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Taxi Driver
Drama, Thriller
IMDB rating:
Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle
Jodie Foster as Iris
Harvey Keitel as Sport
Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine
Peter Boyle as Wizard
Diahnne Abbott as Concession Girl
Frank Adu as Angry Black Man
Gino Ardito as Policeman at Rally
Victor Argo as Melio (as Vic Argo)
Garth Avery as Iris' Friend
Harry Cohn as Cabbie in Bellmore
Copper Cunningham as Hooker in Cab
Brenda Dickson as Soap Opera Woman
Harry Fischler as Dispatcher
Storyline: Travis Bickle is an ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran living in New York City. As he suffers from insomnia, he spends his time working as a taxi driver at night, watching porn movies at seedy cinemas during the day, or thinking about how the world, New York in particular, has deteriorated into a cesspool. He's a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind. For him, the one bright spot in New York humanity is Betsy, a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palatine. He becomes obsessed with her. After an incident with her, he believes he has to do whatever he needs to to make the world a better place in his opinion. One of his priorities is to be the savior for Iris, a twelve-year-old runaway and prostitute who he believes wants out of the profession and under the thumb of her pimp and lover Matthew.
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"Here is a man who would not take it anymore".
In a calculated exercise, I watched "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" back to back today. Two classics, and two films generally recognized by critics and fans to be among the best of all time. Personally, I think Bull was the better showcase for both De Niro and director Scorsese as the four years between films allowed both to improve on their respective crafts. In terms of favorites, that might be a moot point, as both are darkly disturbing and violent films, with main characters that aren't particularly honorable, much less likable.

Indeed, both characters, the fictional Travis Bickle and the real life Jake La Motta were haunted by personal demons that manifested as forms of mental illness. La Motta's brand of violence was legal inside the ring, what he carried into his personal life resulted in a lifetime of unintended consequences. The outcomes of fictional characters can be manipulated to suit the priority of the writer or director, so in the case of "Taxi Driver", the protagonist winds up as sort of a hero, at least to the parents of twelve year old hooker Iris. I'm not sure if the point of the film had anything to do with showing how one's life can turn on a second's notice or not. However when Bickle's assassination attempt on Palantine (Leonard Harris) was foiled, the succeeding events could have led to his own demise. Instead he's reborn, sort of. One could sequel the story after Betsy (Cybil Shepherd) gets a cab ride from Travis at the end of the picture, but it's probably better left to the viewer's imagination.

A tiny detail caught my eye in both pictures today which I'm sure I would never have considered had I seen them days or weeks apart. In the carnage of the shootout scene, when the cops make their presence in the doorway of the rented room, Bickle puts a bloody finger to his head simulating a gunshot, and two drops of blood drip from his finger. Scorsese used the same device again in "Raging Bull", when Jake La Motta is badly bloodied in his final fight against Sugar Ray Robinson. As the boxer sags against the ring ropes, the camera focuses on the top rope a few inches away from La Motta's outstretched arm. Two drops of blood fall from the rope to the canvas to further intensify La Motta's defeat. At the time, I couldn't say why I found that to be so fascinating, but now I do.
Spoilers herein.

Readers of my other comments know that I believe that there are different types of films, depending on whether the skeleton is the writer's, the actor's, or the camera's. The more I use it, the more confidence I have that in general, one drives out the other. Just before reseeing this, I worked on `One-Eyed Jacks,' which is probably the touchstone of the actor driving out the eye.

But here, we have a happy accident of three talents that don't step on each other: DeNiro, Schrader and Scorsese. Of these, Schrader is the strongest and every deviation from his vision weakens the fabric. The one main example is Keitel's dance with Jodie.

The key device here is that the narrator is Bickle. Everything is/must be something he personally witnesses (until his death) and reports to us. The idea is far from novel. Why it works here is Scorsese's intuition to play the camera OFF of Bickle, while De Niro works to keep the attention on him. That tension (which Schrader intended) is what makes this work.

