Thursday, February 11, 2010

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver
Director: Martin Scorsese
USA 1976
113 min
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Albert Brooks, Harvey Keitel, Peter Boyle and Cybill Shepherd, among others.

What happens when a crazy person with a sleeping disorder and a contempt for humanity roams the hooker filled city streets night after night in a yellow cab?

"Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man... June 8th. My life has taken another turn again. The days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change."

I'm too tired to update my blog professionally, but I can at least write a few words. It was years since I saw Taxi Driver the last time, and today I saw it in a movie theater at school. Being a film student rocks! There's nothing to be ashamed about when drooling over a young, well-trained Robert De Niro when he works out. That's film experience, alright.

I hardly remembered the film, so it was a welcome re-watch. It wasn't until the end that I realized why I thought of it as a confusing film - everything seems explicable, right? A lonely man with insomnia, disgusted by the shallow, filthy people of the city at night - it's not too far fetched that he will go on a killing spree, right? Especially when he is constantly sound tracked by a lonely brass instrument, mocking him for his loneliness.

Well, the things that confused me at first were the little details - and then the whole damned thing. For example: the ridiculously young Jodie Foster wears a couple of weird green sunglasses in the breakfast scene, and when she is about to leave in the end she instead puts on a pair of blue, round ones. Did she carry several types of sunglasses?

I'm not nitpicking here, I see those strange details as a premonition of what is to come. Is it credible that Travis is illustrated as a hero in the press after having committed murder? Is it credible that a girl/ex hooker's parents writes a thank you letter to a murderer, even if he in a twisted way changed their life for the better? Is it credible that a woman's hair blows in the wind in the backseat of a taxi cab?

I guess my interpretation of the film is clear. And that's perhaps not the most interesting part of the film anyway - the interesting part is how the hell they managed to make Harvey Keitel into such a sleezy pimp. Why the long, red finger nail? Yuck. Still, Martin Scorsese's cameo might have been the funniest part of the film. So pathetic and scary at the same time. And a little cute.

Now I'm off to read the discussion threads on IMDb and see what other film nerds make of this psycho gem.

Oh, I almost forgot: You talkin' to me?

De Niro and Scorsese on set.
Men sure knew how to wear beards in the 1970's.


Bill Stankus said...

I like most everything Scorsese has done - but I really dislike Taxi Driver. Maybe because it was made at the ugly end of the 1960's experience (which stayed on into the early 70s.) TD is almost apocalyptic fore-telling concerning the darkness that was descending on society. Instead of music and flowers, it was dirt and blood.

Marcy said...

I just saw a still of this online yesterday and I wondered to myself, "Why did I like Taxi Driver, anyway?" Could it have been that it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Catcher in the Rye or because, deep down, I did kind of relate to Travis Bickle's isolation and loneliness?

Then I realized it was because I thought Robert De Niro was ridiculously hot in this movie.

Great review, though. There are so many ways to interpret this film. We talk about unreliable narrators in English classes all the time and I just feel like the entire "world through Travis' eyes" in this film is all unreliable. It's all up to interpretation.

Jennythenipper said...

Jody and her sunglasses are immortal. I had a babysitter who to her eternal shame left me a lone with this movie when I was 9. It traumatized me. I wasn't that much younger than Jodi Foster.

I've never been a huge Scorcese fan. His movies are stylish and always well-acted but they are usually just violent for my taste.

But yeah, Deniro was fit in this movie.

Lolita said...

Bill Stankus:
I did not like Taxi Driver as much as I loved King of Comedy, but I still think it's a hell of a film! Then Scorsese is not one of my favorite directors, but I adore his personality and his love of films. Can you believe that it is his money that we have to thank for the masterful restoration of The Red Shoes? And Night of the Hunter, too. He's a real cinephile, that man.

Ha ha ha! But it's true - would I have liked Taxi Driver if it hadn't been a hot De Niro playing Travis, I wonder? ;)
We briefly touched the narrator subject the other day too, and on the subject "unreliable" we watched the first scene of Sunset Blvd (1950), where the narrator goes from a third person perspective to talking about himself - just like that. What a way to start a film - breaking the most basic narration laws!

Haha! I really thought one had babysitters to avoid children watching films like these! Poor Jenny! On the other hand, my mother brought my about ten year old cousins to watch Silence of the Lambs when it came, so I don't know... ;)
As I said to Bill before, Scorsese is more my kind of man than my kind of director. I saw a couple of scenes from his documentary My Voyage to Italy in film class, and he is such a lovely person. Can one adopt grandfathers?

Mykal said...

Lolita: Like most from Scorsese, I found Taxi Driver has a near visceral power that pulses off the screen. I saw this one in the theater when it came out. I can tell you, the audience in attendance felt the film and seemed beaten and pale upon leaving the theater, blinking and quiet. In short, I think this is one of the greatest films in the Scorsese catalog, bested by only Raging Bull.

Great review, Lolita, as always. How go our film studies? -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Thanks for sharing that experience! It's always interesting to hear how audiences reacted to films initially :)
The film studies go well! As one can tell from my absence, hehe. I'm home this week to write an analysis on The Graduate to finish off the first part of the film course, so I'm a little absent-minded! But it's fun as hell.

Nick said...

I think Iris is made to carry several sunglasses to show her childish inocent side (as opossed to being a lady of the night), give her some personality for us to relate to...

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon this while searching for a pair of those awesome green sunglasses. I felt I had to say that the long pinky nail is for crack. The more you know, right? :)

Anonymous said...

I mean coke. Whatever. :)

Lolita Kane said...

You're probably right.

Well, thank you for that information! How naïve of me not to know such a thing ;)

Henning said...

Jodie Foster did research with a real 'child'prostitute (the girl she is with when De Niro almost hits her with the car) and she did the sunglasses thing during one of her interviews. And yes, the nail is for cokesniffing.
I love this film, I wasnt to old when I bought it at my local videostore (cos we had those back then), and it totally blew me away with its viceral city-"horror" and the preformances. It was also the beginning of my unhealthy relationship with Jodie Foster and my obsession with teaming up Iris and Matilda from Luc Besson's Leon.

roja assi said...

Fantastic! I really enjoyed Taxi driver for getting pleasured and also great character to over all see..

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