Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

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aox
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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#126 Post by aox » Sun Jul 17, 2011 11:51 pm

Tom Hagen wrote:Why did it make you hate Bringing out the Dead more?
Well, first, please understand that I completely subscribe to the criticism that Bringing Out the Dead is completely derivative and practically a remake of TD. I find it cheap and wholly uninteresting. I think of the film as Scorsese at his lowest. I know many will say Goodfellas/Casino, but I don't see it being nearly as rock solid a connection as I do TD/BotD. It also doesn't help that Nic Cage is probably my least favorite actor in mainstream Hollywood. So, there is that as well.

About 30 minutes into the TD commentary, Scorsese remarks that he got the inspiration for many scenes in TD from the wonderful Van Morrison song, "TB Sheets". That, as you may remember, is the main song used throughout BotD. This commentary was recorded 13 years before the release of BotD.

It just sort of reinforces the idea that BotD is a carbon copy of TD, and his comment about the song almost adds an element of parody to BotD that probably wasn't intended (I took BotD very seriously and without irony). Yet another level of criticism for me against BotD. What can I say, it just rubbed me the wrong way.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#127 Post by Alan Smithee » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:10 am

:-( Bringing out the dead isn't that bad. Yes Casino and Bringing out the Dead are sort of rehashes but I actually like both of them. BotD is fairly faithful to the novel which I read before the film came out so if anything the novel was influenced by Taxi Driver.

I also wouldn't say it's deadly serious. Between John Goodman, Marc Antony, and Nicolas Cages over the top performances and all the heavy stylization I think it's going for something a little, almost zany at times. Taxi Driver is stylized but it's stylized to emphasize grittiness and it feels much more realistic to me.

My choice for Scorsese low point would probably be pretty much any scene in Gangs of New York that doesn't feature Daniel Day Lewis.

This opinion could change, Hugo looks terrible.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#128 Post by knives » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:34 am

Scorsese has gone back to Taxi Driver numerous times with King of Comedy being more derivative of it, but that doesn't make either film (nor After Hours which is closer to BOtD if you ask me) bad. In fact I think in many ways Scorsese improved or at least made more interesting to me the ideas flowing through TD with the later films. Claiming something as derivative in and of itself does not make the work bad.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#129 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:48 am

I think the central role in Bringing Out the Dead is hugely different from that in Taxi Driver- in the latter, the protagonist is a reflection of a world that's descending into hell, and no human connections seem possible. He's alienation embodied. In Bringing Out the Dead, Cage is someone who is if anything too connected, too empathetic to deal with the insanity and cruelty that he's asked to witness. In religious terms, his character is almost a priest, whereas Bickle is the lost sheep that nobody can be bothered to seek.

I agree with Knives that The King of Comedy is much more similar, thematically if not in tone.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#130 Post by aox » Mon Jul 18, 2011 12:53 am

knives wrote: Claiming something as derivative in and of itself does not make the work bad.
I agree. I apologize for not making my initial post on this subject clearer. I mentioned the Goodfellas/Casino example to imply that being derivative isn't inherently bad. I am a huge Casino fan.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#131 Post by Professor Wagstaff » Mon Jul 18, 2011 1:11 am

matrixschmatrix wrote:I think the central role in Bringing Out the Dead is hugely different from that in Taxi Driver- in the latter, the protagonist is a reflection of a world that's descending into hell, and no human connections seem possible. He's alienation embodied. In Bringing Out the Dead, Cage is someone who is if anything too connected, too empathetic to deal with the insanity and cruelty that he's asked to witness. In religious terms, his character is almost a priest, whereas Bickle is the lost sheep that nobody can be bothered to seek.
Spot on. This is exactly the arguement I was writing, but you put it much better. I think that this is best expressed by the characters in each film and how they see themselves, with Bickle calling himself "God's lonely man" and Cage's Frank using terms like "witness" and "grief mop".