But this is not perfect. Keitel, like De Niro doesn't get this dynamic; we don't want De Niro to, that would ruin the main device because we want him to pull to himself against the camera. But when Keitel does his stuff, it has a negative effect because there is no narrative countermeasure..

Foster's presence was good enough when this film was new because the very idea of a 12 year old whore was enough. But seeing it a quarter century later, you can see her thinness compared to the rest of the cast. They really understand their characters and crawl into them. She has no idea, none at all.

Another problem is the cab metaphor. Paul didn't quite center that one. He did get it right later with the ambulance in `Bringing Out the Dead,' which used the same energy of selfish actor pulling one way and camera pulling another way. But that time, they fought over the vehicle at the same time they fought in your mind. And of course that had De Palma's eye.

Finally, the camera we see here has energy, but far less than what Scorsese's buddy De Palma was doing at this time. Imagine what De Palma (or Hitchcock) would have done with that angel shot after the massacre.
A wonderfully engaging and convincing slide into a modern madness from a director and actor showing some of their best form
Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran who cannot sleep at night and just ends up travelling around. To try and use the time effectively he becomes a taxi driver. Things start to look up for him as he works nights and slowly starts to live a little bit. He meets a girl, Betsy, and arranges to see her a few times despite the fact that he is a little bit out of the ordinary – a quality that seems to interest her. His connection to the night allows him to see young prostitute Iris being bullied by her pimp Matthew and he begins to see his role to perhaps save her – him playing his part in cleaning up the sewer that he feels New York has become. However when his view of normal life puts Betsy off him he starts to retreat more and more into the night, looking for meaning in his life and growing more and more outraged by the world he is part of.

Hardly the most uplifting of films it is engaging and impressive and truly deserves the reputation it has. Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader have produced a film that convincingly portrays a man cut out of society who has the slightest connection to normality before finding it eroded away. The script is brilliant because the detail is engaging but it is this descent into a very modern type of madness that drives the film forward. Travis has just enough about him that is recognisable that it makes it so easy to go along with the rest of his madness. A major part of this is getting the feeling right about living in a cesspit; a city that seems to have forgotten its way morally – New York is the strongest example but elements of it could be parts of any city I suspect. In painting this world in such a real way, Scorsese has made Travis all the more convincing and, to a point, all the easier to follow in his fall. Like I said it is not a film to morally uplift you but one that is depressingly fair. There is no redemption in this modern world and although it appears that the violence at the end somehow redeems Travis in reality by showing "society" accepting his action it drags the rest of us down nearer the world that he hates and has become part of. I love King of Comedy for the same reason albeit in a different world.

Scorsese injects a real understanding of the place and a real sense of foreboding into even the earliest scenes. He inserts clever and meaningful shots into scenes that other directors might just have filmed straight and his choice of scene and shot compliments the script is depicting Travis descending into madness. What makes the film even better is De Niro showing the type of form that makes his recent form such a major disappointment. He is outstanding as he moves Travis from being relatively normal to being eaten up from the inside out. His eventual implosion is impressive but it is only as impressive as the gradual slide he depicts over the course of the film. Although he dominates it, others impress as well. Foster stands out in a small role, while Keitel makes a good impression as the pimp. Shepherd is not quite as good but her character was not as well written as the others so it isn't all down to her. Regardless, the film belongs to De Niro and although the quotable scenes are the ones that are remembered it is in the quieter moments where he excels and shows genuine talent and understanding.

Overall an impressive and morally depressing film that deserves its place in cinematic history. The portrayal of a city and a man slipping into moral insanity is convincing and engaging and it shows how well to "do" modern madness and the effects of the moral void of parts of society. Scorsese directs as a master despite this being at an early stage in his career and De Niro is chillingly effective as he simply dominates the film in quiet moments and quotable moments alike. I rarely use phrases like "modern classic" because I think they are lazy but this is one film that certainly deserves such a label.
Grabs you by the balls and refuses to let go.
It is obvious from the opening scene, that this isn't you usual run of the mill film. A young Robert De Niro, driving around the streets of New York, scoping the streets for scum, with his harsh voice over, expressing his dismay and disgust at all the "rubbish polluting the streets", and with the piercing and disturbingly memorable score from Bernard Herrmann, make the opening few minutes of Taxi Driver memorable, and sets the mood perfectly for the next 105 minutes.

Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, a deeply disturbed insomniac who finds some solace becoming a taxi driver. His already unstable nature is swayed from psychotic to calm during the course of the film. After his newly appointed job as a taxi driver, he witnesses the many harsh realties that plague his city of New York. Working five, sometimes six times a week, and only at nights, he truly sees what a pathetic halt the world has come to. Drug dealers, prostitutes, and pimps line the streets. In an heroic act that can only be admired, he takes a young prostitute under his wing and attempts to get her out of the apparent rut she seems to be stuck in. With a lot of money, but not much to live for, Bickle decides to "clean" the street of New York himself. The results is a violent lash-out, which can only be described and brutal and vicious.

This unsettling film, from director Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull 1980, Mean Streets 1973), is truly able to connect with its audience, and leaves them with a sour taste, as it should. In a director/actor relationship that is envied by many in the industry, the Scorsese/De Niro team once again bring realism to the screen, which touches upon a sensitive nerve in us all, as well as being visually appealing and dramatically intense. De Niro, gives a stellar performance, perhaps his second best effort to date in the Scorsese/de Niro partnership (the first being Jake Lamotta in Raging Bull). His portrayal of and unhinged Vietnam war veteran is played to precision, as the audience feel as though they are moving with him through his extreme moods. We see the sensitive guy who has fallen in love, the naive boy who takes his new girlfriend to see a porn film, and then we see the obvious anger and hatred towards the world, and the violent actions that follow. Scorsese direction is to be admired. Although he has denied it in many interviews, Scorsese has the ability to connect with his audience. But not in a way that Spielberg or Lucas would. Scorsese is able to put forth a realistic view on the world in which we live. The film is bleak in the point it tries to portray, and its dark settings and meticulously placed lighting creates a world that would really exists. Much like Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange", this film presents to the viewer a shocking reality that many people would prefer not to know about. It is this element however, that is evident throughout many of Scorsese films, and the reason as to why his films have such a huge effect on many people.

A brillaint film.
A story about a lonely man
Taxi Driver is one of the best films ever made. This is one of those films that you do not get tired of seeing and every time you watch it you realize a little detail that you have not seen before. Excellent actors, a good director, an impressive soundtrack and a real story are the main appeals of this film.

This film is about loneliness, about the isolation of a man in a society full of scum. His objective is to finish with the scum of the streets. The story uses a taxi driver as a metaphor of loneliness and it has some kind of irony because we can see that a city which is full of people can be the most lonely place for a man. The long nights in the city, the night environment full of whores, junkies, pimps and thieves are the main elements of the world in which Travis Bickle lives. Travis is an misunderstood guy who is seeking desperately for some kind of company because as he says 'loneliness has followed me all my life, everywhere' but at the same time he seems not to do anything to avoid his situation and it is seen when he goes with Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) to a porn cinema. At the end of the film the character makes real his most violent fantasies, with a look of certain soldiers from Vietnam, and he behaves like this because of his loneliness, his alienation and because he does not find any sense to his life. The violent behaviour becomes Travis into a hero, although he had killed many people and he could do it again. Although he acts with an extreme violence the spectator understand him and the reasons why he acts that way. The soundtrack of the film, which is composed by Bernard Herrmann, inspires some kind of loneliness and sometimes it is absolutely terrifying like in a horror film. This music and the slow camera showing the streets help to introduce the spectator into the world of Travis, to know what he is thinking about.

In general I cannot say any negative aspect of this film because I have not found anything bad. Although it is a film of the 70s it is not an old-fashioned movie because the essence of the story, the reality that is shown on it, can be perfectly referred to the current society. This film has the privilege of having made famous the sentence ‘You talking' to me? You talking' to me?' which will remain in the history of cinema. This is an authentic masterpiece.
Scorsese's Best
Acclaimed director Martin Scorsese and legendary actor Robert DeNiro have made a hard, disturbing, isolating, gritty movie masterpiece. This is a fantastic piece of cinema.

