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LimeGreenLegend

The King of Comedy [RSC Film Club 15]

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LimeGreenLegend

This month, because of the website merge, we forgo the genre nominations and instead put forward our favourite films.  The winning entry was mine!  This means our film for March is Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy.

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The film stars Robert DeNiro as Rupert Pupkin, autograph hunter, wannabe stand-up, and obsessive fan of late night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis).  He feels that if he can just get a spot on Langford's show then he can show the world how funny he is, and he resorts to some desperate measures to try to achieve this goal.  

Out of the nine collaborations between Scorsese and DeNiro this is my absolute favourite, beating out films like Taxi Driver and Goodfellas.  DeNiros' Pupkin is a tragic, pathetic and terrifying figure, being pushed to the edge by a world that doesn't care about him.  I find him to be more unsettling than Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle and more threatening than any gangster roles he played for Scorsese.

This is a film about fame at any cost, attention, and wanting to be noticed.  As Rupert Pupkin says, "it's better to be a king for a night, than a schmuck for a lifetime."

a guy can get anything he wants as long as he pays the price

Choking Martin Scorsese GIF

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LimeGreenLegend
1 minute ago, Con said:

Never saw it before. I loved Joker. Can't wait.

Then you have seen this 😄 

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JuniorChubb

Not seen this, looking forward to watching it.

Hopefully will enjoy it more than RAFFLES on Amazon.

Spoiler

Utter crap from start to finish - dont bother - slightly disturbing too. Beneath RdeN no idea why he did this...awful waste of time

 

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Can you smell what the Stone is cooking?

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LimeGreenLegend
Posted (edited)

Just found a brilliant trailer for this in the style of the recent Joker film trailer.

Review coming later today, just have to write up about a thousand pages of notes.

Edited by LimeGreenLegend

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LimeGreenLegend
On 3/5/2020 at 4:42 PM, JuniorChubb said:

Hopefully will enjoy it more than RAFFLES on Amazon.

I most certainly did 🙂 

When I was about 12/13 I saw my first Scorsese picture, which was probably what started my love for film as more than something to just entertain you for a couple of hours.  That was Taxi Driver, and I had never seen anything like it before.  Over the next couple of years I watched most of his collaborations with De Niro; Goodfellas, Mean Streets, Casino, Raging Bull, Cape Fear.  Apart from New York, New York (I had no interest in watching a nearly 3 hour long jazz-musical drama starring Liza Minelli back then.  How times change), the one film I didn't really have any interest in watching was The King of Comedy.  It wasn't a gangster film, De Niro wasn't playing an anti-hero or charismatic monster like Travis Bickle or Max Cady.  He was playing a loser wannabe comedian with a dodgy tashe, questionable taste in suits, and a stupid name.  I eventually saw it when it was on TV one night, and it instantly became not only my favourite Scorsese and De Niro film, but my favourite film of all time, and it still is.  This post may run quite long, so I'll save you the suspense and tell you now that I give this film a perfect 10/10 

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The film opens with the opening of The Jerry Langford Show, a fictional version of late night talk shows like Johnny Carson etc.  Huge brassy fanfare, announcer voice-over, it feels like a big, important show.  And since the film is told mostly from the point of view of Rupert Pupkin (De Niro), having the film open with this shows how important it is to him personally.  You know that this is an intro he has seen thousands of times.  All of these scenes of Jerry's show were all shot on tape rather than film to make it look and feel like a real TV show.  We then see Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) come on stage and start his monologue, lots of applause and laughter.  Then we cut to Pupkin pushing his way through a crowded street, a contrast to the brightly lit Langford who is the centre of attention, here Pupkin is in shadow and anonymous in the crowd.  We see he is making his way to the stage door of the theatre where they tape the show and there is a mad scrabble for autographs, we're seeing the celebrity worship that frenzies these people and occupies their whole lives.  Pupkin thinks he's above these people, even though they all know his name, so he's there as much as they are.  He says to one of them "this isn't my whole life."  A first sign of his delusion.  He even tries to stand apart from them by the way he dresses.  He's in a crisp suit and tie, like he's about to be on TV, and his body language when he's in the crowd is very pulled in, like he's scared to touch them.  Langford then exits the theatre, and Scorsese shoots this in slo-mo, making the moment feel almost romantic, like a love at first sight thing.  This is accompanied by a hail of flashbulbs and the noise of people screaming his name.  His face clearly shows how sick he is of this, very different from how he was on TV, easygoing and cracking jokes.  Here we see the different lives people that famous have to live.  All of the autograph hunters think that he has a perfect life, but he has to deal with this crap all of the time.  He gets into his car, and here we first meet Marsha (Sandra Bernhard), hidden in the shadows, the embodiment of the threat Langford feels could be hiding around every corner.  She throws herself on him and he rushes to get out of the car.  The crowd starts to press in on him, and Pupkin sees this as an opportunity, taking control, making himself the centre of attention as he yells at the crowd to get back.  He's always ready to perform.  As Marsha bangs her hands against the window, trying to get to Langford, the shot freeze frames, caught in a flashbulb, for the opening credits.  This is a classic Scorsese and Schoonmaker (his longtime editor) move, freezing on an important moment for a long time.  Here, in this shot, we can see the two types of celebrity obsession in this film.  Marsha is grasping out at the glass, which is like a TV screen, wanting to possess Langford.  Pupkin is on the other side, where he wants to be, but he is obscured by Marsha as she reaches for the real star.  He is just an impostor.  It's the whole "men want to be him, women want to be with him" deal.  This obsession is furthered by the use of song for the credits, Ray Charles' version of Come Rain or Come Shine, which opens with the lyric "I'm gonna love you, like nobody's loved you".  In this context, this song becomes almost like a threat, especially the last line, "I'm with you always, I'm with you rain or shine."

