Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Essentials- "Taxi Driver" (1976)

The Essentials- #75
Taxi Driver
There is no question that Martin Scorsese is a legendary filmmaker. What many people don't realize is how universal his palette as an artist can be. Sure, we know that Scorsese is the master of gangster films, he even made a movie that I feel outdoes "The Godfather." While movies like "Mean Streets," "Goodfellas," and "The Departed" maybe his bread and butter, there is no denying that films like "The Last Temptation of Christ," or "Raging Bull" or "The King of Comedy," or "Shutter Island" or "The Age of Innocence" that really makes his career special. I would put "Taxi Driver" on the latter list, and not the former.
It is hard to categorize "Taxi Driver." It has revenge elements to it, it has drama elements to it, it has comedy elements to it, and on the other hand, it gets extremely violent near the end. The film plays like a day in the life of a guy who just made it to New York City, and has taken a job as a taxi driver. This guy is Travis Bickle, a discharged Marine who is lonely and depressed in New York City. He spends his nights driving people around New York City, coping with his depression and insomnia. He tries to date a girl named Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) which goes disastrously wrong. Then he meets a child prostitute Iris (a young Jodi Foster) and soon befriends her. He tries to dissuade her from being a prostitute, which she agrees too. All of these subplots eventually come ahead in one of the most bizarrely addictive movies ever made.
What makes "Taxi Driver" great to watch is the work by Robert De Niro. His portrayal of Bickle is so strange, yet it is hard not to identify with the man. He seems like a guy who was greatly affected by being discharged in the marines. He also seems deeply affected by the crime in the city, and it seems to haunt him dearly. We see all of these emotions clearly in De Niro sporadic performance. I also like Foster quite a bit in the movie. This was one of her very first roles and she made it seem like she had been doing it for many, many years.
I don't want to get too much further into the movie. "Taxi Driver" is a movie you are supposed to exerpience, a movie you are supposed to feel. This is one of Scorsese's classic films and it is clear to see why.

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