Taxi Driver (1976)
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Starring: Robert De Niro, Cybill Shepherd, Jodie Foster
How I watched It: iTunes Rental
Review By: Griff
It’s the early 1970’s and Paul Schrader is down on his luck. He is a young film critic and aspiring screen writer and things have gotten really bad for him. He is recently divorced and the woman that he left his wife for has broken up with him. He has no place to live and is sleeping in his car or squatting at his ex-girlfriends apartment since she is out of town. Depressed, he develops and unhealthy obsession with guns and pornography. He feels alone and isolated from everyone. Finally, desperate for a way to express himself he decides to write a script about a taxi driver. He sees the a taxi driver as a perfect metaphor for a man who lives in the city but outside of it at the same time.
Brian De Palma gets the script and he plans on making the movie with Jeff Bridges in the lead. Things don’t work out and De Palma suggests to his friend Martin Scorsese that he should direct the movie. Scorsese want to make the movie with Robert De Niro in the lead but the producers don’t want to give Scorsese the reigns since he hasn’t directed anything of note. For a while it doesn’t look like the project is going to get off the ground but then two things happen. First Scorsese directs Mean Streets proving that he is an adept director and then De Niro lands the oscar for his role in The Godfather Part II. Now the project gets the green light and one of the best American movies ever made was born.
Taxi Driver is the story of Travis Bickle an insomniac loner who takes a job driving a taxi on the night shift in New York City. Travis has no friends and feels isolated and ostracized by everyone around him. As time goes by Travis becomes more and more unstable. He attempts to start a relationship with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd), a young campaign worker but he sabotages his chances by taking her to porn movie on their first date. This is the last straw for Travis. He slips deeper into depression and becomes increasingly more paranoid. He buys a collection of guns and starts going to the firing range. Eventually he comes up with a plan. He is going to assassinate the Senator that Betsy was working on the campaign for. Travis shows up at a rally ready to proceed with his plan but the secret service catch onto him and Travis is forced to run away. Travis now focuses on a new idea. He meets a young prostitute named Iris (Jodie Foster) and decides that he needs to save her from the life that she is leading. Unfortunately Iris is being controlled by a pimp named Sport who is not going to just let her walk away. Travis decides the only thing to do is take out Sport. What follows is one of the most memorable shootouts in cinema history.
I am not even going to begin to try and critique Taxi Driver. It has been done many times before by a ton of people with a lot more insight than me. What I will say is that this is some of Scorsese’s best work. At the time, Scorsese was part of an emerging group of directors like Spielberg and Lucas who were challening the status quo. They were all students of cinema who had studied the movies being made in Europe and were influenced by the French New Wave and the movies made by Godard. Scorsese was in full swing at the time. He was trying out new techniques and at the same time paying homage to the film makers that he admired. Although a lot of what you see may seem common place by todays standards, the movie was riddled with interesting shots and angles that just were not being done at the time. It is a master work and if for some reason you haven’t seen it, you should watch it as soon as you can. If you have seen it, it is worth watching again. Taxi Driver gets 3 guys from me.