brilliant. Of course it is also a mirror image of Taxi Driver. A deranged loner commits an act of madness and achieves his dream of public acceptance as a result. I personally believe Taxi Driver to be the greater work of the two, and DeNiro's Travis Bickle is the greater performance. Indeed I believe it to be the most truthful 'star' performance ever captured on film. there is not a frame of Taxi Driver where you can see DeNiro 'acting'. Rupert Pupkin is up there on the same level though. Genius. I want to know why DeNiro and Scorsese haven't worked together since Cape Fear. Scorsese's collaboration with Leonardo Di Caprio doesn't even come close to what he achieved with DeNiro

    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of positive ratings for comment 50: 0
    • This entry is now closed for comments. Number of negative ratings for comment 50: 0
    Loading…
More comments

More Posts

Previous

Next