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In the scramble to get Marsha out of the car and Langford in, Pupkin manages to get in too, manipulating Langford, telling him "I did put myself on the line for you."  He's made contact and there's no way he's giving up easily.  Langford give him his monogrammed handkerchief to wrap the cut on his hand, which adds to the twisted romantic feel to their relationship, like a medieval lady giving her favour to a knight who has just saved her.  Pupkin breaks into what sounds like a stand up routing, "my name is Rupert Pupkin, I know it doesn't mean a lot to you but it means a lot to me."  It's like his whole life is a routine, like he doesn't know who he really is.  The line about his name meaning a lot is also important, because we see through the film many people getting it wrong, and several times he says something like you'll remember it one day.  He just wants to be recognised in any way.  He wants to be remembered.  He is shot with his face half covered in shadow during this, signifying his need to be seen, but not being able to do it.  Pupkin expresses his desire to appear on Langford's show, to which Jerry tells him, in a nice bit of foreshadowing, "you don't just walk onto a network show without experience."  He also tries giving him good advice, which a few characters try to do without any success, telling him to work some clubs, "you've got to start at the bottom."  Pupkin replies "I know, that's where I am, at the bottom," but it feels like he's not just talking about his showbiz aspirations here, he's just a desperate man wanting to be recognised for something, and that happens to be comedy just because of all the attention Langord gets.  Pupkin wants that.  Langford, clearly trying to fob him off nicely, tells him to call his office.  He probably thought that would be the last he'd see of the guy.  Pupkin tells him "I've had this conversation so many times in my head," which becomes sinister when we start seeing his fantasies for ourselves.  They get to Langford's apartment building, which has a red carpet leading up stairs at the entrance, a symbol of celebrity leading to a better life.  Pupkin then shows him a picture of his "pride and joy", which is a picture of the cleaning products of the same name.  It's actually a pretty funny gag, showing that he does have some talent for comedy, but his obsession with fame gets in the way.  He doesn't want to perform at some small clubs, he wants to be on national TV.  The scene ends with a pan down onto a close up of Langford's handkerchief stained with Pupkin's blood, a connection between the two.  

Then we cut to Pupkin and Langford having lunch together in a swanky restaurant.  This is clearly a fantasy, but Scorsese doesn't shoot it like a fantasy.  He shoots it in the same way as he shoots the rest of the film, blurring the line between what's real and what's not.  Pupkin imagines these things as being absolutely real, so Scorsese shows it to us as if they were.  Halfway through him speaking a sentence to Langford we cut to reality, showing Pupkin in his basement playing out this conversation.  Scorsese then cuts between the real Pupkin in his basement and the fantasy Langford in the restaurant as they have a conversation, beautifully showing us Pupkin's psychosis.  In his fantasy he imagines himself to be even more famous and funnier then Langford.  Jerry is begging him to host his show for a couple of weeks, an autograph hunter (played by Scorsese's daughter) comes up and asks for his autograph and not Jerry's, and when they are shown the caricature of them that has been drawn Pupkin complains because "he made you bigger."  In his fantasy nobody is bigger than him, not even his idol.  I love how his dreams of grandeur are undercut by his mom shouting down from upstairs, and him shouting back like a stroppy teenager.  Pupkin's mom is played by Scorsese's own mother, and his father appears later in the film.  After seeing Rupert's imagining of celebrity life we see Langford and what it's really like.  His home is empty and sterile feeling, we see him eating alone, and he gets a creep call from Marsha so that he doesn't even feel same in his own house.  It's not at all like what Pupkin would imagine.  

