All of us have gone through bouts of loneliness and alienation, but Martin Scorsese’s (The Gangs of New York, The Age of Innocence) film takes it to another level. Robert De Niro’s (Heat, Raging Bull) Travis Bickle funnels these feelings into a violent response. Travis is a nobody who dreams of being a somebody and will stop at nothing to make that happen.
An ex-Marine and Vietnam War veteran Travis Bickle lives and works in New York City. He has just gotten a job as a taxi driver. Travis works the overnight shift. As he suffers from insomnia he doesn’t mind working that shift. He spends the day watching porn films at seedy theatres or thinking about the problems in the world. Travis is a man with many ideas about why the world and especially New York has become what he sees as a cesspool.
The one positive in Travis’ life is Betsy (Cybill Shepherd – The Last Picture Show, Texasville). Betsy is a beautiful young woman who works on the presidential nomination campaign of Senator Charles Palatine (Leonard Harris). Because his mind is not stable, Travis becomes obsessed with Betsy. After messing things up with her, Travis gets it in his mind that he must do something radical in order to clean things up.
One thing he is intent on doing is “saving” the very young runaway prostitute, Iris (Jodie Foster – Silence of the Lambs, Panic Room), from what he sees as her miserable existence. Travis goes about, in a violent way, trying to get 12-year-old Iris out from under the control of her pimp, Sport (Harvey Keitel – Reservoir Dogs, The Piano).
One of Martin Scorsese’s best films is Taxi Driver. And this is saying a mouthful as the man is considered by many as our greatest living director. The man teams up with Robert De Niro yet again. The have made such winners together as “Casino”, “Goodfellas”, and “Raging Bull”. It has been a winning partnership for the two men.
The film is all about De Niro’s performance. He is wonderful. Creepy, but wonderful. He is excellent as the man who walks around New York unnoticed almost like a ghost and equally excels as the creepy mad vigilante with a Mohawk and plenty of guns. This terrific actor portrays the loneliest character I have ever seen in film.
Some have criticized the film for its violence or the fact that Travis is seen as a hero at the end of the film. It seems as if his violent behaviour has been seen to turn him into a hero. But I see it as an important foreshadowing of alienated males who turned to violence when they feel that they have been pushed to the fringes of society. Columbine. Dawson College. Virginia Tech. Travis was the original test case of the examination of the disturbed mind.
The film was the winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976 and nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture in 1976.
Whether you are pro or con the violence of the film the film as a piece of human expression is a superior one. It is a film that you can watch numerous times and has held up well. Though it was made in the 1970s it does not seem out of date. Ok, well, maybe the clothes are, but the ideas behind it are probably even more relevant today. A disturbing masterpiece.
-Previews of Taxi Driver
-Interactive Script to Screen
-Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver
-Producing Taxi Driver
-God’s Lonely Man
-Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute
-Taxi Driver Stories
-Making taxi Driver
-Travis’ New York
-Travis’ New York Locations
-Intro to Storyboards by Martin Scorsese
-Storyboard to Film Comparison