Home > Uncategorized > Sunday Screening #23: Taxi Driver

Sunday Screening #23: Taxi Driver

This week’s film is selected by commenter extraordinaire: johnwm1!  Here he is to tell us a bit about Taxi Driver:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 3, 2010 at 8:53 AM

    I’ll start things off by saying that this is my favorite Martin Scorsese movie (that I’ve seen). I think it comes down to the fact that it’s a character study, which I almost always find fascinating. Travis Bickle is a multilayered character caught in a web of contradictions, and that to me is a big part of the appeal of the film. There’s Scorsese’s very arresting direction, of course, which mixes quite a few different styles and techniques. I think this helps the audience get in the tortured mindset of Travis.

    One of my favorite scenes is when Bickle takes Betsy out on the date. It’s an unbelievably uncomfortable scene, but it perfectly shows how confused Travis is, and how he does have good intentions despite the significant demons he has under the surface. Those good intentions surface again when he interacts with Iris, and it’s both touching and disturbing contrast with scenes showing what essentially is his downward spiral.

    Everyone talks about the violence, because yes, it is very violent at the end. To me, that’s the least interesting part of the movie, the fact that he brutally shoots all these people, but it’s obviously the logical conclusion of where this character was going. I personally could’ve done with less bloodshed, but I think it’s justified in the sense that it accurately portrays how twisted the character has become, without glossing over it.

    Anyone have any thoughts about the last few scenes? Hallucination, or did it really happen?

  2. LMM
    May 4, 2010 at 8:44 PM

    A few days late, but you know. I watched it years ago (In my Scorsese class in Film School. Awesome class FYI.), but wanted to refresh my memory.

    I am a big Scorsese fan, and pretty much love all of his movies. Although, I’d have to say that I think I love Mean Streets the most. Goodfellas is my favorite gangster one, but there’s something so raw about Mean Streets that I just love.

    Which is interesting, cause Keitel was the lead in MS, but DeNiro totally stole the show; and I feel that Keitel did a wonderful small role that he was very memorable for the little time he was in the movie.

    I love Scorsese’s use of both color and music in his films. They are both characters of their own. The switch in musical tones between the ‘happy’ scenes and his disturbed scenes. He uses red a lot, which I tied (in a paper for the Scorsese class I might add) to Scorsese’s Catholic background. If you pay attention, he uses a lot of Catholic elements. With the color red, red is seen as sinful. Bickle is trenched in red when he’s talking to The Wizard about doing something, ie killing Palentine. Along with the Catholic elements, morality is a huge part of the character development.

    Travis doesn’t see that his idea of what is right and wrong differs from others. This is seen when he takes Betsy to the theater. Or the fact that in order to help Iris he decides to murder her pimps. Of course, a lot of this is attributed to the screenwriter, Paul Schrader. He’s done so many Scorsese movies, it’s like they are one person (same with his editor Thelma Shooemaker).

    Scorsese also uses a lot of long takes. In my opinion, thats hard to do now a days. Everything had to be so quick and every moment action packed, you can’t have a long painful take that exposes so much of a character’s soul without saying anything. Okay, you can, but it’s mostly in the indie or foreign films. I thought the cafe/first date scene between Travis and Betsy was incredible creepy. The long pauses, the things he would say about her, diving into her soul.

    I loved how Scorsese himself was in the movie as the husband. That scene was crazy as well, and I think that was the turing point for Travis. I think he got the idea from The Husband about killing and making a difference, but I don’t think Travis sees himself in the same light as The Husband. The Husband was going to kill a cheating wife, Travis is going to kill the person who is taking his girl away from him.

    It definitely is a character story and a tortured one at that. I noticed that his kitchen table was clean in the beginning, when he knew when he had a direction, even if it wasn’t typical. Then it began to get dirty and cluttered, when he was confused and losing himself between Betsy and Iris. Then it was clean again when he had made up his mind about the killing. The killing gave him purpose. I think that’s why he decided to kill Sport and the other pimp when the assassination attempted failed. He had to kill to have purpose, so he saved Iris.

    I wasn’t bothered too much with the violence. Unless it’s Ichi the Killer, violence doesn’t bother me. I think it fits Travis’ confusion. He wants to help and save Iris, he’s just going about it the wrong way.

    You know, I think when I first saw this movie I thought the end was real. Now, and maybe it’s because I’m older and too much cause and effect minded, but I believe it’s a hallucination.
    Everything ended all nice and neatly, just like Travis wanted. Iris was safe and at home with her family. He was seen as a hero who got rid of scum and saved an innocent girl. The girl of ‘his dreams’ wants him back, but he refuses her (which, come on, is the ultimate goal of any rejection). I believe he died on the couch with the others, and instead of his life flashing in front of his eyes, he saw the future he hoped for.

  3. May 6, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    I apologize for my absence. I moved this past weekend and Census work has picked up so life has been hectic (plus, I just got hired at the Hollywood Theatre as a part-time manager, so my table is pretty full).

    Anyway, I didn’t have time to rewatch Taxi Driver (sorry John!), but I’ve seen it a few times anyway.

    It’s always been strange to me how people now refer to the violence in this film because it’s never seemed that violent to me. It’s a single outburst at the end that the film builds to, so it’s not exactly a surprise and it’s pretty quick. Of course, I had the benefit of hearing how violent it was before hand… I also don’t know if I would buy that films weren’t as violent then since Bonnie and Clyde, Jaws, The Exorcist, and The French Connection had all already been released. It’s still at the beginning, but by no means were audiences completely unprepared for it.

    I was going to ask if anyone bought into the “it’s all in his head” happy ending. I really think you have to because there is no way it all works out so great for him. The ending shows a really naive view of how the world operates, which fits Bickle’s mind pretty well.

    I’m always amused that Albert Brooks is in the film.

    I know I haven’t written much right now, but I’m still fried.

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