Picture this. The year is 1983. Fresh from the critical acclaim that came his way from “Raging Bull”, Martin Scorsese introduces the world to his satirical black comedy, “King of Comedy”. Unfortunately, the film is met with critical furrows, marked as a confusing shift from the director’s previous sobering triumph.
In fact, Scorsese would later reflect on his critics’ biting comments in a light-hearted TikTok video created by his daughter, Francesca. He laughingly revealed, “People hated it when it came out. It was the flop of the year, that’s what it was called on Entertainment Tonight… It’s ok, it’s alright”.
The Genius Underneath the Misunderstood Facade
Dismissing “The King of Comedy” was a misstep by the movie buffs of the ‘80s. Presenting a heart-wrenching portrayal of a man desperate for recognition, the film was uncannily prophetic, hinting at our culture’s future obsession with fame and validation. No one could deny it was one of the decade’s cinematic high notes.
Infamous critic Roger Ebert shared a somewhat begrudged admiration for the film in his review, asserting, “The King of Comedy is one of the most arid, painful, wounded movies I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to believe Scorsese made it.” This sentiment resonated with most critics of that time.
Reevaluating Scorsese’s Dark Comedy
Robert De Niro’s Rupert Pupkin, just like Travis Bickle from “Taxi Driver” – another Scorsese gem, existed in a warped reality. Pupkin stands as one of cinema’s iconic anti-heroes who triumphs despite his questionable talent, purely owing to his inability to accept rejection and his skill at pushing boundaries.
In recent years, “The King of Comedy” has finally started receiving the praise it deserved all along. A quick internet search will tell you how the film has stood the test of time, with individuals like Akira Kurosawa listing it as his favourite Scorsese film. Even Todd Phillips conceded how “Joker”, starring De Niro, was influenced by this very film.
By the fag end of the ‘80s, the reevaluation of “The King of Comedy” had commenced. American Film magazine placed it 17th in its critics poll of the best films from that decade. In our own massive poll ranking the top films of the ‘80s, it landed a respectable 13th place. Thus, Pupkin’s legacy lives on!
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