Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
aox
Posts: 2399
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: nYc

#26 Post by aox » Fri Sep 19, 2008 10:49 am

HerrSchreck wrote:(in an entirely believable fashion.. the guy's a cabbie, shes a midtown professional) after some time has gone by, fumbling to find words to pass the time, with the rejected man who's turned out To Have More To Him Than She Supposed being cagey & hard to get, and with her being polite and uncomfortable and basically showing No Hard Feelings.

If the interaction is not believeable-- how would you have written the scene? Besty gets into Travis' cab, and then ____________________--?
Well, I would have ended the film after the shootout, or not filmed the final epilogue in such a ridiculous manner to have a lot of the audience assume it was a dying man's fantasy, then tell the audience it wasn't a dream... but I digress.

Additionally, I don't find her getting in his cab at all believable in the sense that there are 100s of cabs in the City. Moreover, I am still not convinced that he wouldn't be wrapped up in the penal system or at least had numerous psych evaluations. To be forgiving here, the fact that these questions and 'wrong' interpretations still linger in my opinion is the fault of the filmmaker and not the audience.

At this point, I feel we are making excuses for Scorsese because...well.....he's Scorsese.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#27 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:01 am

I've been a fan of this movie for over 30 yrs and I never met any New Yorkers (anyone really)-- nor ready any reviews, until the couple folks in this thread-- who felt that it was a dying man's fantasy, who didn't think it was possible to have Travis blown up by the press as a hero (live in NYC especially thru those days in the 70's & 80's and you'd never question it... I'm still baffled someone could doubt the possibility), least of all doubt that he'd have the coincidence of picking her up as a fare.

The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it). I'm only half kidding.

The last thing I myself would do is make excuses for a directors weaknesses-- I can hardly get thru a Scorsese film nowadays. When he starts sucking ass powder I say it-- and he's been sucking for at least the past ten years.

It's a VERY new york movie. It's very much about the time and place that was the city back then.

Some things are so extreme they're hard to believe. If WW2 never happened and you wrote a novel of ditto, people'd say "You're reaching pal."

Ditto the recent Wall Street news. Or the past eight yrs of our presidency.

User avatar
swo17
Posts: 13637
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

#28 Post by swo17 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:07 am

aox wrote:Additionally, I don't find her getting in his cab at all believable in the sense that there are 100s of cabs in the City.
If you ride a cab everywhere, even though there are hundreds everywhere, the odds are pretty good, actually, that you'll end up in a particular cab eventually. It's like the birthday problem--seems unlikely until you do the math.
aox wrote:At this point, I feel we are making excuses for Scorsese because...well.....he's Scorsese.
He's "Scorsese" because of this movie, and a few others. If anyone's making excuses for him, it's for stuff like Gangs or The Aviator.
HerrSchreck wrote:The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it).
Pardon my ignorance, but what was the original plan--Keitel in blackface?
Last edited by swo17 on Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
aox
Posts: 2399
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: nYc

#29 Post by aox » Fri Sep 19, 2008 11:16 am

HerrSchreck wrote:I've been a fan of this movie for over 30 yrs and I never met any New Yorkers (anyone really)-- nor ready any reviews, until the couple folks in this thread-- who felt that it was a dying man's fantasy, who didn't think it was possible to have Travis blown up by the press as a hero (live in NYC especially thru those days in the 70's & 80's and you'd never question it... I'm still baffled someone could doubt the possibility), least of all doubt that he'd have the coincidence of picking her up as a fare.
I apologize if my tone has been one of denial in terms of dichotomy. I don't deny the possibility. At all. It's there. However, this film is so deliciously gritty and an exercise in realism, and a perfect representation of 1970s (and 80s) NY, that I simply don't buy the end (unless it is a dream). I guess this is the point where we agree to disagree. :wink:
The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it). I'm only half kidding.
We are in the same boat here. I'm not kidding. However, I can understand that it would have been a shame for this film to be destroyed in the public eye because of the 'race thing'. This conversation in 2008 would sadly be about the 'reevaluation' of this misunderstood classic and that would be a shame.
The last thing I myself would do is make excuses for a directors weaknesses-- I can hardly get thru a Scorsese film nowadays. When he starts sucking ass powder I say it-- and he's been sucking for at least the past ten years.
He is certainly running through the motions. I don't want to turn this into a Departed discussion (or really a "Scorsese" discussion outside of the realm of Taxi Driver), but I thought it was a noble effort after the years of flawed film making (Gangs of NY), mediocre film making (Aviator) and outright terrible film making (Bringing Out the Dead).
It's a VERY new york movie. It's very much about the time and place that was the city back then.
Completely agree.
Some things are so extreme they're hard to believe. If WW2 never happened and you wrote a novel of ditto, people'd say "You're reaching pal."