DeNiro plays Travis Bickle, a Vietnam war veteran who has now become a taxi driver is a unstable, lonely man. As different series of events unfold he becomes more unstable and has the urge to lash out at a society that has gone down the sewer.

Taxi Driver is a superb piece of cinema. Every actor acts with passion so we believe them. In particular a young Jodie Foster stands out as child prostitute Iris, who is befriended by Travis. She delivers a great, heart-wrenching performance. We really feel for her character and all that she has gone through. Harvey Keitel does a great job as the PIMP Sonny. The audience doesn't like him one bit and that's thanks to Keitels great performance.

DeNiro delivers a truly great performance. Even though Travis is a lonely, violent, unstable cabbie we do feel sympathy for him and we almost cheer him on.

Scorsese has done a fabulous job of directing and the score by Bernard Herrmann is absolutely terrific. The dialogue is great and thought provoking and the cinematography is brilliant. The final scene at the brothel is very disturbing and violent but it's a scene that sticks with us and really is well done.

This was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar but sadly didn't win. This movie will go down in history as one of the greatest films made.

Goodness me, how movies can change over time
Goodness me, how some movies can change over time, in perception, if not in fact.

I'm old enough to remember seeing "Taxi Driver" in the cinema all the way back in 1976 and I've probably seen it two or three times since then, including this evening. It's still a good movie but, in my view, no longer the great and ground- breaking movie that it was back then.

What I liked. Well, I liked De Niro in his first serious appearance in a well funded movie. And Jodie Foster was sensationally good in her first box office movie at the age of 13. The script was well written and the movie impressively directed by Scorsese although special effects were pretty much in their infancy back in '76.

What I didn't like (now anyway). Well, I came to detest that sax "melody" which was repeated ad nauseum all the way through the movie. It got to be like finger- nails on a blackboard to me by half way through. Why in God's name couldn't Scorsese see that all that repetition of something so tuneless would really get on people's nerves after the 8th or the 10th time? Cybil Shepherd was fine but how about Albert Brookes with that stupid 70s hair and, let's be honest here, he was never really an actor was he?

Something else too. I just can't work out how someone/anyone can pre- meditatedly murder three people and walk free from Gaol to continue his life as a cab driver. Was it OK in 1970s New York for a citizen to go about cleaning up the bad guys and the pimps and then be sent on his way because he was doing something noble and necessary. I kind of doubt it, even then.

Taxi Driver is still a fine movie to watch now but, in my view, it no longer rates the 8.3 that I see on IMDb; 7.2 from me. There are other movies from around the same time that have "aged" rather better than this one. See Taxi Driver by all means; it's still a good and well made movie. But, trust me, anyone under 30 is likely to be bored to death and maybe p****d off, as I was, by that infuriating sax.

De Niro was outstanding!
I actually saw this for the first time this morning. I couldn't sleep and it was on at 4am. It was every bit as good as I was led to believe.

Comparing the two, I cannot see how this lost to Rocky at the Academy Awards. Scorsese fans will also agree that he deserved a directing award for this film. While De Niro and Foster were fantastic, I feel that Cybill Shepherd was equally good, and should have been recognized for her performance. This film won 18 awards out of 27 nominations. Basically only the Academy didn't get on the bandwagon. But, in all those nominations, none for Sheperd. I really think that was wrong.

Great film, and I will watch it again and again.
My favorite movie ever.
I rented it again this week and it reminded me why I saw it 4 times the weekend that it was released. Exceptional performances by the cast, exceptional direction wonderful, edgy and creative screenplay, great soundtrack. It is a true original and it catches De Niro, Scorsese, Keitel and Schrader at the top of their games. If I had one movie on a desert island, I would wish it to be this one. I can't wait for the remastered re-release.
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