We then see Pupkin sat at a bar, reflected in a mirror, showing us his two lives, fantasy and reality.  He's there to see the barmaid, Rita (Diahnne Abbott, De Niro's wife at the time), an old high school crush.  This shows us that Rupert hasn't grown up yet, he hasn't had to face reality, which may be why his fantasies are so realistic.  He's there to ask her on a date, bringing her a rose, which is an over the top move.  Everything he does is a performance.  She agrees to go out with him, obviously out of pity, but he can't see that, he only see what he wants to see.  This happens with several characters he meets.  He then tries to impress her with his autograph book, something he clearly treasures as he holds celebrity in such high regard.  Rita doesn't seem so impressed.  He then shows her the autograph right at the front of the book, an illegible scribble.  She mocks it saying "it looks like a ret*rd wrote this."  He tries to get her to guess, telling her it starts with an R, and when she guesses Robert Redford he looks genuinely pissed off for a second.  It's his autograph, but once again he has gone unnoticed, nobody could even recognise his name.  He gives it to her as a gift, saying "in a few weeks everyone's gonna want one," some more foreshadowing, and it again sounds sinister because of the context and what we know about Pupkin at this point in the film.  She tells him "Rupert, you have not changed," again telling us that he's had no growth since school, he's a naive fantasist.  He then tells her about his dreams of fame, and what he thinks that would be like, talking about looking down on the little people, "tough luck suckers, better luck next time."  He's clearly telling us that he thinks he's a sucker.  He's not famous, so he must be.  The only way to not be a sucker is to be famous, and that will solve all of his problems.  This is a very simplistic, almost childlike view of things, again showing us that he is not a mature person.  At the end of the scene he walks her home, and she invites him in for "coffee" seemingly out of obligation rather than because she likes him, but he declines.  She asks him "what do you want Rupert?", a question that comes up a lot later in the film, and one that even he can't seem to answer.  He then invites her to Langford's summer house, saying that they're friends.  This was an invitation the fantasy Langford made to him earlier in the film, but the two are blurred and confused for Rupert.  We end by seeing her walk off down a hallway, a long lens really giving a sense of distance between them as she walks away, disappearing around a corner and out of sight.  They'll never be together.  

Then we get to see the extent of Rupert's obsession.  He has built himself a talk show set with cardboard cut outs of Langford and Liza Minelli, who De Niro starred with in New York, New York.  I love how the cut outs are in black and white so they seem even more out of place against the bright red background.  I find it genuinely scary how he sits down and talks to them as if they were real.  The way he pauses for applause after telling a joke, and how he can "hear" Langford tell a joke to him.  He is also sat between the two, and is in the centre of the frame, in his own little world he is the centre of attention. This is all shown to us in one static shot, nothing distracting us from seeing this delusional man totally slipping into fantasy.  That fantasy is again interrupted by his mom at the end of the scene, reality intruding into his fantasy rather than the other way around, so the fantasy is stronger for him.

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We then get a snapshot of Pupkin's job, delivering letters to an office.  It's not important to the story so it's not elaborated on.  While there he tries to impress the secretary by calling up Langford's office in front of her.  He's always putting on a show, everything is a front.  Shots of Times Square, huge crowds of people, we see Pupkin at his "office", a payphone.  Again using a long lens, this time giving a voyeuristic view of things, like this is something we're seeing ourselves from across the street, some lunatic hogging the only working phone, inconveniencing everyone else.  His stubborn selfishness wins out, and we see him asleep, slumped over the phone almost like he's hugging it, holding onto the hope of getting a call from Langford.  He doesn't have the patience to wait though, so he turns up unannounced at his office.  The receptionist mistakes his name for Rupert Pumpkin, and his fantasies blur with reality again as he tells her that he and Jerry discussed being on the show.  As he waits in the reception I love how unaware of how awkward he is, the way he looks at the ceiling and asks "is that cork?" like that's the best small talk he could come up with.  I like to think that he had a whole routine about cork that he was trying to set up, but before he can get started Langford's assistant turns up, calling him "Mr. Pipkin."  She asks him if Jerry knows his work and he gives a confused answer, "yes, I don't think he does," which mirrors his confused state of mind.  She tells him to make a tape of his act and send it in, and it feels like she's being genuine, but when Pupkin says "this is great" there's a look on his face, you can really sense his frustration.  

Outside, Pupkin is ambushed by Marsha, who always seems to jump out at people, a hidden threat.  She asks if Langford talked about her after what happened in the car, needing to be noticed by him.  Pupkin's delusion comes to the fore again as he tells her "Jerry and I have a real relationship going, no fantasy world."  I like how they are walking down a busy street in this scene as they talk, lost in the crowd, anonymous.  It also shows how these crazy people could be anyone, which must be a real concern to Langford.  We learn that Marsha is rich, and she gives Pupkin money to give to Jerry, like she feels she can just buy him.  She tells Pupkin "this is the last time," so Pupkin has made a lot of money from her, because it ain't getting to Jerry.  It shows that manipulative side of Pupkin again, how long has he been milking her for cash?  The scene ends with Marsha screaming in the street like a spoiled child, and it features a cameo from the band The Clash, who are the "street scum" she shouts at.

Over a montage of Pupkin returning home we hear a gorgeous Ray Charles piano instrumental, a really melancholy bluesy piece that casts a pitying air over his life every time it's used.  We see him in his room, dark except for a spotlight over the desk where he's sat, his script in front of him, ready to record.  In the background the cut out of Langford looks on from the shadows.  The lighting highlights how important this moment is, he's about to make his fantasies physical by recording them.  He's getting closer to his dream.  When he starts to record he even has Jerry's intro scripted out, this is a moment he has lived many times before.  But again his fantasy is interrupted by his mom, Pupkin shouting back with teenage like frustration, "moooooom".  Then we cut to what I consider the best shot in the film.  We see Pupkin, his back to us, stood in front of a huge photo of a laughing audience, so big it covers the entire wall.  We can hear laughter coming from somewhere and it gets louder and louder until it is overpowering, drowning out his routine, and the camera pulls away from him down a featureless white hallway.  This is his mind and I think we, the camera, represents reality.  He has his back to reality, he can only see an adoring audience, and he can only hear their laughter as reality pulls away from him, leaving him alone in his fantasy world.  For me, this is the best single shot that Scorsese ever committed to film, and a shining example of why he is a master of the craft @Spinnaker1981 😉 

