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King of Comedy

Year: 1983
Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard
I wanted to see this movie on the strength of it being another in the legendary teaming of De Niro and Scorsese, but it was in one of their quieter moments.

On the surface it was a pretty ordinary story. Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) tries hard to make it in comedy - even to the point you think there's something wrong with him because he behaves so obsessively in trying to get a hand up from his hero, TV host Jerry Langford (Lewis).

Despite all his hard work and faith in himself, he gets nothing but knock backs from Langford (or rather, the celebrity infrastructure that surrounds him), and so he and his very unhinged 'friend' Masha (Bernhard) kidnap Langford, Pupkin using him as ransom to get a guest spot on Jerry's show.

He goes to prison for the crime, fully releasing Jerry after his appearance, and it's in the final sequence that I think the film's real intentions are. I think it was trying to say something subtle about the phenomenon of celebrity and fame in modern society in a similar way to Natural Born Killers, the fact that to be famous, you don't have to work hard (in fact it'll get you nowhere), you just have to do something that gets you notoriety - in this case, kidnapping a much-loved TV star.

To reinforce this theory, snippets of the trappings of fame permeate the film throughout, affecting each character. They range from the understated to the overt, from the woman who abuses Jerry in the street for not talking to her son on a payphone to Masha's convincing herself that her and Jerry will surely be lovers after sharing a romantic, candle-lit meal (despite him sitting across from her tied up with gaffer tape).

As for Pupkin being obsessive-compulsive, maybe the point was simply that any nut can be famous.

Effective more as a point than a story, not the most entertaining film, and De Niro just isn't as powerful as a bumbling nice guy/loser as he is a psychopathic rapist or a mafia killer.

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