Taxi Driver (1976)

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Siegmund, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe
    I couldn't find a dedicated thread on this film, so here goes....

    I first saw Taxi Driver in 1995. I was already aware of its reputation and had seen other landmark seventies films by that point this T.D. is generally seen as watershed in what could be permitted in mainstream filmmaking.

    Watching it again recently, I was struck by a couple of things: the first third of the film is basically a comedy (although it's certainly not played for laughs), pivoting around Travis' clueless pursuit of the unattainable (but somewhat interested in him) Betsy. I think the scenes between De Niro and Cybill Shepherd are pitched perfectly but just as good are the scenes between Albert Brooks (who gives a brilliant comic performance as a man who doesn't realise he's funny) and Shepherd. You can tell that Betsy has zero interest in her colleague, despite his keenness but it's very subtly put across.

    The film darkens when Travis is rejected: but his encounter with Senator Palatine (the kind of dubiously sincere politico we were over-familiar with even back then) is also very funny, with the Senator's 'people' looking at Travis like he's a species of pond-life.

    The last part of the film is very violent, even by today's standards, but the ending is intriguing: I suppose it's a good ending in that it can mean different things to different people My own interpretation is that Travis ends ups a 'hero' purely by happenstance - when his plot to assassinate Palatine failed, he ended up as the man of the moment in delivering Iris from Speed. But had his original plan worked, he would have been a villain; and these simple twists of fate determine how we are perceived.

    The documentary on the DVD is essential for anyone who likes this film: I was interested to hear that Harvey Keitel wanted the part of Speed, despite the fact that Speed had only five lines of dialogue in the original script. Speed was originally meant to be an Afro-American until Keitel lobbied for the part.
     
    Vidiot, Dan C, dougotte and 1 other person like this.
  2. Jim B.

    Jim B. Forum Resident

    Location:
    UK
    Great script, great supporting cast and a leading man and director at the very top of their game. In my top 3 no doubt.

    Iconic score as well, the greatest film composer's last film.
     
  3. SurrealCereal

    SurrealCereal Forum Resident

    I love Taxi Driver and would rank it as one of my top five favorite films. It has such a unique atmosphere and style. There are always more layers of the plot and Travis Bickle’s psyche to peel back, making it endlessly rewatchable. For me, Travis Bickle is the most interesting film character ever. The way Scorsese and Schraeder trick you into liking and rooting for such a twisted and messed-up person is something I haven’t seen in very many films.

    I actually didn’t like Taxi Driver the first time I saw it. I was expecting a straightforward vigilante film and didn’t really have a firm grasp on the idea of a film being a piece of art. Needless to say, I was really thrown off by what I ended up seeing. The film ended up staying in the back of my mind for a while, leading me to watch it again numerous times, until it eventually became a favorite.

    It’s wierd how likable it becomes for such a dark, bleak, and twisted film. When I hear myself talking about how great it is, it almost sounds like I’m talking about a Quentin Tarantino movie, or something else that is simultaneously artsy and “fun.” But Taxi Driver really isn’t a “fun” movie. It’s more that it’s facinating because, not only are you watching the actions of a inexplicably likable psychopath, you are seeing the world through his eyes.
     
    Dan C and Siegmund like this.
  4. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe

    Travis is a horribly sympathetic character.

    I'm both appalled and sorry for him when he blows it with Betsy by taking her to porno-cinema. Appalled that he doesn't know any better (and why would he?), sorry because he was doing so well up to that point.....
     
    altaeria, Vidiot, Dan C and 2 others like this.
  5. Hymie the Robot

    Hymie the Robot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Re-read the OP. He suggests that the first two thirds of the film is a comedy, and only the end is the dark, bleak and twisted as you put it. I agree it is very likable. Mean Streets is another favorite of mine.
     