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#132 Post by Roger Ryan » Mon Jul 18, 2011 8:37 am

As I see it, BRINGING OUT THE DEAD is clearly meant to have satirical overtones and is even more of a comedy than KING OF COMEDY (which itself is kind of a jokey riff on the TAXI DRIVER theme). I think Scorsese was aiming for the tone Paddy Chayefsky achieved with THE HOSPITAL and thought he'd get there via the over-the-top feverish "sick" humor of NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Scorsese's approach displays a lot more humanity than Oliver Stone's so I consider BRINGING OUT THE DEAD a much better film.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#133 Post by MichaelB » Mon Jul 18, 2011 9:02 am

aox wrote:Are the other two on the BD worth listening to?
I only dipped into the solo Schrader commentary, but the Robert Kolker one is excellent.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#134 Post by BWilson » Wed Jul 27, 2011 7:04 pm

aox wrote: of parody to BotD that probably wasn't intended (I took BotD very seriously and without irony). Yet another level of criticism for me against BotD.
You took it seriosly and without irony? The film is a comedy. Maybe give it another try.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#135 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Mon May 20, 2013 3:13 am

Great discussion on Taxi Driver. This is definitely a film that is both disturbing & brilliant, something that is hard to achieve. It's definitely one of the most iconic films of the '70's, the score by Bernard Herrmann is sublime, and IMHO it's DeNiro's best work. As has been said, it really captures a time & place perfectly; when watching this film you feel like you're right there in NYC back in the mid-'70's - this is also difficult to achieve, but is pulled off extremely well here.

And, this thread is probably the most intelligent discussion(s) I've read online regarding TD. After reading all of the posts, here are some comments:

First of all, I've seen the film various times and never did I think that the ending of the movie (the letter from Iris' parents, the newspaper article, Travis recovered & back to driving taxis, seeing Betsy, etc.) was anything other than something that actually happened & wasn't open to interpretation. The first I heard that some people suspected it was just Travis' dying fantasy were online articles/forums discussing/interpreting the film. As others have said, it's not beyond the realm of possibility that in '70's NYC, someone that rescued a young girl from degradation would be regarded as a hero. (That being said, if something like this happened today, Travis would almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison).

Also wanted to address Travis taking Betsy to an adult theater for a first date: One explanation is that it shows how naive Travis is in regards to women; It may be he genuinely thought that Betsy wouldn't have a problem with seeing the film. I could understand his taking her if they had a conversation beforehand & he got the impression she wouldn't mind, but obviously this didn't happen. This goes along with my strong impression that Travis hasn't dated much, if ever?! However, another possibility is that he wanted Betsy to reject him and did something to make sure she did so; maybe he thought Betsy was too good for him/out of his league, and there may also have been some self-loathing on his part...

I found the last scene when Travis picked up Betsy in his Taxi & they had that brief conversation very depressing; she obviously felt sorry for him, and it seemed like he could tell. But, they parted on a cordial note.

And, what was it that Travis thought he saw in the rear-view mirror after dropping Betsy off? Did he see something? I know it's been mentioned before, but I've never heard/read a good answer to this.

I still need to see the Blu-ray, and am hoping to do that soon. It sounds like it's a big improvement over the regular DVD....
Last edited by AnamorphicWidescreen on Mon May 20, 2013 12:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#136 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon May 20, 2013 10:05 am

The shot of the rear-view is an echo of earlier shots, confirming that Travis's madness has not been exorcised by his orgy of violence and that he remains a stalking predator on the prowl.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#137 Post by Props55 » Mon May 20, 2013 10:53 am

And punctuated by the dissonant three note string motif from PSYCHO that Herrmann quotes from himself!

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#138 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Mon May 20, 2013 11:03 am

OK, makes sense. Thanks, everyone.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#139 Post by Roger Ryan » Wed May 22, 2013 12:02 pm

AnamorphicWidescreen wrote: ...And, what was it that Travis thought he saw in the rear-view mirror after dropping Betsy off? Did he see something? I know it's been mentioned before, but I've never heard/read a good answer to this...
I've always took this as a breaking-the-fourth-wall moment: Travis sees us watching him in the rear-view mirror (doesn't his eyes in the reflection lock with the camera lens for a split-second before the mirror is adjusted?). We, the audience, know the truth about him so he rotates the mirror quickly to break the connection.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#140 Post by Props55 » Thu May 23, 2013 11:03 pm

Absolutely, Mr. Ryan, just as Norman Bates lifts his eyes from the fly on his hand to respond to our gaze. Only Norman doesn't attempt to break the connection because he isn't Norman anymore.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#141 Post by Altair » Wed Aug 14, 2013 1:38 pm