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We cut from that to Pupkin back at Langford's office, where the receptionist again gets his name wrong, calling him Pipkin.  He replies "you'll get it right one of these days," played as a joke, but with the context we have it becomes sinister.  He again chooses to wait in the reception, too stubborn to leave and risk losing his chance.  There's a close up of Pupkin which cuts to a close up of a picture of Langford on the wall, like it's a trigger for his fantasies, which we then slip into, seeing the two having a meeting in Jerry's office.  In this scene Pupkin is sat in a chair and shot form above, looking very small and subservient to his idol who is shot to look like he towers above him.  Langford calls him a genius and starts theatrically choking Pupkin, saying "I hate you and I envy you," it almost seems like his own mind is turning against him, his fantasies are getting violent, but the violence is directed toward himself.  The over the top nature of the choking, the way his head rocks back and forth, also reflects Pupkin's over the top personality and how he turns everything into a joke, treating nothing seriously.  

After seeing Pupkin's fantasy, we get another taste of what celebrity life is really like.  We see Langford walking down the street, camera tracking him all the way in a nice long shot, giving that stalker vibe again, and everyone knows him, he has no privacy.  It was actually Lewis's idea to have his character called Jerry just for this specific scene.  Apart from Marsha and the cancer woman everyone in this scene was a passerby who happened to see Jerry Lewis walking down the street and shouted out his name, this is what it's really like for him.  The part where the woman on the phone stops him and asks him to talk to her nephew (I think nephew), but he politely declines causing her to scream at him "I HOPE YOU GET CANCER." was something that actually happened to Lewis in real life.  We then see Marsha following him, shot from the front we can see her getting closer, and the panic start to set in on Langford's face when he realises this, at the same time.  He breaks into a jog and we then get handheld footage with faster edits as the chase intensifies to increase the sense of danger and panic.  He is able to escape into his office building, and Marsha sulks outside like a child who didn't get what she wanted for Christmas.  

Pupkin is back in Jerry's office, and get's some recognition from the receptionist, but she still needs reminding of his name, and gets it wrong anyway, calling him Mr Popkin.  The office seems to trigger Rupert's fantasies, and it happens quicker every time he's there.  Pretty immediately he imagines himself as a guest on Langford's show.  Again, it was shot on tape, making it look like a real TV show, adding reality to his fantasy.  His old principal is bought out as a special guest, like Pupkin is holding a grudge against him and wants to show him how successful he's become.  His fantasy of being with Rita merges with his fantasy of fame and he is married to her on live TV, with his principal officiating, telling him "we were wrong Rupert, you were right."  Again, we see he is stuck in his past, marrying his school crush with his principal as the priest.  He seems bitter about his childhood.  We never see or hear about his father, and we only experience his mother as Rupert does, a disembodied voice intruding on his dreams.  Maybe he sees Langford as a surrogate father figure, and he wants to follow in his father's footsteps by becoming famous and replacing him.  I love the fourth wall break at the end of this scene where the priest looks right at the camera and says "we'll be right back after this word," before cutting back to reality.  It's like the real world is just a short commercial break interrupting his fantasy world.

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Langford's assistant comes out and rejects Pupkin, saying that he isn't right for the show, but gives him good advice again, telling him to get experience at some clubs.  She even compliments him, telling him he has good timing.  During all of this he's just nodding along, but you can see he's not taking it in, he won't take no for an answer, and goes right back to waiting.  I love the waiting room muzak playing in the background during this scene, it's like the soundtrack of waiting for something.  Pupkin even starts to tell a joke to the receptionist about "the man who waited so long he forgot what he was waiting for."  That's his life, he's been waiting for something to happen, but it hasn't, and that music has been the soundtrack to his life.  When he does try to do something he just gets rejected, so he retreats into his fantasy world where he is the star.  He is at this point escorted out by security, who call him Mr. Pupnik.

Marsha has been stalking around outside, and tells him that she saw Langford go into the building, when Rupert was told that he wasn't there.  You can see that he is hurt for this for a moment, before he become angry and indignant.  He marches back in and threatens the secretary's job, an entitlement he probably imagines all celebrities have.  He marches into the office and we follow him through a maze of hallways that mirror his confused state of mind.  I love the shot of a doorway where we see him running right, then left, before being caught by security and dragged out.  All the while he is calling out for Jerry, like he's going to come along and help him out because they're friends.  He is thrown out of the building right in front of Marsha, but he tries to save face, telling her "I didn't get thrown out of the building, they walked me outside."  Marsha probably believes him too.  They both share delusions.