    Dan C likes this.
  6. sberger

    sberger Grumpy geezer who likes dirty records

    Saw it first week it was out in the theater. Have seen it dozens of times since. One of the all time best. If DeNiro had only made this and Mean Streets it would represent two of the greatest performances in movie history. But of course there's Deer Hunter, Godfather II, Once Upon A Time In America and Good Fellas. Geez.
     
    MYKE, Dan C, Tanx and 1 other person like this.
  7. The Hud

    The Hud No More Mr. Nice Guy

    I love Taxi Driver. I want to recommend the Blu-ray because they did such a great restoration job and it is very cheap.

    Jodie Foster needs mentioning for her wonderful performance. It is crazy what she was able to accomplish at only 12 years old.
     
    Grunge Master, Siegmund and Dan C like this.
  8. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    My favorite movie of the ‘70s, and top five of all time. I love that part at the end when Travis looks menacingly in his rear view mirror after dropping off Betsy. I guess most people think Travis spots a pimp or drug dealer; I, however, think he gets pissed when he sees Betsy walking into her building, rather than still looking wistfully as he drives away. She’s next, baby! :evil:
     
    Dan C and The Hud like this.
  9. mBen989

    mBen989 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scranton, PA
    The BluRay is demo quality.
     
    Dan C and The Hud like this.
  10. alexpop

    alexpop Power pop + other bad habits....

    Classic i thought when I seen it the first first time in 1976 and super cool.
     
  11. DLeet

    DLeet Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chernigov, Ukraine
    I watched it as a teen and found it a bit boring although very well done in terms of film-making and acting, no question there. Time to re-watch and reassess since my gf hasn't seen it yet. A good excuse to see it again.
     
  12. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe

    Especially since she had to be shielded from large parts of what her role and the film referenced.
     
    The Hud likes this.
  13. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe

    At first, I wasn't sure if the end with Betsy represented a fantasy sequence - that it was only happening in Travis' mind, his mind 'resolving' the loose end with Betsy. But the more I've watched, the more I think it's meant to be real. I think what Travis sees in the mirror is deliberately left ambiguous.
     
    Dan C likes this.
  14. Khaki F

    Khaki F Forum Resident

    Location:
    Kenosha, WI. USA
    Well first of all, it's a classic film and one of my favorites. It's amazing it didn't have to resort to trickery or gimmickry to make it so dark. There's nothing supernatural or exaggerated about it, which is what I think makes it so powerful.

    And so, you mentioned the final glance in the mirror. Well I've watched this one as a regular film, and also with the commentaries that were added in to the various formats. One of them explains the glance very well. It's meant to show that Travis isn't really "cured" at the end. There's still that paranoia there. Now, whether that's intended toward Betsy or not, well... I'd prefer to think it just means nobody really gets over something like that. The film is a portrait of a descent into madness, and you don't escape from that without a few scars. Then again, as others have mentioned, he's a sympathetic character, and I don't know... I just don't want things to end badly for him.

    I don't believe there are any fantasy sequences. The narration lets you know everything you need to know about how Travis' mind works, so it isn't really necessary to have visuals to accompany that. You also mentioned lighter moments in the film, and yes there are a few laughs to be had. My favorite is when Travis gives the fake contact information to the secret service guy. That whole back-and-forth ("a secret signal for the secret service" etc.) is pretty incredible. That doesn't make any part of the film a comedy though, in my opinion. Any good drama has laughs. One of my favorite films is "'night, Mother", which deals with the subject of suicide, and there are laughs to be had in it, too. Same with "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", another favorite of mine.

    Overall, this is one of the few films I'd give a 10 out of 10 to. There isn't a thing I'd want to change about it, and it leaves you with plenty to think about after you've seen it. Doesn't get any better than that.
     
  15. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe

    A comedy need not make its audience laugh out loud: it's enough to elicit a few wry smiles at things we recognise as human fallibility. Although I do laugh out loud when, as Travis is trying to 'pull' Betsy in the campaign office, the Albert Brooks character bounces, unhelpfully, into the frame. I think Scorsese may have wanted a laugh at that point, too....
     