I only viewed Taxi Driver for the first time in recent months in fact; to try and approach the film as unburdened as possible and influenced as to how to watch the film, I pointedly did not read up on the film at all prior to watching it on Columbia/Sony's Blu-ray (which apart from the opening Columbia logo, which is inexplicably terrible, looks beautiful in its rawness). So looking back at that initial experience, my overwhelming "feel" for the film were not the expected usual ones: "You lookin' at me?", the final shooting spree, the coda etc, etc, but instead one of Film noir. Partly of course, it is compounded by Bernard Herrmann's classic jazz score, but also the Michael Chapman's shots of Bickle crusing the streets, the colours of New York accentuated against the darkness, Bickle's almost compulsive dialogue, like he just has to say it, and the overall atmmosphere of urban violence and immorality. Bickle's view that the city is sick is mirrored, appropriately enough, Scorsese's handling of its depiction as mean and vicious, replicating the "Night City" approach of many a film noir.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#142 Post by thecinemajack » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:08 pm

Taxi Driver is actually my all-time favorite film. Travis Bickle is an interesting character, the ultimate anti-hero of cinema in my opinion, and the atmosphere crafted by Scorsese and Schrader is one of the most involving and piercing atmospheres I've ever witnessed in a film. Needless to say, I also find it to be Scorsese's opus (obviously).
Altair wrote:I only viewed Taxi Driver for the first time in recent months in fact; to try and approach the film as unburdened as possible and influenced as to how to watch the film, I pointedly did not read up on the film at all prior to watching it on Columbia/Sony's Blu-ray (which apart from the opening Columbia logo, which is inexplicably terrible, looks beautiful in its rawness). So looking back at that initial experience, my overwhelming "feel" for the film were not the expected usual ones: "You lookin' at me?", the final shooting spree, the coda etc, etc, but instead one of Film noir. Partly of course, it is compounded by Bernard Herrmann's classic jazz score, but also the Michael Chapman's shots of Bickle crusing the streets, the colours of New York accentuated against the darkness, Bickle's almost compulsive dialogue, like he just has to say it, and the overall atmmosphere of urban violence and immorality. Bickle's view that the city is sick is mirrored, appropriately enough, Scorsese's handling of its depiction as mean and vicious, replicating the "Night City" approach of many a film noir.
I agree with this. The jazz score definitely evokes recollections of film noir, and I also think Bickle's monologue narrations are reminiscent of film noirs. Lots of shots of the loner walking or driving down a seedy road, they make your evaluation more than fair.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#143 Post by nolanoe » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:25 pm

Actually, I love Bringing out the Dead.

Derivative or not - it's the most fun one can have.
It's a shame I never saw it in a cinema.

Scorsese art his worst? Hmm... I thought his first, Who's that Knocking at your door, was pretty weak. Casino was derivative, but is a good film. I love GoNY, ever since I saw it when it came out. Still need to see NY, NY and Cape Fear.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#144 Post by thecinemajack » Tue Oct 29, 2013 3:38 pm

nolanoe wrote:Actually, I love Bringing out the Dead.

Derivative or not - it's the most fun one can have.
It's a shame I never saw it in a cinema.

Scorsese art his worst? Hmm... I thought his first, Who's that Knocking at your door, was pretty weak. Casino was derivative, but is a good film. I love GoNY, ever since I saw it when it came out. Still need to see NY, NY and Cape Fear.
I quite liked Who's That Knocking At My Door; I still think that's one of Harvey Keitel's greatest performances, probably second only to Bad Lieutenant.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#145 Post by LavaLamp » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:15 pm

This is quite possibly the best discussion thread I've ever read on a film.

Yes, TD definitely does have a very strong film noir aspect - Travis' cruising down the NY City streets at night with the neon lights, shadowy figures, etc. is quintessential noir, and evokes a great mood/atmosphere. The excellent Bernard Hermann score adds to this feeling as well; I liked the initially smooth jazzy quality to this, followed by those harsher, more foreboding sounds. Well done.

Here are some aspects of the film I found quite interesting:

-I felt the conversation that Travis had with Iris in the diner/deli quite significant; he was telling her to go back home to her parents & live a "normal" life, etc. However, IMHO he was doing this partially because he was bemoaning the fact that he himself seemed estranged from his parents - he didn't seem to have much contact with them, other than sending them birthday cards in which he lies about having a supposedly lucrative & mysterious job, a great girlfriend, etc. He obviously wasn't close to his family, and probably never saw them or spoke to them.