Ditto the recent Wall Street news. Or the past eight yrs of our presidency.
Again, you are kind of skewing (however unintentional) what my problem with the film is. I think Taxi Driver is a masterpiece and a chilling commentary on 1970s NYC (and urban strife in general).

I just don't 'buy' the last scene at all; at least I did until Scorsese told me my interpretation was wrong. If it was meant to be real, I think that it could have been filmed in an entirely different manner with maybe a little more exposition. But then again, that would have bogged the film down. Lose Lose

Good discussion, though

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#30 Post by HerrSchreck » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:10 pm

swo17 wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote:The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it).
Pardon my ignorance, but what was the original plan--Keitel in blackface?
What're you fricking kidding me?

The original script had Sport a black character, but they were afraid of racial repercussions. So they scratched the casting of a black guy, and Keitel talked his way into the part after buying the wig and playing dress up for Scorsese.
aox wrote:Again, you are kind of skewing (however unintentional) what my problem with the film is. I think Taxi Driver is a masterpiece and a chilling commentary on 1970s NYC (and urban strife in general).

I just don't 'buy' the last scene at all; at least I did until Scorsese told me my interpretation was wrong. If it was meant to be real, I think that it could have been filmed in an entirely different manner with maybe a little more exposition. But then again, that would have bogged the film down. Lose Lose

EDIT: I'm not trying to skew the problem, I don't think intentionally or unintentionally. I'm just highlighting my (and/or the 'status quo''s) response to that part of the narrative you have a problems with. I don't think it's unbelievable that it's not a dream, don't think the cab ride is anywhere near too much of a coincidence, don't think Betsy reads as angelic, etc. And I'm simply explaining why.

And you're perfectly entitled to feel the way you do about the film, regardless of what I or anyone including Scorsese says the film is 'supposed' to mean. Watch it as a dream sequence if it gives you more pleasure-- you're not breaking any laws.

If 90% of the world thought your date was hugely unattractive (including your date his /herself), but she/he turned you on to no end... who cares what people think.

Dive in and do your thing. Movies are entertainment, not Very Serious Tests With Repercussions.
Last edited by HerrSchreck on Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:22 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
swo17
Posts: 13637
Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2008 10:25 am
Location: SLC, UT

#31 Post by swo17 » Fri Sep 19, 2008 12:15 pm

Just trying to lighten the mood with a little racial humor. :wink: 8-[

User avatar
Polybius
Posts: 1508
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#32 Post by Polybius » Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:27 am

HerrSchreck wrote:I've been a fan of this movie for over 30 yrs and I never met any New Yorkers (anyone really)-- nor ready any reviews, until the couple folks in this thread-- who felt that it was a dying man's fantasy, who didn't think it was possible to have Travis blown up by the press as a hero (live in NYC especially thru those days in the 70's & 80's and you'd never question it... I'm still baffled someone could doubt the possibility)
I can distinctly remember thinking when the idea started being floated, after the initial shock of the case, that Goetz was some sort of hero, that Marty had nailed it with Travis Bickle and (to a less exact degree) Rupert Pupkin.

As far as Betsy is concerned, it always seems to me that she's intrigued by the idea of slumming a bit with Travis, but that the real depth of just how off he really is doesn't really occur to her until it's slapped right into her face. Maybe I'm just looking to impugn Betsy's intelligence and judgment because I always want to see elements of the things I don't like about Cybill in her characters, but that's my take.

I'm a little hesitant to add anything to Schreck's rather complete and convincing analysis of the post-rampage chance encounter, but I've always thought I detected a note suggesting that maybe since he'd been publicly sanctified that she might be open to taking that walk on the wild side she balked had at before. Again, maybe that's just me looking for the worst in her.

Nothing
Posts: 1248
Joined: Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:04 am

#33 Post by Nothing » Sat Sep 20, 2008 11:40 pm

HerrSchreck wrote: The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it). I'm only half kidding.
The pimps clearly should have been black, this is the biggest flaw in the film. No 'racial thing' prevented them filming the script as it was written, only cowardice.

