Taxi Driver (1976)

My experience of Martin Scorsese, at least with relation to his full filmography, would be considered fairly limited-
Simply enough: Taxi Driver, The Last Waltz, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, Goodfellas, Casino, Bringing out the Dead, and Gangs of New York–as well as the video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad” and thankfully I now know the episode of Amazing Stories entitled “Mirror, Mirror”–which I was confusing with the film series and had been looking for for some time now, and the story in New York Stories called “Life Lessons.” He has directed approximately twenty-six films though since 1959, so I’ve not seen all of them, but as you can see most of the biggies.
Anyway, with that frame of reference, I just finished re-watching Taxi Driver, which I previously saw sometime in Boone, but I didn’t think I paid attention to. Everything seemed incredibly familiar though, so I guess I was mistaken. Oops.

Still, I’m writing a review anyway, dammit.

As we all (ought to) know, Robert De Niro stars in Taxi Driver as Travis Bickle. Travis is a lonely man who feels completely disconnected from the world, and can’t seem to make connections with other people–and is pretty socially inept. Putting aside how creepily familiar that is to me, De Niro captures this character perfectly (surprise, surprise) and the Academy agreed. When he takes Betsy (Cybill Sheperd, who, in this movie, looks a disturbing amount like someone I know, just blonde and with less deep-set eyes) to a porn theatre (albeit a really bizarre one…) he really convinces you that he doesn’t understand the problem and didn’t mean anything by it, not even, as Betsy implies, “Let’s fuck.” Ah, as the documentary has just mentioned, he was also perhaps attempting to deliberately push her away, which sort of pulls the last details of De Niro’s work into focus and the scene makes that much more sense. Bloody masterful underacting bastard.
Everyone else maintains this same level of convincing performance; Cybill looks truly hurt when Travis does this, as if she really didn’t expect this of him, and perfectly conveys a look of sort of confused attraction and ‘creeped out’ by Travis’ earliest meeting with her.

As everyone says and everyone (I guess?) knows, the film is a character study (honestly one of my favourite things to watch; as I’ve told people when discussing David Lynch–who utterly lacks characters most of the time–I am most enthralled by characters in film, generally speaking) and is about Travis and his loneliness. It works perfectly to show him trying to fit in and everyone being friendly, like they are with such people (I’d say ‘us people,’ but uhm, I am not about to take women I’m attracted to to porn theatres, nor go shoot a bunch of gangsters in an attempt to make myself into an idealized white knight for a prostituting minor) but that element of separation that occurs anyway, which Travis explains when speaking of Betsy’s co-worker, to whom he feels no connection at all, with her being one of the few exceptions to his internal isolation.

On another note, Jodie Foster was unbelievably mature and impressing at 12/13 and makes Jennifer Connelly’s slightly cringe-inducing performance in C’era Una Volta in America that much more cringe-inducing.

BONUS POINTS: Dick Smith makeup effects! Wheee!
Dick, Rick, Rob and Howard/Greg/Robert never really fail to impress me and are always a cause for smiles when their names (or initials) show up in credits.

The DVD is a single disc, definitely a dual-layer, with a 70 minute documentary on the making of, and a full-screen (perhaps more naturally for its age) and rather jittery, washed-out artifacted trailer. So, good stuff. Good DVD. Glad to have it.

Good movie, but we hopefully all knew that already.


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