-There was an interesting interview with Jodie Foster I saw on the Special features of an early TD DVD. In this, she mentioned that, in her opinion, the Iris character would not stay at home with her parents after being "saved" by Travis, but would probably run away again at some point soon after. Probably true, and when I saw the end of the film with the voice-over by the parents & the newspaper articles, it seemed like Iris would run away again - she didn't seem like the type to stay at home with her convervative parents, go to school, & lead a "normal" life...

- When I first saw the film, I felt the Tom character (A. Brooks) was out of place in a serious drama; probably because by the time I finally saw TD in 2003, I had already seen Brooks in many comedies. Plus, he seemed to subtly play the character for laughs in his TD scenes (which were admittedly few).

However, when watching the movie a second time, I realized that the character is perfect in the film. Travis' contempt for Tom isn't only because he's competing with him for Betsy, but also because Tom probably represents everything Travis despises, i.e. hippies, liberals, etc.
Last edited by LavaLamp on Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:19 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re:

#146 Post by LavaLamp » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:41 pm

HerrSchreck wrote:But if anything there's just a sense of passing sadness to the scene. I still sense slight pity for him in her manner, and a slight embarassment in his. The moment in the car doesn't work for either one of them, there's no clicking, and there's a melancholy in the air.. Two people who once had a failed interlude of interaction bumping up against each other again (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.
Perfect analysis. If you watch the scene carefully, when Betsy gets out of the cab and says, "Travis..." it looks like she wants to say something else (possibly to clear the air?!), but he doesn't give her a chance - and the moment quickly passes. Great scene, with a lot left unspoken.

Though this is probably old news to most, I just watched the film on Blu-ray and was extremely impressed with the enhanced picture quality. Sure, there was some grain, but that just added to the film experience.
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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#147 Post by HerrSchreck » Mon Nov 18, 2013 3:27 pm

It's so hard for directors, especially in this stylistically hypermanipulative age, to trust that the act of putting so little conversation into a scene could cause the scene to explode with so many emotional possibilities. To trust that the few halting words and dead air will blend with the cinematography, with the actors' performances, the atmosphere of chilly damp streets outside, the neon lights and passing crowds, the music, and cause such a shower of poetry to come raining down. To intuitively trust and know that these open spaces in the text will create a wide variety of differing responses in the viewership, and to know that trusting in the possibility of this open ended poetry appearing is far superior than loading the scene with very specific emotional freight telling the viewer exactly what to think and feel.

I'm reminded of Chaplin tutoring his youthful female co-stars re that the camera magnifies immensely, and that the smallest little gesture is more than enough, and is so much more affecting than the stereotypical stagebound Victorian melodramatic air shoveling . . . and I'm reminded of Tatsuya Nakadai being instructed by Hideko Takamine on When A Woman Ascends . . to pull back from his stagebound origins and to trust the camera's magical ability to pick up subtle nuance.

The same applies with solving problems of mise en scene, and Scorsese did an incredible job--with his editor of course--with trusting that a halting scene of simple, fumbling discomfort where nothing is really said in the end would say freight trains more than having both actors climactically spill everything out for all to see. It's a fabulous scene.

These are the kinds of films where you feel--because of the possibility of a differing response each time you view it-- that something different might happen every time you watch it. Like, famously, La Regle de jou.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#148 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Nov 18, 2013 5:08 pm

I've just reread this thread, and I think one of the things that Shreck's take on it underliines is how much it's a movie about atmosphere, about a time and a place and the flow of individual shots, rather than the sort of irritating "is this all a dream?" stuff that seems to get dropped on top of it. The ending obviously has tremendous irony, but the idea that it's some silly Jacob's Ladder style unspoken twist seems rather uninteresting- but really, so does the question of what, if anything, literally happens as depicted, anywhere in the movie. We're seeing through Travis's eyes and must take the work on his terms, which means that we are caught in a hell, and we're gonna die in a hell, just like the rest of 'em, and singling out the ending as being the product of an unreliable narrator ignores how much that's clearly true throughout.

I think Shreck also nails how much the appeal of the movie, to me at least, is the appeal of a really accurate depiction of the sick place in one's (my, really) mind that seems to be the product of some combination of toxic masculinity and exposure to violence and curdled ambition and any number of other factors of living in the place and time that I live. It's certainly a White Boy syndrome- it seems to be something that comes about through a relationship with violence that sees it as deviant and externalized, and not a comprehensible part of every day life, but finds it attractive, rather than repulsive, a luxury that belongs specifically to the privileged, and you could view Travis as an extension of the Nice Guy syndrome that seems to be plaguing teen to twentysomething middle class white boys right now. Somehow his violence stops the movie from feeling like a proto-Curb Your Enthusiasm exercise in missed social cues and awkwardness (Scorsese saved that for King of Comedy) and changes the feeling of identifying with his lead from one of laugh-or-you'll-cry discomfort to one of sickly fascination, a fascination I have a difficult time getting out of my head, for all that I find Travis's primary features of violence, guns, and misogyny hateful and the sole province of people I can't stand in real life.