    Khaki F likes this.
  16. Siegmund

    Siegmund Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Britain, Europe
    Yep: he's still one sick puppy.
     
    Khaki F likes this.
  17. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    There’s also comedy in the first scene between Sport and Travis—from Keitel’s lines, and also the contrast between the two men. No comedy at all in their second meeting, though.

    And of course I was joking about Travis wanting to kill Betsy. But over the years I’ve gotten a few laughs with that idea. :)
     
  18. jwoverho

    jwoverho Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mobile, AL USA
    A perfect blend of script, director and actor. Paul Schrader’s script can’t be mentioned enough.
     
  19. JimW

    JimW Forum Resident

    Location:
    Charlottesville VA
    A great film that I never hear anyone talking about. Two iconic actresses at the top of their game working w/ some great material.
     
    Siegmund and Khaki F like this.
  20. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    Some years back there was talk of a Taxi Driver sequel. Man, am I happy that never happened! Paul Schrader, in 2013:

    [Robert] De Niro suggested [a “Taxi Driver” sequel] to Marty and I about 15 years ago and I told him it was the dumbest idea that I’ve ever heard. I told him that character had died not more than 6 months after that movie was over. He was on a death trip and was gonna succeed the next time.

    Paul Schrader Says ‘Taxi Driver’ Sequel Was The “Dumbest” Idea He Ever Heard
     
  21. jwoverho

    jwoverho Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mobile, AL USA
    Reminds me about the talk years ago about an EASY RIDER sequel.

    Huh???? :confused:
     
  22. Monosterio

    Monosterio Forum Resident

    Location:
    South Florida
    You have to be kidding! Who had that idea?
     
  23. jwoverho

    jwoverho Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mobile, AL USA
    I think it was Hopper! Fonda reminded him that they were all dead at the end. It must have been during Dennis’ peak drug years sad to say.
     
    PonceDeLeroy and Monosterio like this.
  24. Johnny66

    Johnny66 Black Shuck

    Location:
    Australia.
    Either simple twists of fate, or a complicit media that is quick to perpetuate the myth of a gun-slinging hero (a distinctly American philosophical pragmatism that the film endlessly interrogates).

    I think Taxi Driver clearly works to outright dismiss the public rendering of Bickle's acts (i.e. he 'saves' Iris from a prostitution den) with the final images that follow the end credits: Travis again on the prowl in his cab, a human time bomb still lost to his psychosis - the inevitable detonation merely delayed. In this sense, it's very similar to the conclusion of Psycho: following the psychologist who reassuringly identifies Norman's aberrations with smug clinical ease, Hitchcock cuts to the jail cell - and shows, with an utterly deranged triple dissolve between Bates, Mother and the swamp, how utterly beyond all simple rational understanding 'Norman Bates' really is. Likewise Travis Bickle.

    That scene is a bone of contention with many critics, who see it as a ridiculous misstep in the characterisation of Bickle: how can someone who understands pimps, whores and junkies (etc.) to be 'animals' ('sick' and 'venal') not despise pornography in the same manner? But Paul Schrader suggests that Travis takes Betsy to the porn film not because he doesn't know any better, but because part of him wants to sully and degrade the angelic Betsy he has created ("they...cannot...touch...her"), and the power she wields as a result. Unable to recognise women beyond the absolutes of madonna or whore, Travis vacillates between lovestruck juvenile and enraged cuckold.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2018
  25. doubleaapn

    doubleaapn Forum Resident

    Location:
    Trophy Club, TX
    I've seen Taxi Driver countless times so I've become immune to most of the overtly shocking material but the one scene that I still find chilling is the brief segment where Scorsese himself appears as Travis's passenger. I honestly can't think of a more perfect - and unsettling, due to the dialogue - directorial cameo in any film.
    It's not my favorite Scorsese effort at this late point but with each (admittedly infrequent) viewing I seem to find new and subtle reasons why it's still a great film.

    Aaron
     
    Dan C and T'mershi Duween like this.

Share This Page