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Taxi Driver

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“Someday, a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets…”

Voice over narration was out of fashion in the 1970s, it was considered passe and uncinematic (show, don’t tell, was the feeling). Travis Bickle’s narration in Taxi Driver is much more than a literary device. It takes us into his head… which is where Martin Scorsese’s movie unfolds. Paul Schrader’s screenplay was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremer, who had tried to assassinate Democrat Presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972, and by his creative touchstone, the French filmmaker Robert Bresson. Scorsese’s interiority is completely different from Bresson’s; he creates an expressionist, infernal New York, a vision closer to Beaudelaire: putrid, corrupt, but somehow irresistible. The city is a cesspool, toxic, the taxi cab, a coffin. Bickle sees it this way, and wants to do something about it – to make his mark and “become a person, like other people”.

And just as Schrader was inspired by Bremer, John Hinkley watched this film at least 15 times before shooting President Ronald Reagan to express his love for Jodie Foster…

Today New York City has long since been sanitized. Yet we see men like Travis everywhere we look: angry, alienated, and dangerous.

Martin Scorsese’s movies hum with the electricity of New York — but never with as much paranoid energy as his poisonous tribute to the city’s ugly underside. Opening during America’s bicentennial year, offering a somber portrait of a nation reeling from Vietnam and descending into moral bankruptcy, Taxi Driver drew inspiration from Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground, updating the tale to chronicle a mentally disturbed war vet, Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), as he seeks a release from the anger and sexual frustration seething inside him. In this fever dream of a character study, politicians and pimps are equally disreputable, and a bad man with a gun roams the streets, looking for a suitable target. That this bad man is also our main character only makes the film’s indictment of America all the more stinging: Bickle’s deranged ramblings start to make a weird sort of sense once you see what this unstable country has done to him.

Tim Grierson, Rolling Stone

Portraits of urban malaise and anomie don’t come any darker, bleaker, or more claustrophobic than Taxi Driver.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Bickle remains an authentic everyman, a walking dumb-as-shit smashup of conservative responses, but also a disenfranchised victim of the corporate-imperial combine, an ex-soldier used to meaningless death, lost in the streets of his own empty freedom. There may not be a more essentially American figure haunting the national cinema.

Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

Aug 11 Only: Introduction from local writer Mike Archibald

Director

Martin Scorsese

Cast

Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Peter Boyle, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris

Credits
Country of Origin

USA

Year

1976

Language

English

Awards

Palme d’Or, Cannes 1976

19+
114 min

Book Tickets

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Credits

Producer

Julia Phillips, Michael Phillips

Screenwriter

Paul Schrader

Cinematography

Michael Chapman

Editor

Marcia Lucas, Tom Rolf, Melvin Shapiro

Original Music

Bernard Herrmann

Art Director

Charles Rosen

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