6. The King Of Comedy
So, here is a valid question – who is the most mentally fractured of Scorsese’s assorted protagonists? Travis Bickle is undeniably disjointed and Jake LaMotta is as broken as anyone could imagine. But is Rupert Pupkin the most troubled of them all? The King of Comedy can initially feel like a lighter-weight examination of celebrity obsession and self-delusion, but as the narrative progresses it becomes clear that we are not dealing with someone harmless, but rather a deep and dark form of psychosis.
The surrounding/supporting cast assist immensely, but what sticks with us is the final stand up routine, where it becomes clear that Pupkin is funny and talented, even as much of what we see convinces us that he is deranged, delusional and unstable.
Amidst a genuinely phenomenal body of work, this might be De Niro’s finest performance and Scorsese undoubtedly gets kudos for drawing it out of him. The themes and tone of the film are more prescient now than ever before. “King for a Night” and all that.