Director: Martin Scorsese
“Portraits of urban malaise and anomie don’t come any darker, bleaker, or more claustrophobic than Taxi Driver.” (606, Joshua Klein, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die) Like so many of the films included in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (certainly the latter part of the book) Taxi Driver is one of those icon films that sort of pervades popular culture – Bickle continues to be referenced in multiple movies such as Bad Neighbours (2014, Nicholas Stoller) when Zac Efron’s character goes to a fancy dress party as him. But I must confess it’s not a film that I would say particularly caught my attention.
“The film has some nourish elements – Bickle’s voice-over, Bernard Herrman’s haunting, jazzy score – but veers sharply when it comes to the actual storytelling.” (606) I found it a bit of a nothing film to be honest. There storytelling is meandering and doesn’t actually resolve anything come the culmination of the film, to the point that I wouldn’t be able to tell you what happens in it aside from Jodie Foster being a very, very young (and still controversial) prostitute. Despite the controversy of that role, Foster is indeed mesmerizing but nothing can take away from the dirty feeling that watching her scenes causes due to the age of both her character and her in real life at the time of filming.
“For the film’s duration we’re stuck viewing the city from Bickle’s relentlessly isolated perspective, with few peripheral glimmers of hope taking us out of his deranged head.” (606) I think it is this aspect of the film that most confounded me – it’s very insular and contained. So much of the wonderful city that the story is set in becomes lost because Travis doesn’t see it. It becomes a bit overwhelming being constantly subjected to Bickle’s very limited viewpoint. I know I found it difficult to connect with this film on any level and I wonder whether that is because I have a completely different outlook on life and personality to Travis Bickle. I’m just not a depressive person in the slightest and have a tendency to get fed up of people who constantly see the worst of things, which Bickle definitely does. Klein has got it spot on when he describes the film as claustrophobic – it did leave me feeling somewhat uncomfortable and with an urge to go and stretch my legs.
The bit that left me the most confused was Bickle’s failed attempt, or rather lack of attempt, to assassinate a popular presidential candidate. I was a little bit like ‘What just happened and what was the actual point of that part of the story,’ which is overall what I felt about the film as a whole. Despite my rather lacklustre feelings towards the narrative there is no denying that De Niro puts forward a stunning and powerful performance, as does Foster. Unfortunately they were the only two people who made any sort of impression on me and just weren’t enough to make this film a must see. I’m glad I can say that I have seen it because it’s always a good feeling for me to have seen something that is so pervasive in popular culture but it isn’t a film that I’m likely to watch again.