Next we see Rupert actually taking Rita to Langford's house.  They turn up at the door, and when the butler asks if Mr. Langford invited them he says "no, we just thought we'd drop by unannounced for the weekend," followed by a manic laugh, properly terrifying.  He believes it too, which makes the butler let him in, he literally joked his way into Jerry's house.  This film could easily turn into a horror at this point.  It's also unsettling at how at home he seems here, telling Rita about all of the photos on the wall.  She does seem unsure though, noting that the table is only set for one, which builds a nice tension for the scene.  Jonno, the butler calls Langford, asking him "do you know name Pumpkin?", and soon arrives back from his golf game.  I love the absolute look of shock on his face at seeing Pupkin, it's like he actually can't believe the b*lls on this guy.  He's shocked into silence.  Pupkin acts like everything's fine, joking with Jerry "how's your golf game, you finally break 100?", but now he is clearly very angry.  De Niro, being that sort of actor, didn't think that Lewis was believably angry for the first few takes, so he started telling anti-semitic jokes to Lewis (who is Jewish) to p*ss him off for real.  Whether you agree with that tactic or not, it got great results, because he is beetroot red with rage during this scene.

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Rita, as well as everyone with any sense, can tell that something is wrong, telling her "Rupert, he's saying he wants us to go," but he still can't accept that.  I don't think he can even see that.  He tries to buddy up with Jerry still, standing away from Rita saying "don't listen to her Jerry, she's just a girl who works in a bar."  He's playing the part of a snobby celebrity looking down on the little people, he thinks that's who Jerry is, so that's how he acts.  Langford finally makes it crystal clear, even for Rupert, that he has crossed a line and is not wanted.  Pupkin then turns this on Jerry, taking no responsibility for his actions, saying "so this is how it is when you're famous, huh?" acting upset, like his feelings have been hurt, and they have, because he truly believes that they were friends.  This is one of my favourite scenes in the film, I love the build up of tension, and the explosion of Langford's anger against Pupkin's oblivious fantasising.

We cut from Pupkin's realisation that his hero has rejected him to a close up of a gun being nervously tapped against a leg.  We get an immediate sense of danger and worry for Langford on seeing the gun, but the way Pupkin is tapping it shows that he is perhaps feeling hesitant about shooting him.  He's been pushed over the edge and no one, not even him, knows what he's going to do next.  We pull out from the gun to see that he is sat in a car with Marsha.  He's in a ridiculous outfit, bright shirt, bright white hat, and huge sunglasses.  What his over the top personality imagines to be inconspicuous.  This tension is broken by Marsha saying about the gun "it looks real," so even this is a performance, nothing about him is genuine.  They are waiting outside's Langford's office waiting for him.  I love Marsha saying "when it looks like him it isn't him," showing that this is something that she does a lot, and her paranoia thinking that he has a load of doubles just because of her.  They see him and start following him in the car, bickering like an old married couple on a road trip.  The contrast between this ridiculous pair and their very serious intentions is fantastic, you don't know whether to laugh or be worried.  They pull up to Jerry and Pupkin gets out to bundle him into the car, dropping the gun during the process, turning the whole thing into a farce.  

The next scene opens with a great close up of the gun being pointed at Langford's head.  In any other situation this would be a tense shot, but here, because we know the gun is fake, it becomes comical.  The ridiculous use of cotton wool stuffed behind his sunglasses as a makeshift blindfold adds to the effect.  Pupkin finds some mints in his pocket and starts an inane conversation about who wants a mint.  Pupkin, using cue cards, a tool of TV, something to do with his fantasy, makes Langford call his producer with his demands.  Pupkin is to be allowed to perform on the show to be broadcast that night and Langford will be safe.  More humour is added to what should be a tense scene by having one of the cards upside down, with Langford giving a tired look like he wishes he was kidnapped by professionals.  He also makes a joke himself, saying to his producer "it's not grammatically correct, but you get the idea."  We then see Marsha get to live out her fantasy.  He has possession of Jerry, he's in her home, and she gets to dress him up like a doll.  I love the cut from this bizzare scene to a very heated serious scene of the producers of the show all discussing what to do.

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Pupkin and Jerry then have a really heartfelt conversation.  Langford tries to tell him that he's just a human being, there's nothing special about him, like Pupkin thinks there is.  He tells him about the hardships and the problems he has, but Rupert isn't hearing any of that.  It doesn't exist in his fantasy, so it doesn't exist.  He even thinks they're friends still, saying "you know something, friendship is a two way street."  He and Marsha then start to argue about how much time each is getting with Jerry, like he's their pet, and he gives another look like he's just given up trying to reason with these wackos.  The scene ends with Rupert taping Jerry to the chair, and we see it from over head, watching Pupkin circle around and around him, because his whole world revolves around Jerry.

Back with the producers, who are now arguing with the FBI and Langford's lawyer about what they're gonna do.  I love the lawyer just shouting that he's gonna sue everyone, and when somebody asks who he is he shouts back "I'm the one who's suing! I'm the lawyer!".  At the end of the scene one of the FBI agents says "only an idiot kidnaps," before cutting to a shot of Pupkin in the mirror getting ready for his show.  We pull out slowly and to get a laugh out the reveal of Langford taped up right to his nose.  Marsha is lounging seductively on a sofa behind him, and as Pupkin leaves he says "have a good time, I know you will."  Even though everything that has happened so far has been ridiculous, Marsha still feels like a threat, and this adds tension because I don't trust her alone with Jerry and that line just reinforces that tension.