My girlfriend has watched this movie with me a couple of times now, and while she's someone whose taste in cinema I greatly respect, and which generally overlaps with mine, she can admire the technical film-making here without finding it attractive or wanting to rewatch it at all, there's nothing in her that Travis and his madness appeals to. I'm not sure how much of that is gendered- and surely sociologically rather than biologically determined if so- and how much is that she's from a tiny town in Vermont and seems forever to have lived in an atmosphere of genuine non-violence, while I'm from a less remarkable Floridan suburb and had violence always peeking from the fringes of nearby towns. I do wonder if Travis's racism is something that will date the movie harder than other aspects, though- while America obviously still has any number of people who automatically associate black people, and black people in the city in particular, with the filth and scum that Travis is obsessed with, for me at least it's an idea far more foreign that Travis's anti-social impulse to do something by whatever means he has handy. Certainly, the most horrifying scene in the movie, in terms of violence, is when Travis blankly murders the black stickup man, and absorbs what happens as the shopkeeper beats his body with a baseball bat- it's a scene that belies the movie's reputation for glamorizing violence, as it's almost unbearably ugly in a way the final shootout never is.

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#149 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 18, 2013 7:02 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:it's almost unbearably ugly in a way the final shootout never is.
The total lack of horror in the shopkeeper's reaction to a man being violently murdered in front of him is what makes it so sickly for me. But Scorsese makes you understand precisely the atmosphere that would produce these kinds of reactions to violence and suffering.

I've always found the final shootout to be ugly and disturbing rather than pleasurable. I think I even made a post here a while ago about how it's edited to avoid the structure of an exciting action scene (if I remember, it's full of sudden, unexpected bursts of violence that aren't set-up, after which we're finally allowed to see who shot from where. It instructive to compare it to a similar scene in a hotel in the middle of Woo's The Killer, where spatial relations are carefully set up, key actions are shown multiple times from different angles, and each moment of violence follows a action/reaction pattern). I remember feeling especially sickened by the sequence that goes from Travis pathetically grappling with the handless man on the ground, to putting a knife through his other hand, to shooting the (I'm so sorry) unarmed man point blank in the face while Iris begs him not to. The whole shootout, tho' impressive, isn't really exciting--it's grimy and nasty, as it should be. Half the time he's shooting people who don't even have a weapon in their hand (the first time he shoots Sport, and the two times he shoots the guy coming down the stairs).

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Re: Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

#150 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:18 pm

The final shoot out is grimy and unpleasant and doesn't go out of its way to make Travis's actions heroic, but that's true of something like The French Connection or Dirty Harry, too. I think the intent was probably to revolt rather than to excite, but there's a grandeur to it, even in the midst of the nightmarish way it moves from kill to kill (and incorporates the mutilation of bodies in a way that feels almost Cronenbergian) that isn't present in the matter of fact earlier scene.

It's not appealing in the straightforward way that the balletic action in a wu xia movie would be (nor the Woo movies that modernize that tradition), with the stakes clearly laid out and the honor of the combatants cleanly defined, but it has the queasy appeal of a Peckinpah movie, where it's clear that everyone involved is dirty and the action itself feels like it's going to give you tetanus- but that dirtiness makes it feel more real, and thus more exciting to an anti-social undercurrent that lives somewhere in my head. I think it's something that depends very much on the spectator, though, so I wouldn't presume to dictate the appropriate reaction to it.

It's also worth noting that, as you point out, a lot of the horror in the stickup scene centers on the shopkeeper- there's no such figure normalizing Travis's actions in the final scene, thanking him and committing further violence on the fallen bodies, and the only outside parties we do see (Iris and the cops who come in at the very end) seem appropriately horrified by it, and Travis himself realizes he's done something well outside of the social norm at this point. It's bigger, crazier and more cinematic, and thus less of a gut punch than the straightfoward murder of a man in fairly mundane circumstances.

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