Roger_Thornhill
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:35 pm

#34 Post by Roger_Thornhill » Mon Sep 22, 2008 8:59 pm

Nothing wrote:
HerrSchreck wrote: The most absurd thing about the movie is the Keitel character-- pimps didnt look that way (they should have stuck w their original plan but I understand the racial thing prevented it). I'm only half kidding.
The pimps clearly should have been black, this is the biggest flaw in the film. No 'racial thing' prevented them filming the script as it was written, only cowardice.
Were there no white pimps in 1970s NYC? Does the color of the character's skin really matter?

I can understand Scorsese's reluctance to show a black character as such as a low-life considering the end of Jim Crow was a little over a decade in 1976.

User avatar
Cold Bishop
Posts: 2162
Joined: Tue May 30, 2006 9:45 pm
Location: Portland, OR

#35 Post by Cold Bishop » Mon Sep 22, 2008 10:14 pm

Roger_Thornhill wrote:Were there no white pimps in 1970s NYC? Does the color of the character's skin really matter?
I think it matters in regards to Bickle's racial and sexual hangups. I think the film works fine as is, as a white pimp would have been more than enough for Bickle, but it would have worked better, and been more true to the character, if the "scum" he lashed out against we're the people he felt the most animosity towards.

Hell, if one of the three characters in the whorehouse were black, it would have been an improvement. I appreciate what Keitel did with the role, question of appearances not withstanding (this has been discussed in another thread), and I do think he would have been wasted in the Albert Brooks role, but if the film stumbles, its in regards to the pimp.

Roger_Thornhill
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 10:35 pm

#36 Post by Roger_Thornhill » Mon Sep 22, 2008 11:40 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:
Roger_Thornhill wrote:Were there no white pimps in 1970s NYC? Does the color of the character's skin really matter?
I think it matters in regards to Bickle's racial and sexual hangups. I think the film works fine as is, as a white pimp would have been more than enough for Bickle, but it would have worked better, and been more true to the character, if the "scum" he lashed out against we're the people he felt the most animosity towards.

Hell, if one of the three characters in the whorehouse were black, it would have been an improvement. I appreciate what Keitel did with the role, question of appearances not withstanding (this has been discussed in another thread), and I do think he would have been wasted in the Albert Brooks role, but if the film stumbles, its in regards to the pimp.
But isn't Bickle's racial bigotry clearly obvious in the numerous POV shots from his cab looking out at the 'others' walking down the sidewalk? Later in the film he even shoots an armed black man in the back without any hesitation nor even the slightest attempt to diffuse the situation. After all, the robber surely would've realized that his situation was hopeless with Bickle pointing a pistol at his back and dropped the gun and either ran or surrendered to them. The fact that the owner proceeds to beat the dead body only further underscores the disturbing racism oozing from that scene.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#37 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Sep 23, 2008 2:16 pm

Roger_Thornhill wrote:Were there no white pimps in 1970s NYC? Does the color of the character's skin really matter?
Not that I ever saw.

Seriously. Not that white dudes back then didn't engage in all kinds of street level crimes, many equally -- and more-- scummy than being a pimp. But 1970's NYC street-level pimping for one reason or another was the terrain primarily of blacks & Puerto Ricans. Any New Yorker could tell you that back inna day.

Skin color matters and it doesn't matter. It simply depends on what you're looking to do in your film.

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5307
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

#38 Post by Gregory » Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:21 pm

Calling Sport (Keitel) "white" as opposed to a black is a little simplistic because regardless of the reason that he was not cast as a black character, Scorsese clearly chose to make him into a kind of Indian, I think as much of a reference to the Hollywood Indian as the film's context could accomodate. This definitely fits with the film's extensive homage to The Searchers.
It seems to me that the question of whether or not Bickle is a racist (and it's hard to argue that he is not) is only of slight importance in understanding the film as a whole. There are much broader questions that the film raises, which are left hanging in ambiguity and contradiction. It seems to me that any interpretation that makes some sense of the ending leads to the conclusion that what it's saying is extremely cynical. Its cynicism regarding society -- and the audience in particular, whose presumed sympathies have been totally undermined -- leaves behind no possibility whatsoever for justice or productive social institutions of any kind.