Using a payphone and referring to himself as Mr. King, Pupkin calls the producers to let them know he's on the way.  He's paranoid about the call being traced, telling them "I do know those sounds," is that his paranoia or has he done something like this before?  Maybe he was obsessed with someone else before Langford.  We're back with Langford and Marsha now, alone in her apartment.  He is still taped up, sat at a dining table.  The room is full of candles, which would be romantic in another context, but here it is sinister, especially the way she appears out of the shadows wielding the gun, again being shown as a hidden threat.  This whole scene with just the two of them is again one of my favourites.  I'm not a fan of Lewis or Bernhard in anything else they've done.  I don't think he's a very good actor, and I've always found Bernhard annoying and bratty.  But in this film Lewis isn't acting, so he can't be bad at it, he's basically playing himself, getting to vent his real frustrations and anger with everything he hates about being famous.  And Bernhard's loudmouthed entitled brattishness is perfect for the character.  This was also her first major acting role, so letting her improvise a lot (this whole scene with just her and Langford is improvised), helped her relax and really get into the role.  Like I said, I'm not a fan of either, but they are perfect in this film, and I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job.

I love the cuts between close ups of their faces.  She is full of b*stial anticipation, a predator about to pounce, and he is trying to play it cool and stay calm, but there is a fear in his eyes, he knows she's unpredictable.  Her monologue in this scene is fantastic, ramping up in intensity, smashing a glass on the floor in case he didn't like it.  I love her romanticised dreaming of things they're going to do together, like golfing, "need a putter Jer'?"  We get a clue as to why she's obsessed with him as well when she says "I never told my parents that I love them...I love you."  The way she says the last part almost breathlessly is brilliant.  

We see a montage of crowds outside the theatre for the taping of the show, everything seems to be business as usual, "the show must go on."  I love seeing the third guest for the show, who was bumped for Pupkin, getting denied entry to the building and then getting arrested, even indirectly Pupkin is causing a farce with his actions.  During the bustle of the guy getting taken away Pupkin manages to just walk in, bold as brass.  Again we see his opportunistic nature.  I love the shot following him as he walks through the studio, taking it all in.  It's like he's home and finally feels comfortable.  When he introduces himself to the assistant by saying "I'm the king," you can tell that that's exactly what he feels like at that moment.  

Back with Langford and Marsha and right away she sweeps everything off of the table putting everyone on edge.  She follows this by serenading Jerry with a song, going from one extreme to another so you don't know what's next.  She sings to him Come Rain or Come Shine, the same song from the opening credits, but she changes it slightly to "you're gonna love me."  She owns him now, he is her possession, and she's going to tell him what to do.  Singing that song to him is an order, a threat.  The way she prowls over to him and sits on his lap can also be seen as an aggressive act as well as a seductive one.

Image result for the king of comedy gifs

Now we see Pupkin being interviewed by the FBI.  I love the opening exchange, "what's your name?"  "Rupert Pupkin."  "What's your real name?"  Even his name turns this serious situation into a joke.  Before answering anything he asks him "are you from the show?"  That's all he cares about, he only wants to speak to a producer.  As proof of Langford's safety Pupkin produces the handkerchief from their first meeting, when he was told "you don't just walk onto a network show without experience."  It ties their first meeting to this and highlights the connection Pupkin has felt between them ever since, and how their fates are intertwined.  The scene ends with another joke as Pupkin is placed under arrest and his only reaction is "fine.  I think I should get made up."  His priorities are clear.

A short scene next showing the guest host, Tony Randall playing himself, preparing for the taping with the director, played by Scorsese himself.  That makes it three generations of the Scorsese family in this film.  Then we're back with Marsha and Langford.  This cutting between them and the preparations for the show add a tension to both events rather than if you just saw them in their entirety.  Marsha is now sat on Langford's lap, one moment screaming in his face about how she wants to "get crazy," one moment quietly and sadly saying "I'm having a good time."  This keeps adding to the dangerous, unpredictable nature of the character.  She then strips off, saying it's time for some "good old fashioned American fun."  This then cuts immediately to the opening of the Jerry Langford show.

We see Randall come out and introduce "the new king of comedy, Rupert Pupkin," to a huge round of applause.  We then see the start of his act, opening with the line "let me introduce myself.  My name is Rupert Pupkin."  This is important for him, to announce who he is on such a big stage, after people have been getting his name wrong for so long.  We don't see the rest of the act yet, we cut back to Langford and Marsha.  He calmly tells her to take the tape off, and because of her devotion to him she can't resist.  She doesn't even question that he's going to get away.  We then see Rupert walking backstage, laughter and applause in the background.  It seems it went well.  He has one more request before he tells them where Langford is, he wants to go to Rita's bar to watch the broadcast.  Meanwhile, Langford is now free and grabs the gun, actually firing it at Marsha only to discover that it's a pellet gun.  He fires it impotently a few more times at her with an unimpressed look on his face, before giving her a well deserved slap.  He runs out and she chases him, in her underwear, onto the streets, begging pathetically with him to come back.  

