Taxi Driver
Travis Bickle is driven by his lonliness and insomnia. Days run into weeks, hours into months as the lone cab driver continually reflects on the ugliness around him.

"Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets."

Then one day he sees her...the most beautiful girl on the planet. His touching attempts to woo Betsy, a Senator's campaign worker, fail miserably short as his lack of social knowledge leads the pair to what he perceives "as what a lot of couples do on a date".

Needing a purpose, needing to matter, needing to be a human, Travis takes the only route that makes sense. Buying four handguns, the cabby sharpens his body and his "mind" in preparation to assassinate the senator that Betsy so patiently promotes.

His only anchor for good, his only means of salvation is a 14 year old girl pimped onto the streets by what he considers the lowest life on earth.

Taxi Driver is the perfect collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro and my personal favorite. De Niro takes his role to the extreme as he works 12 hours cab shifts in preparing for the role. The ticks and twitches he adds to Bickle make the character so iconic even today. I mean who doesn't know the line, "You talkin to me?"

 Paul Schrader creates a flawless script as he weaves the dark dreary world of a lonely taxi driver and his affair with the open sewer, New york City. My favorite aspect is how Scrader sneaks in Jodie Foster's character, Iris. From the back seat of the cab, he creates the anchor for Travis Bickle's morality.  

Scorsese, being the genius that he is, takes the script and makes it his own with some of the most influential shots I've ever experienced. Influential to the world of filmmaking as a whole but more importantly influential to me as a starving artist. My favorite shot of the movie is Travis on the phone pleading and apologizing to Betsy. The camera dollies away from the conversation, landing on a long empty hallway. Scorsese claims the situation was too awkward to bare. Understanding that the camera is the eye of the audience, he takes our focus away so Travis can deal with his issue alone. I also love the final over head shot that slowly transitions into the bloody carnage of the final gun battle.

I remember seeing Taxi Driver numerous times in my younger days of cinematic love. I always liked it for the rawness, the blood, the insanity, and the danger. But my true passion for it developed in college when we watched it in one of the numerous film theory classes I was required (and thankful) to take. The professor took us through the movie shot by shot, scene by scene, introducing us to everything that the filmmakers went through in creating what AFI claims as the #52 best film of ALL TIME. It was here that I truly learned to appreciate Taxi Driver as it was intended.

Bernard Herrmann's score still sits high on my personal favorites in any film. The lonely saxophone serenades each scene creating the fourth wall of reality needed in bringing you completely into the world. It was also in this class that I learned the greatness of this composers last score. From the credentials of Psycho, The Twilight  Zone, The Birds, Citizen Kane, and The Day the Earth Stood Still, Bernard single handedly shaped the music of our culture. He died hours before completing.

Taxi Driver is one of my personal favorites and heavy handedly influences the way I see and make movies.
Reviewed by: shea
9 Comment(s)
All time favorite Scorsese. And De Niro's performance was up there with The Godfather II. Don't think I could choose a fav. I feel like both Scorsese and De Niro tried to do similar things later in their career, but to no avail. You just can't recreate something this perfect.

So Mr Shea, answer me this... Did the last scene really happen? Does Bickle receive the fame and glory? Is he the hero? or is all of that a dying man's wish, a fainting flicker of all of his hope culminating in one final hoorah before it's drowned out completely and eternally? Given the vibe of the whole film I could totally see it going either way, and I love that Scorsese doesn't really give enough evidence to support either ending. He just leaves it open... believe what you will. Happy ending / Sad ending?

I tend to think the final "newspaper clipping" scene was just a glorious fantasy in a dead man's head, but maybe I missed the "redemption" Martin was driving at.

Shea said...
my opinion is that it really happened. I feel there is no evidence either way that it wasn't. But you see the scar on his neck, the black guy calls him killer, everyone else sees the girl get in his cab, he gets in and drives her home. I love the last few frames of the movie where the music tweaks out and Bickle glances back through the rear view mirror indicating to me a last thread of insanity.

The only thing that supports your theory in my opinion is that Betsy never tells him the address that he takes her to. He just drives to where home is.

But yeah... those are my opinions.
I like what Ebert says about the interpretation of the ending and how it plays like music, not drama.

Either way briliiance by Scorsese says I.
* (asterisk) ( said...
One of the first DVDs I bought. In fact, I traded a bunch of way more valuable Video Watchdog mags for it. Damn fool. Great movie, absolutely, but those mags would have been worth way way more now!
Shea said...
Yeah... its definitely an amazing movie but definitely not one you will watch more than once a year. You could have sold your Watchdog mags and made your own movie by now.
I would have enjoyed Bobby going into a rendition of the Almond Joy theme song in his mirror monologue...

"Sometimes I feel like a nut. Sometimes I don't"
martha said...
i finally saw this movie for the first time last year, and i was utterly blown away. it's near perfect, really. one of the reasons scorsese is still one of my favorite directors of all time.

great review :) and now i want to go watch it again and think about the end.
Andy said...
Some of my favorite aspects of Taxi Driver are the music and also the time period and atmosphere captured with shots of people walking through the city, eating in diners, driving down rain soaked streets and going about their business. Some scenes feel like real life and others feel like scenes being performed on stage. Of course there are the performances, cinematography..etc.
As for the debate on the end. I could go either way. It feels like it isn't happening to me. Mostly from Betsy showing up in his cab forgiving and forgetting to the point of trusting him to take her home. But then again there is no evidence suggesting it's not real.
Nice review Shea.

I was a late comer to Taxi Driver as I only watched it last year at the urging of my film buff brother, but I loved it and I'm eager to watch it again now having read this review.