User avatar
aox
Posts: 2399
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: nYc

#39 Post by aox » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:07 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Any New Yorker could tell you that back inna day.
Have to be careful with that. Could any NYer from the 1970s tell you that because of experience, or because of media indoctrination that everyone seems to agree with?

My family is from Westchester. They would unequivocally agree with your assertion that all pimps were black or Puerto Rican, but I can promise you, this wouldn't be from experience. I doubt they cruised the streets of the South Bronx or Gun Hill. It's only what they heard at Block Parties and what the 6 O'clock news told them throughout this period.

Again, not saying you are wrong. Perhaps the Pimp population was 100% black/hispanic.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#40 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:29 pm

Dude please, trust me-- there's nothing to be careful of. I know what I'm talking about. I grew up in and still live in the Bronx and know the mean streets of the old Hunts Point, 149th, 3rd avenue, etc very very-- all too-- well. Don't try and start a fire for the hell of starting one.

On a related note I'd ask you to be careful-- I'm not the kind of guy to start throwing around loose and careless racial appellations through ignorance. Warning me "be careful" is close to suggesting I'm a loose racial cannon making careless statements.

User avatar
aox
Posts: 2399
Joined: Fri Jun 20, 2008 12:02 pm
Location: nYc

#41 Post by aox » Tue Sep 23, 2008 4:55 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:Dude please, trust me-- there's nothing to be careful of. I know what I'm talking about. I grew up in and still live in the Bronx and know the mean streets of the old Hunts Point, 149th, 3rd avenue, etc very very-- all too-- well. Don't try and start a fire for the hell of starting one.

On a related note I'd ask you to be careful-- I'm not the kind of guy to start throwing around loose and careless racial appellations through ignorance. Warning me "be careful" is close to suggesting I'm a loose racial cannon making careless statements.
Way to miss the point. I never said you didn't know what you were talking about. Look at what I quoted from you even. You obviously have credibility if what you say is true. I was commenting on your "all New Yorkers" comment which I promise you doesn't share your first hand knowledge. Also, look at the last sentence of my post. I didn't even doubt you.

MY first hand knowledge is that people in the suburbs living insulated lives usually don't know shit about the inner-city or its problems.

EDIT: And I would ask you not to 'warn me to be careful'. I wasn't the one throwing out blanket statements. I also don't know you and if you are or are not a loose cannon making careless statements.

But, I'll take your word for it. I enjoy your posts and opinions immensely.

User avatar
HerrSchreck
Posts: 6324
Joined: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:46 am

#42 Post by HerrSchreck » Tue Sep 23, 2008 5:26 pm

There was no point in your post-- you danced thru several, and flirted with telling me the deal on This Very Serious Subject. I said any NY'er who lived thru those days could tell you that what I was saying was true. You responded with
Have to be careful with that. Could any NYer from the 1970s tell you that because of experience, or because of media indoctrination that everyone seems to agree with?
What you said after that read like a bit of backpedaling.

And, just to restate the obvious: when I said Any New Yorker could tell you that back inna day. , I meant "any NY'er who lived back then"... not "Every NY'er who is alive in 2008." They couldn't possible testify to the state of the city back then. Over the past couple of pages I've been talking about the things that NY'ers who lived thru that time think and feel about certain elements in the film in terms of authenticity and believability. SO your admonition to Be Careful is based on an absurd sense that I mean every woman man and infant respiring within the five boroughs at this very moment is can speak on the state of the city of NY back in the 70's.

Let's return to a productive discussion regarding Taxi Driver, and not the risks inherent in the discussion of the pimping quotient of the NYC of yore. The city was a hard, stressful, violent, unfair, painful gorgeous wonderful place which presented the sensitive viewer with many soul-blasts. Certain genteel dynamics get blasted to smithereens when discussing old NY.

User avatar
Polybius
Posts: 1508
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 10:57 pm
Location: Rollin' down Highway 41

#43 Post by Polybius » Wed Sep 24, 2008 12:18 am

Gregory wrote:Calling Sport (Keitel) "white" as opposed to a black is a little simplistic because regardless of the reason that he was not cast as a black character, Scorsese clearly chose to make him into a kind of Indian, I think as much of a reference to the Hollywood Indian as the film's context could accomodate. This definitely fits with the film's extensive homage to The Searchers.
I've read variations of that in several places. That, and the fact that Harvey is typically compelling in the role, pretty much trumps any logical-historical problem of having a white pimp.