When Pupkin enters Rita's bar she gives an audible "oh god," wondering what insanity he's going to spout to her now, but he says nothing, just jumps up on the bar and changes the TV channel, upsetting one guy who was watching a film.  That old guy is Scorsese's dad.  As Pupkin stands up next to the TV I love the proud look on his face.  He's convinced this will make Rita fall in love with him and turn him into a huge star.  We finally get to see his act and it's actually pretty funny.  He does have good delivery, and gets a lot of laughs from the audience.  If he did work small clubs you could see him becoming famous after a few years, but that would be too slow for him, he wants instant gratification.  There are some more parental things, where he makes a joke about his mom being dead for nine years, which could point back to a traumatic childhood.  He also ends by telling the truth and getting a laugh out of that too, everything about this man's life is a joke.  He says "the fact is I'm here and tomorrow you'll know that I wasn't kidding and you'll think I was crazy.  But look, I figure it this way; better to be a king for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime."  He has felt like a schmuck for his whole life, he was a nobody.  He just wanted one moment of recognition, for someone to know his name, and he would do anything for that.  And he did.

We then see Langford running through the dark streets, alone in the shadows.  He walks past an electronics store which has a display of TVs all showing Pupkin's performance on the show.  Here Pupkin is outshining Langford, who is an anonymous figure alone in the darkness.  Pupkin is the star and Langford is a nobody.  We get a close up of his face and he looks more jealous of Pupkin than angry or anything else.  He's stealing his limelight.  

Image result for the king of comedy gifs

In the bar Rupert turns off the TV and in the background we can hear sirens, indicating his fate.  As he's hustled out by the FBI he says to Rita "just because I made it big don't think I'll forget about you."  He still sees her as different, one of the little people.  He's also still delusional in thinking that this one appearance will make him a star.  Then we get a montage of news reports about Pupkin.  He's all over the TV, the papers, he has written a book, King for a Night, but again, the delusion is still there.  One reporter says "he still considers Jerry Langford his friend and mentor."  However, this could all be fantasy.  Just because it looks like real news reports doesn't mean that they are real.  All of Pupkin's fantasies up until this point have been shot and presented the same way as reality, so this could all be playing out in his mind as he sits in his jail cell, fantasising about his new found fame.  

We end with what again could be fantasy.  Rupert has his own TV special with an announcer introducing him as legendary and inspirational.  He walks centre stage into the spotlight and basks in the ongoing applause of the audience, which goes on and on, just like the scene earlier in the film with the photo of an audience.  The announcer also seems to go over the top, saying stuff like "give it up, wonderful, let's hear it ladies and gentlemen, here he is."  In my opinion this is still his fantasy, but at this point in the film, who knows?  I don't think Pupkin himself would.  The camera tracks in from the back of the audience to a close up of Pupkin as he accepts the applause and adulation he's craved for so long, and then we cut to black and the credits roll on my favourite film of all time.

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And that's The King of Comedy.  Like I said, it's my favourite film, in my opinion the best collaboration between him and De Niro, and De Niro's best performance.  Rupert Pupkin is pathetic, funny, charismatic, charming, scary, threatening, and a more complex character than any other that he's played.  The themes of the film are as relevant now as they ever were, and the direction, though not as flashy as some of his other films, is some of the best Scorsese has ever done.  It's a shame that this is such an under appreciated Scorsese film and really deserves to be up there with Goodfellas and Taxi Driver.  Obviously I'm giving it 10/10  I can't wait to hear what you guys think about this one 🙂 

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djw180

This was a film I had heard of but didn't know much about other than it had Jerry Lewis in it. I liked it. It's a very well made & acted film and shows Robert De Nero has far more to his repertoire than gangsters and tough guys. The cast overall is excellent; I loved Sandra Bernhard and noticing Martin Scorcese as the TV Director. What I really like how some of the internal scenes are shot, such when Rupert is “performing” in front of his giant photo of an audience in his/his mother's basement (see Lime's post above – I agree that is Scoresese's best shot) but also when he is sat in the reception room at the TV studio, perfectly centre screen with the furniture symmetrical around him.

 

But for me that is sort of it. I genuinely can't think of much more to say. There are certainly no negatives that come to mind but nothing else that, for me, stands out. It's “just” a very good film all-round.

 

I'd give this 8/10.

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CatManDoza

Well this review will pale in comparison to everyone else's as I'm not much of a word Smith. 

Enjoyed the film, a very good choice indeed. 

Loved the scenes he was acting out in his head, so much so that when he went to Jerry's House, I thought he was acting it out to himself. 

A solid 8 cat nips out of 10.

Well picked @LimeGreenLegend

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LimeGreenLegend
Just now, CatManDoza said:

Loved the scenes he was acting out in his head, so much so that when he went to Jerry's House, I thought he was acting it out to himself.

One of my favourite scenes too, and it's totally the kind of thing that he's probably imagined a thousand times that it well could have been him just acting it out.

