The King of Comedy (1982, rel. 1983)


Strictly speaking, this isn’t a movie about movies. It is a movie about the cult of celebrity, the power of television, and 15 minutes of fame—which is close enough. Scorsese wanted Johnny Carson to play the role of Jerry Langford, but an even better choice may be Jerry Lewis, who turns in a fairly charmless performance that rings far truer than we could suspect. As Rupert Pupkin, the talentless wannabe who resorts to kidnapping to fulfill his dream of being on television, Robert DeNiro is perhaps more brilliant (in a thankless role) than he has been since. Pre-celeb Sandra Bernhard completes this unlovable triangle, and adds yet another layer of verisimilitude to the whole show. It's not a pleasant film, but it's one that needed making.
Navel-Gazers: 10 Movies About Movies
Reviews by Bryant Frazer