Newest Review: ... pimp who controls her life. Things progress down some very dark paths as Travis ups his ante in preparation for cleaning up the streets o... more
'Are you talking to me?'
Taxi Driver (DVD)
Member Name: pmcds
Taxi Driver (DVD)
Advantages: De Niro, Scorsese, writer Paul Schrader
Travis Bickle is a Vietnam veteran. Adjusting to city life after his tour isn't the easiest thing to do, especially as he sees the negative side of society in his job as a taxi driver, which he has taken due to a bout of insomnia. Travis slowly but surely becomes more and more disillusioned with the world he lives in, and reaches boiling point with political activists and prostitution top of his hates.
Essentially, this film is made powerful by three things: writer Paul Schrader was in a dark place, reportedly going through depression as he wrote this, and much of himself is present in Travis. At the same time, director Martin Scorsese wasn't having the best time in his career, and this seems to be represented in the bleak and harsh visuals and timing in the film. The third catalyst that makes this powerful is Robert De Niro's acting: there's no other way to describe it other than saying he 'IS' Travis Bickle. What you see isn't just an actor playing a character: you firmly believe that De Niro is living Travis' life and that any moment he really is going to break down and flip out.
The camera follows Travis around with little or no background noise save for the occasional powerful piece of classical music and the natural sounds of a city. People walking past and talking, distant horns, traffic and other sounds make up the back audio and this helps to make it so real. We see Travis descend into a violent man seeking to right all the wrongs in society, exacerbated by his insomnia and a repeat encounter with a 12 year old girl being used for prostitution by a local pimp (a very young Harvey Keitel). There's a brief flit with romance in the form of Cybill Shepherd and early on his boss at the taxi company serves as a kind of mentor. You get the feeling that this character, played by Peter Boyle, is the only thing keeping Travis somewhat sane, with reassurances and explanations of the job and making life easy enough for our lead role.
Scorsese almost just lets De Niro get on with it, the camera lingering while the actor performs the lines he needs to - you can see in his eyes just how much he's living the part, and the way he tries to combat his own inner demons and how he decides to do something about the situation he sees society in becomes powerful, even though little reference is made to his mental state being a bi-product of the Vietnam War, save for the occasional recognition of the combat jacket he wears. Jodie Foster comes in as Iris, the 12 year old prostitute, and is to be commended on the mature portrayal of the character. It can't have been easy.
However, everything is made to look easy and natural, as if events are flowing with no preconception and the whole thing is as spontaneous as real life can be. That's the trick here: at no point did I feel like it was just a film - this could quite easily have been a real situation that I was following in a chronological fashion, and it astounded me at just how powerful De Niro's performances used to be when he was in his prime. I have also recently watched the remake of Cape Fear with De Niro as the psychotic ex con out to get revenge on his defense lawyer. This is another role he throws himself into - here in Taxi Driver it's a more social type of psychology that comes into discussion, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. He was riveting to watch, and Scorsese's script and Schrader's writing allow for the actor to give such a tour de force, knowing the strength and passion of director and writer right there behind him. Recommended.
Summary: Excellent film about a Vietnam vet struggling to ignore the social dregs city life holds in store