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JuniorChubb
9 minutes ago, CatManDoza said:

so much so that when he went to Jerry's House, I thought he was acting it out to himself. 

Exactly what I thought too.

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CatManDoza
13 minutes ago, LimeGreenLegend said:

One of my favourite scenes too, and it's totally the kind of thing that he's probably imagined a thousand times that it well could have been him just acting it out.

 

5 minutes ago, JuniorChubb said:

Exactly what I thought too.

 

Wow, did I do a thing? An actual film review thing others agreed with? 

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LimeGreenLegend
Just now, CatManDoza said:

Wow, did I do a thing? An actual film review thing others agreed with? 

It's like you were actually paying attention 😉 

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CatManDoza
2 minutes ago, LimeGreenLegend said:

It's like you were actually paying attention 😉 

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I put effort in. Only picked up my phone once to pause it to get grapes

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JuniorChubb

King of Comedy review

I am writing this far too long after watching it so my memory may fail me here and there, also I have written critically for about 25 years.

I went in to this not really knowing what to expect, and I had heard mixed reviews but was looking forward to it due to the ramblings of a rather legendary lime! 

The film follows a loner comedy 'groupie' in his quest to make it as a famous stand-up comic and the drastic risks he will take to make it. KoC was released in cinemas in 1982 but doesn’t suffer to badly from being nearly 40 years old, the theme still holds true and may have been considered ahead of its time upon release. We are now very familiar with celebrity chasers and it was nice to see autograph books replacing selfies. 

The plot...

Spoiler

 

Robert Pupkin is our pitiful lead, trying to make his way to the top like his comedy hero and late night talk show host Jerry Langford. Along the way another groupie Masha as well as Pupkin’s high school crush Rita also get pulled into Pukin’s quest for acceptance. 

After a hectic introduction things clam down to give a pretence into who the two main characters are, Pupkin seems to be a nice guy who can't catch a break and Langford is a friendly old pro who may give him a shot. We soon learn this isn’t true, Pupkin is a fantasist and Langford doesn’t really give a crap, the film steadily confirms this as we dive deeper into Pupkins fantasies that are fuelled by Langford continuing to ignore him, well not so much ignore just be completely unaware of him. 

Events start to escalate as constant rejection makes Pupkin realises that he will not get anywhere without taking some drastic measures, so he does. He hatches a plot with Masha to kidnap Langford and to hold him hostage with the ransom being to get a spot to do his stand-up routine on Langford late night talk show. Despite that we have all watched it I won’t say what happens but by this point in the film I was rooting for Pupkin despite his obvious shortcomings and our adventures in to the fantasy world he lives in.

 

The film was a very enjoyable journey in to 80's celebrity chasing and rejection, but I was just expecting a little more from it. It was entertaining, I grew to like Pupkin and wanted him to succeed after being forced to despise him for so long, especially when we actually got to see his routine performed in front of an audience. His relationships were believable, there was nothing wrong with the film, well shot, great characters, well-acted and interesting but I just felt it to be a little underwhelming.

As good as all of the above is, I think the film suffered in two main aspects for me that just stunted my enjoyment a little.

Hype, I was expecting more. I think I set the bar too high and it didn’t reach those heights for me, this happens far too often for me though and is a shortcoming on my behalf. 

Age, I think the film has aged well but may have just lost its punch over time. The themes have been addressed many times and a character that was fascinating in 1982 may just not be as powerful in 2020. 

I may need to watch this again but without doing that I will say this film was really enjoyable just missed the spot slighty for me. I am however really glad I watched it, I know it's a classic and may never have got round to it otherwise.

If I have to give this a mark out of ten I would hover around or just under 8/10.

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omarcomin71

This is my first review and I apologize if it’s not very detailed or a bit on the short side. 
It’s probably one of the reasons I have yet to write a review.  Sometimes I feel like it’s just a thumbs up thumbs down kind of thing for me. And 90% a time it would be a thumbs up.  Anyway...

I enjoyed this movie very much.  For a Scorsese film it’s probably not his greatest but only because I’m comparing it to some of my favorite films of all time. 

Robert De Niro was great.  It’s clear if De Niro is in a Martin Scorsese film he’s either playing a gangster for a crazy person.  He made me uncomfortable which I think was part of the point.  Loved it!  I was even impressed with the acting of Jerry Lewis.  I’m sure was just playing himself but still. Sandra Bernhardt was perfect. (I’ve always thought she was s*xy)

Not much of a story but De Nero and his creepy behavior kept me interested. 4 out of 5 stars for me. This is one of the few “classic” movies I have yet to see and I have to say it met my expectations.  It didn’t bl*w me away but I wasn’t disappointed.  Worth the $3.99 rental fee.  I will however admit being a huge De Niro fan so take that for what it’s worth. 

By the way, a laugh out loud moment for me is when they taped him to the chair like a mummy. 😄  https://imgur.com/a/WI8DLRI

Anyway, when it comes to movies I’m rarely disappointed and this was no exception. 

Again I apologize for my lack of prior participation and look forward to being more involved. 

Edited by omarcomin71
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