I mean, for me every factual objection just kind of washes away in the face of "What are you givin' me the money for? You wanna fuck me? Give her the money!" and "You don't look hip..."

User avatar
Sloper
Posts: 956
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

#44 Post by Sloper » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:10 am

At the risk of opening another can of worms, if Sport were black he'd be pretty much the only interesting black character in all of Scorsese's work. Diahnne Abbott, Samuel L. Jackson, the guy who plays Sugar Ray - all very anonymous indeed. Can anyone point to an exception?

Woody Allen does Jewish American New Yorkers, Scorsese does Italian American New Yorkers, and though I don't for a moment suspect either director of actual racism, they certainly don't seem comfortable depicting black characters. So in a way, though it's true that making Sport black would have made the film a whole lot more controversial than it already was, I find Scorsese's excuse a little disingenuous in the context of his more or less all-white gallery of characters.

And I never had a problem with Keitel's characterisation. I don't think it's at all clear how we're supposed to feel about him - whether he's entirely loathsome or just a bit comic-pathetic - and this is part of what makes the climax, and the ending where Iris is sent back home, so ambiguous and provocative.

Also, and apologies if I'm repeating something already said here, I'm not sure where the evidence of Travis's racism comes from. His gunning down of the robber in the liquor store just shows that he's a bit trigger happy, and if anything he seems a little horrified by Vic Argo's violent response, and by his own capacity to do something like this. The episode certainly doesn't show that he's racist, since he massacres the white guys in the brothel with far more enthusiasm, and with far less provocation.

User avatar
HypnoHelioStaticStasis
Posts: 232
Joined: Tue Feb 26, 2008 12:21 pm
Location: New York

#45 Post by HypnoHelioStaticStasis » Wed Sep 24, 2008 8:25 am

I think Forest Whitaker in The Color of Money is among the best work he's ever done. Whitaker makes that scene COUNT.

Ving Rhames is also a hoot in Bringing Out the Dead, but its not a particularly nuanced character, hilarious though he may be.

I understand the criticisms in regards to Woody Allen's lack of color in his cast (wasn't his first one essentially the hooker in Deconstructing Harry?), but to be fair to Scorsese, I'm not sure a lot of his films call out for strong black characters, just due to their settings and their focus; films like Mean Streets and Goodfellas have them in our peripheral vision, and lets be honest, isn't that a fairly honest way of looking at it from the characters vantage point? The Age of Innocence? I think seeing a black character would highly (and perhaps sadly) inappropriate and feel far too much like a stab at political correctness.

Not that Scorsese shouldn't include more roles for black actors, and perhaps he should try and focus his talents in creating a film based around black characters (wasn't he in the running to direct what became Spike Lee's Malcolm X?), but perhaps he recognizes its not where his strengths lie, or simply finds other subjects more compelling.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Posts: 5939
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

#46 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Sep 24, 2008 2:00 pm

Sloper wrote:Also, and apologies if I'm repeating something already said here, I'm not sure where the evidence of Travis's racism comes from. His gunning down of the robber in the liquor store just shows that he's a bit trigger happy, and if anything he seems a little horrified by Vic Argo's violent response, and by his own capacity to do something like this. The episode certainly doesn't show that he's racist, since he massacres the white guys in the brothel with far more enthusiasm, and with far less provocation.
The racism is subtly implied, and you have to watch closely. Two stand out moments: when Travis is talking with the other cabbies by the side of his cab, a black youth (I think wearing thug-looking clothes) walks by, and Travis suddenly turns away from the conversation and we're given a lingering pov shot of the youth, which then cuts back to Travis' face filled with disdain. A similar pov shot occurs in the coffee shop when Travis meets the other cabbies: again his attention is compelled away from the conversation towards a lingering pov shot of a black pimp, which cuts back to a less-than-positive expression on Travis' face. Coupled with Travis' monologues about the filth and scum he sees everywhere, and which crowds around him, these shots become charged with implicit racism.

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5307
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

#47 Post by Gregory » Wed Sep 24, 2008 3:39 pm

Anyone who hates street criminals as intensely as Travis would glare at a black pimp or someone dressed in thug-looking clothing, unless fear or white guilt forced them to hide this impulse. Travis is a misanthrope above all else, and I see the film as establishing that he doesn't really have a racialized view of the "open sewer" that the city is: "Don't make no difference to me ... It does to some [drivers] -- some won't even take spooks." Again, I think the character is someone who probably does have bigoted views, but the film really does not emphasize this (not that Mr. Sausage was saying that it is necessarily emphasized). It seems to distract from really understanding Travis's misanthropy and what the film encourages the viewer to think of his actions.

