HerrSchreck wrote:To your overarching question, obviously my answer would be yes.
It's not a film that everyone is going to flip over-- but most films are that way. I think the (no offense) part of the world that you're from has a lot to do with the lack of import and impact on you.
But again-- and please-- there is no blanket assessment to be laid down for All regarding this or any film. The achievement, despite it's Palme D'or, whatever, is quite simply whatever it does for you personally.
Schreck, I suppose I can walk with you down the path of the final greatness of any film being in the eye of the beholder, and that was really where I was going with my initial post. Like you, personal investment, authenticity and honesty are all qualities that I admire in literature, film, music, etc. Scorsese is always a difficult topic for me; I started out being a big fan of his work, both because of its sense of being deeply personal, and for its sense of ambition and on-going dialogue with the history of filmmaking. However, as the years have passed, and Scorsese has made many more films, I have begun to question the elements of personal experience and sincerity, and his recourse to screen violence. I am not trying to knock the man or his films, more to come to terms with how I feel about them.
When I saw Taxi Driver
, I was very affected by the character of Travis Bickle. The isolation of this man, even when he is with other people, and his pouring out his inner life into his grade school composition books, as well as his sense of hopelessness and meaninglessness at observing the world going to the dogs around him. The portrait of Travis is superbly realized. As is the portrait of the city, and I can imagine how this element of the film is even stronger if one is intimately familiar with the streets of New York. I am not, although I have spent a good part of my life in and around the cities of Chicago and Washington D.C. (no offense on the Scandinavian part, although for better or worse I sit rather uncomfortably with the local boys and girls), and from those experiences I related to the atmosphere and detail of observation that went into the depiction of Travisâ€™s world of New York. What is even greater about this depiction (I think) is that for all its detail and atmosphere, it is not an authentic depiction; it is a heightened depiction by being filtered through the eyes and mind of Travis.
Where the film finally does not attain the highest level of greatness (for me) is in the fact that Schrader and Scorsese do not manage to lift themselves and the material out of the downward spiral. Taxi Driver
is a depiction of a certain state of being, and I am sure that there is a lot of autobiography in this depiction, or, they would not have been able to create such a convincing film. As people, who have been on journeys similar to Travisâ€™, these men then must have experienced something, or made decisions in their lives, that somehow brought them out of that state of being, or, at least found a way to live in some kind of harmony with it. Travis on the other hand explodes in violence, and then (as I see the film) he continues in the same groove. I do not think, Travis is shown to attain any insight or understanding by the end of the film, and he is offered no new way by the filmmakers. The film remains a still life of a state of being. The film is still a very good film, but I think that a portrait that powerful should offer something more, at least in order to be a truly great film.
With respect to the violence of the finale, it obviously works within the story, and I do not think that Scorsese was making â€œexploitationâ€ as such, although I can see where my initial post would seem to suggest something along those lines. It is also true that the whole film is extremely well crafted, and the shootout probably no more or less so. Still, it is a scene that fills a lot in the film, and it is crucial in that it crosses the line between depicting a man who is self-destructive and to him bringing that destructiveness out into the world, and it is a scene that is carried out with a lot of logistic and graphic detail, and ends in what (to my memory) is the filmâ€™s longest and most complex tracking shot. Maybe I am wrong, but I experienced this as a tour-de-force within the film, and my question remains, what is the great point that the filmmakers are making in order to necessitate or justify the use of such powerful imagery? (I think it is important in this context to remember that the film was made in the mid-â€˜70s, and I am sure that it was more shocking then, than it is to contemporary audiences).