Taxi Driver (1976)
Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.
— Travis Bickle
Taxi Driver is probably one of Martin Scorsese’s top films that he has helmed. I have to confess that I have never seen the movie. Shame on me. There are some other classics of his that I have not had the chance to see yet, but I won’t name them because I might be whacked. I am making up for it by watching this film. After watching the film, I think I might have reconsidered the #39 Movie of All-Time on IMDb.
A Vietnam vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) three years discharged from the Marines comes back to the States to an unknown world. He is troubled by the memories of the war. He is a raging insomniac. He spends nights wandering the streets or riding on the subways. Travis seeks a job at a local NYC cab company.
Travis has an internal monologue with himself to cope with dealing with being back in civilian life. He writes his thoughts down on scraps of paper. He doesn’t like what he sees. He wants to get rid of the “scum on the streets”.
A volunteer, Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) that works for a presidential campaign for Sen. Palantine (Leonard Harris), infatuates him. Her co-worker Tom (Albert Brooks) is weary when Travis parks outside of the office and stares at her. Later, he wants to volunteer for the campaign so he could be with her more. His true intention is to ask her out.
At a local hangout, he hangs out with Wizard (Peter Boyle), Doughboy (Harry Northup), and Charlie T (Norman Matlock). They talk about the taxicab confessions about what happens in their cabs or on the radio as they drive around. One of the guys ask if he has a gun, Travis doesn’t want to have anything to do with guns since his time in Vietnam.
The more that Travis does not sleep, the more his mind begins to give way. All of his relationships are affected until he snaps. He becomes a solider is his own right: changing his drinking, eating habits and fitness regimen. He buys a couple of guns to wreak havoc on the scum of the earth.
The world of Taxi Driver is steeped in filth as it took place in 1970s. The locations to the score by Bernard Hermann evoke sleaziness. Travis Bickle is a walking contradiction that he wants to rid the scum of the earth, but he wants to save an underage prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster) from her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel).
I think I had too many expectations for this film, because it is held in such high esteem. I thought the pacing was a detriment to the quality of the movie. I found myself essentially bored with it. Another moment that ruined the movie for me was when Martin Scorsese was in front of the camera. That scene in the back of Travis’ cab completely took me out.
Judgment: Ultimately, I wish that I could see more of Travis’ decent into madness. I felt that it was cut out.
Posted on December 18, 2009, in 1976, Academy Award Nominee, Crime, Drama, Psychological, Running Feature, Thriller, Top 250 of All Time on IMDB and tagged Albert Brooks, Cybill Shepherd, Harry Northup, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Leonard Harris, Martin Scorsese, Norman Matlock, Peter Boyle, Robert De Niro, Taxi Driver. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.
I empathize with some of your feelings about this movie. What I’ve always felt was best about it was DeNiro’s performance, and that’s what always captivated me. It’s still a great film, but it’s really the character and DeNiro that is so interesting, not necessarily any of the details.
Travis Bickle always makes me want to read The Catcher In The Rye again and again. Holden Caulfield and him have different motivations to get to where they are, but their essential loneliness and sociopathic behavior has so many parallels.
De Niro was very good in the flick. I thought the movie was choppy.
Believe it or not, I had some of the same reactions to Taxi Driver when I first saw it. Not necessarily disappointed, but confused. That’s because it develops at its own pace, and it’s a tough one to adjust to. I would suggest letting sink it, and maybe going back to it now that you know what to expect. It’s one of my favorite movies now…but that only happened after 2 or 3 watches.
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