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?...eh?"
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.