User avatar
Mr Sausage
Not PETA approved
Posts: 5939
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 9:02 pm
Location: Canada

#48 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:44 pm

Gregory wrote:Anyone who hates street criminals as intensely as Travis would glare at a black pimp or someone dressed in thug-looking clothing, unless fear or white guilt forced them to hide this impulse. Travis is a misanthrope above all else, and I see the film as establishing that he doesn't really have a racialized view of the "open sewer" that the city is: "Don't make no difference to me ... It does to some [drivers] -- some won't even take spooks." Again, I think the character is someone who probably does have bigoted views, but the film really does not emphasize this (not that Mr. Sausage was saying that it is necessarily emphasized). It seems to distract from really understanding Travis's misanthropy and what the film encourages the viewer to think of his actions.
The problem with calling Travis a misanthrope is that in order to be so he must hate humanity as a whole--indeed, hate or despise all people. He doesn't. He doesn't hate his fellow cabbies, although he feels alienated from them; he doesn't hate Betsy, nor does he hate Iris. He's not filled up with hate and loathing for the whole of humanity. On the contrary, one senses he would like to be a part of humanity, to be like other ordinary people. But he cannot, so he takes the loathing he feels towards himself transfers it to his environment. A misanthrope would not, for example, tell Iris that she should go back to her parents and go to school and live the life of a normal kid. A misinthrope is far more likely to sympathize with Iris' complaints about her parents and share her disillusionment with that middle-class world. Travis is not a misanthrope--essentially--because he's searching, throughout the movie, for an ideal person, some innocent which he can save and protect. A misinthrope is unlikely to do that.

User avatar
Gregory
Posts: 5307
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

#49 Post by Gregory » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:09 pm

As I understand the term, misanthropy just means a general dislike of humanity, not necessarily every single individual human being. I think a misanthrope might, out of desperation, place a single person on a pedestal without really understanding him or her, only to turn on the person very suddenly when he or she fails to meet his distorted conception of them.

It is interesting to ask why someone so disillusioned with most social institutions (law enforcements, the courts, establishment politics, etc.) would retain a belief in the family unit. I think he is tending to fetishize childhood because he wants to believe that it can be a refuge from the sickness of the corrupted adult world. He doesn't reject the middle class family because, even though he has no basis for believing that the family she left of her own free will would be the best environment for her, he sees it as preferable to other options, including going up to a commune in Vermont. The character's basis or worldview seems to me a fairly reactionary one. He doesn't seem like someone who would have sympathized with the hippies of the era just previous to when the story takes place.

User avatar
Sloper
Posts: 956
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 10:06 pm

#50 Post by Sloper » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:24 pm

It might be worthwhile asking why Travis becomes a taxi driver, and why, if he hates the New York lowlifes so much, he chooses to do so many night shifts. Remember when Betsy applies the song lyrics to his character - not the best scene in the film I know, but a very telling moment, because it sums up Travis as a 'walking contradiction', at once disgusted by and drawn to all the sick stuff he sees around him.

Basically I would agree with Gregory on the race issue, I don't think those moments of gazing at the black characters are really saying Travis is racist. In fact, surely this was precisely what Scorsese was trying not to say - he made Sport white because it would have made Travis, not the film, seem racist if he had been black. This would have completely alienated Travis's character from the audience, and I think Scorsese wants us to identify with him a lot of the time.

Those slow-motion bits where Travis stares at somebody serve the same purpose as the similar moments in Raging Bull: they make us see things from Travis's point of view, make us empathise with the intense way in which he experiences the world around him, whereas the other characters seem to take it all in their stride.

I know it seems lazy of me, but I always feel it's slightly fruitless trying to make sense of this guy. The 'nam veteran stuff is a bit too obvious, and this really doesn't seem like a film about Vietnam, does it? I just don't think we're given enough strong evidence to be able to draw any real conclusions about what drives Travis, what he's disgusted by, what he wants to do.

Hypno - I always forget about Color of Money and Bringing Out the Dead, but fair enough. And I'm with you on the race thing too, it just ain't Scorsese's field and he knows it.

Post Reply