May 1, 2009

Taxi Driver

If there is a director that American cinephiles and film students all unanimously have a hard-on for, it is NYC “sometimes" auteur Martin Scorsese. Martin Scorsese has had a long and, for the most part, consistent career for over four decades. Fans of Scorsese have to admit that they love early artsy fartsy films like Who’s That Knocking at My Door just like they enjoy fun mafia wopfest Goodfellas. Without a doubt, Taxi Driver is one of Scorsese’s most popular and critically acclaimed films. I personally believe Taxi Driver to be both Scorsese’s greatest and most important film. Martin Scorsese maybe a NYC WOP, but that doesn’t mean the films he directed about the mafia are his greatest.

With Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese was able to achieve creating a film that was a cinematic attack to viewer’s eyes and ears. Although I have never been a fan (and never will be) of degenerate Jazz, the score in Taxi Driver by Bernard Herrmann is one of the best musical accompaniment to a film in cinema history. Herrmann is also known for providing the scores to Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films such as Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest, and a variety of others. Despite creating a score for a completely different type of film, Bernard Herrmann was able to resonate the dreary tone of Taxi Driver and anti-hero Travis Bickle’s undeniably pathetic life. Martin Scorsese is now often known for using pop music(which he borrowed from Kenneth Anger) in his films, but with Taxi Driver I believe he was most successful in creating a cinematic assault of both sight and sound.

Despite the film’s simple title, Taxi Driver is quite the fitting title. The film’s anti-hero Travis Bickle, is pathetic as they come. Despite being pretty much a loser, he works nights 60 hours or so a week and is assumed to be a Vietnam veteran. For someone who has fought for his country, Travis has yet to receive any real thanks for heroics. Instead, he drives around the DARK urban jungle streets like at a city that looks like it’s on the verge of an apocalypse. Travis Bickle has odd relationships with other human beings and has no friends. I must admit that Taxi Driver successfully captures loneliness and an anti-social existence better than any other film I have yet to see. The emotions and themes found in Taxi Driver are very rare for an American film, especially a mainstream film. One could say that Taxi Driver is one of the few truly American films that has a genuinely anti-Hollywood feel to it. For that alone, Martin Scorsese should be commended.

In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle decides to take the law in his own hands. Bickle’s actions in the film, although virtuous and righteous, seem to be more a form of venting than merely to “do the right thing.” Bickle does the right thing when he decides to target the pathetic pimp Matthew (aka sport). Pimps are easily one of the most lowly scum and parasitical creatures out there. The real man is supposed to provide and take care of a woman. The pimp does the opposite and lives off women by putting their lives in danger merely for financial gain. In contemporary society, “pimp” has turned into a word associated with a “cool” and “badass” dude. With an assortment of self-loathing white Wiggers and criminally inclined blacks, tons of impotent American males want to be thought of as the truly anti-manly “pimp.” Travis Bickle, by confronting a pimp and saving a 12 year olds life, shows what a real (although unconventional) man is.

The only flaw with the Taxi Driver is that the film should have ended after Travis Bickle’s “shootout session.” The high angle shot in slow motion featuring Travis bloody on the couch with police breaking in should have been where the film ended. What happened to Travis after his trigger happy mission is irrelevant. I feel that Martin Scorsese settled for a more “Hollywood” ending so that the typical infantile minded American viewer doesn’t get confused or felt “cheated.” I almost felt that “happy” ending added on to be a little silly and in conflict with the overall film.

Chronic insomnia, porn addiction, irrational urges, and alienation are symptoms of our contemporary apocalyptic world. Travis Bickle was a man that went the next step and attempted to transcend the world for something more real. In a world that seems to be only getting worse as the years pass, America needs more films about people like Travis Bickle and the dystopian nightmare before him that he constantly contemplates about. Films like Taxi Driver are rare in the mainstream, and the opposite of what Hollywood wants to present. Hollywood wants to train preteen girls to be sluts, train white boys to want to be black criminals, and influence black men to sell crack. The real question is, why hasn’t a Travis Bickle type taken a trip to Sunset Boulevard?

-Ty E


Unknown said...

Excellent write up, I'm a huge fan of this movie. I've been waiting for a real life Travis to hit anywhere.

Here's a scarier thought... what if they decided to remake this?? Or re-imagining?


Anonymous said...

Fantastic review. Taxi Driver is one of my favorite non-horror films (since horror is typically the all-consuming apple of my eye). I don't know if you care for Straw Dogs at all, but I've always considered Taxi Driver and Straw Dogs to make excellent companion pieces, and I rank them both among my personal favorite films. I completely agree with your assessment of the film's climax. It DEFINITELY should have ended after the shootout scene. The "epilogue" that gets tacked on there at the end is just puzzling and smacks of compromise. Other than that, though, a thoroughly amazing motion picture. Here here!

jervaise brooke hamster said...

i didn`t see this until 1996 (20 years after its original release) and although i thought it was indeed a masterwork it didn`t work for me a cult item because that one veiwing of the film 13 years ago is still the only time i`ve seen it and i`m pretty sure i`ll never watch it again. Its strange that films that are regarded as masterpieces are very often films that you only watch once (despite their brilliance) where-as films that are often percieved as garbage (like so many low budget science fiction and horror movies) are the ones that acheive the cult followings and you end up watching them 100 times.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that ending did not fit.

The Sybil Sheperd character was attractive and sweet, but really she plays her part in the whole grand scheme of the corrupt city machine.

Big Monster Cinema said...

Great Movie! Great Review!

okb said...

I like that scene where he takes the girl for a date and his brain is so fucked he takes her to an XXX theater. The whole point is to make the viewer feel alienated and embarrassed. Now in state universities, they show porn films in public for little boys to go take their girlfriends to.

Unknown said...

Great review. I always felt that the ending was a little tacked on but overtime I like the possibility that he may or may not have survived or even if the epilogue was a fantasy.

Anonymous said...

I always thought in the ending when he looks into the mirror he realizes he's dead and the overdone happy ending was playing out in his head as he was going under.

Anonymous said...

Thought it should have ended after the letter from Jodies parents thanking Bickle for saving their daughter. Shows his actions, however repulsive you may find them, have positive consequences. If it ended after the shootout we would not have known what happened to her. I, for one, cared.

Anonymous said...

Taxi Driver is my favorite film.
Because here is my sympathy.
It explodes last and changes into insanity without it being held one's restraint in check by trifling bad feeling.
I think that anyone may change for insanity.