Monday, June 13, 2011

#311. Taxi Driver (1976)


Directed By: Martin Scorsese

Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Harvey Keitel



Tag line: "He's a lonely, forgotten man desperate to prove he's alive"


Trivia:  One of the studios who considered producing this film suggested Neil Diamond play the title role.






Someday a real rain will come to wash all the scum off the streets”. So says Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro), the isolated antihero of Martin Scorsese’s gripping 1975 film, Taxi Driver. But, as we quickly learn, Travis isn’t a patient man, and soon tires of waiting for this “divine rain” to arrive. So, he takes matters into his own hands. 

A Vietnam veteran living in New York, Travis takes a job as an overnight cab driver. By cruising the mean streets after dark, he encounters all forms of criminals and lowlifes, and learns to hate each and every one of them. One night, he meets a 12-year-old prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster), who works for a pimp known as ‘Sport’ (Harvey Keitel). Before long, Travis has formed a friendship with the young girl, and the more he gets to know her, the madder he gets at the man who's robbing her of her innocence. This, combined with the collapse of his relationship with a pretty political volunteer named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), causes Travis to unravel, and slowly lose his grip on reality. Soon, Travis will make the decision to confront the criminal element he's grown to despise, and do so in a brutal, merciless fashion. 

Taxi Driver was Scorsese's and DeNiro’s second collaboration (following 1972’s Mean Streets), and the first in which DeNiro was the star. For his part, Scorsese does a wonderful job bringing us deep into Travis’ world, taking us everywhere he goes, showing us everything he sees. We’re with Travis on his nightly taxi runs, and listen in on his innermost thoughts, many of which send chills racing up our spine. Scorsese structures Taxi Driver in such a way that we’re in Travis’ company for nearly the entire film, keeping us so in tune with his lead character that, like Travis, we become oblivious to the rest of the world. We are one with his warped reality, and serve as the lone witnesses to his journey into the abyss. 

Robert DeNiro is predictably marvelous as Travis, and I especially liked the restrained manner in which he delivers the voice-over narration, where he puts into words the thoughts that are controlling Travis’ mind. As the story progresses, these thoughts devolve from subtle observations (“All of the animals come out at night…sick, venal”) to twisted calls for action (“The idea has been growing in my brain for some time: brute force. All the kings’ men cannot put it back together again”). It’s obvious from the get-go that Travis is a loose cannon, one capable of going off at any given time. His descent into madness was inevitable. 

By the conclusion of Taxi Driver, Travis has done something that causes the rest of the world to view him as a hero, a man who saw injustice and decided to do something about it. But we know a little bit more about Travis than they do. We’ve listened to him express his outrage at the state of modern society, and we were there when he issued himself a personal challenge to change the world through any means necessary. We know that Travis, despite his so-called ‘heroic’ deed, is a man whose actions stem more from a blossoming hostility than any true concern for the welfare of mankind. Instead of praise, Travis is a man who should be feared. 

And they would fear him,..if only they knew him like we do.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

7 comments:

Movie Guy Steve said...

"We are one with his warped reality"

For me, this is the genius of the film. We're set up as the audience to identify with Travis for the first part of the film. Then, when he shows up freshly mohawked and crazy, we're left with the realization that the only person we have to latch onto in this film is a guy who has lost his mind, at least in terms of normal society. It's not easy to make the audience sympathetic with a beast, but this film pulls it off.

Dave Becker said...

@Steve: Excellent point about that mohawk scene: it really is a shock when we first see it!

I love how Scorsese sets the audience apart from the rest of the world, allowing us to see just how twisted Travis is. There are plenty of people, even those who "know" him, who believe he's just a lonely guy, but we know better.

Makes you wonder how many people like Travis are out there...a chilling thought!

Thanks for the comment...it's greatly appreciated

moviesandsongs365 said...

Good review, I agree that we really get under Travis' skin with the personal voice-overs. I get the feeling Travis wouldn't lose his mind, if he had a support system who cared.

I think comparable story to Fight Club (1999), an at times violent character study with a subjective viewpoint about an insomniac dealing with alienation issues, who through voice-overs thinks about what is wrong with the world, and wants to make it a better place.(taken from my incomplete review)

I'm going to do a write-up of Taxi Driver soon, so keep an eye out :D

Dave Becker said...

@moviesandsongs365: Thanks so much for the kind words.

I'll agree that the story is very similar to that inn FIGHT CLUB (though obviously the tone of that film is much different than TAXI DRIVER).

I look forward to reading your TAXI DRIVER review. Please be sure to stop back and post a link once it's up!

Anonymous said...

hey guys did you know?

Taxi Driver is a 1976 American drama-thriller film directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Paul Schrader.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d'Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival.
Watch this space for more thriller movies this week.

For more fun facts and trivia, check out https://www.facebook.com/WhistlingWoodsInternational

Alex Garza said...

One of my favorite movies of all time. This is Scorsese's NY. His state of mind. Dangerous place, eh?

Dave B. said...

@Alex: This is most definitely Scorsese's NY, and yeah...I wouldn't want to be left alone there at night!

Thanks for the comment, and for stopping by.