STARRING: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Harvey Keitel, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks, Leonard Harris, Peter Boyle, Harry Northup, Martin Scorsese, Victor Argo, Steven Prince, Joe Spinell, Diahnne Abbott and Bob Maroff
EARNED (Worldwide): $28.3m
AWARDS: BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress
A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Taxi Driver has us follow a Vietnam War veteran named Travis Bickle, who is living in New York City, spending his time working as a taxi driver at night which works for him as he suffers from insomnia anyways. He’s a loner who has strong opinions about what is right and wrong with mankind, particularly in the city as he thinks it has deteriorated into a cesspool. As he becomes obsessed with a worker on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palantine, he also tries to strive to make the world a better place, in his mind, in one case in helping a twelve-year-old prostitute from the clutches of her pimp.
Martin Scorsese has directed many films over the last few decades, though there is few characters that will come close to being as memorable as Travis Bickle that he and Robert De Niro created here as we follow this loner, back from war that is still patrolling the streets, watching out from his yellow cab, searching for a cause that fits his points of view of his wrapped moral compass, which we get a sense of from the films opening as he drives the taxi on the streets at night, with extreme close ups of his eyes. We follow Travis throughout the film as we see him try to communicate and connect with people and how at times it goes horribly wrong, from the attempt of making conversation with the woman at the counter at the porn theatre, to his attempt of having a date with a woman he becomes obsessed with named Betsy and feel his loneliness grow as the film progresses to the point that he becomes consumed by his psychotic views on how to deal with his alienation and anger, leading to a rather violent final act. The direction from Scorsese is terrific here in setting the isolation that Bickle feels as he sits about in his apartment to how he doesn’t know how to connect after coming back from war and he’s played superbly by Robert De Niro, who captures your attention throughout. While the supporting cast is limited in their screen time, they do well in their roles, especially a very young Jodie Foster.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Travis goes to the brothel to ‘save’ Iris and put down those that get in his way.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking… you talking to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to? Oh yeah? OK.’ – Travis Bickle
DID YOU KNOW?: Paul Schrader wrote the script for Taxi Driver (1976) in ten days via two drafts, one after the other. As he was writing, he kept a loaded gun on his desk for motivation and inspiration. Bernard Herrmann’s wife says that when Martin Scorsese, then relatively unknown, called her famous husband to ask Hermann to do the score, he at first refused saying, “I don’t write music for car movies.” Hermann only accepted after reading the script, and then wrote a highly original score using dissonant brass to punctuate the inner emotions of Travis. After the initial scoring sessions, Scorsese called his composer again, insisting that he needed one more musical cue–a sting, a single frightening chord. Hermann called back a studio orchestra who were paid a day’s work for that one effect. Shortly after that ultimate session, Hermann died at the age of 64. He had begun his film career in Hollywood writing the music for Citizen Kane in 1941. Between the time Robert De Niro signed a $35,000 contract to appear in this film and when it began filming, he won an Oscar for his role in The Godfather: Part II (1974) and his profile soared. The producers were terrified that De Niro would ask for a deserved large pay raise, since Columbia was very discomfited by the project and were looking for excuses to pull the plug on it, but De Niro said he would honor his original deal so the film would get made.