"You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking to...You talking to me?” Travis Bickle
Director Martin Scorsese has gone on record to say that "I put everything of myself into Taxi Driver. Many of us did. We wouldn't have had it any other way." Rewatching his acclaimed film again, some 40 years later there is no doubt this to be the case. Scorsese brings to life vividly Paul Shrader's screenplay, which tells the story of a Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) and his increasingly psychotic disgust at the nocturnal New York street life he observes from his taxi.
Charles Michener wrote of Taxi Driver in Film Comment in 1976, 'Scorsese is a fantasist who supercharges the clichés of Taxi Driver into the surreal figments of a nightmare that is at once comic, romantic and terrifying.'
"It's like you're not even there, not even a person. Nobody knows you." Travis Bickle
Scorsese, now rightly seen as a master of cinema, is helped in no small way by a screenplay from Paul Schrader, who at this time was famously known for selling his first screenplay, The Yakuza (released in 1975, The Yakuza was directed by Sydney Pollack and starred Robert Mitchum) for the then astonishing sum of $300,000.
"All my life needed was a sense of direction, a sense of someplace to go. I do not believe one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, but should become a person like other people." Travis Bickle
Secondly the film is centred round a simply brilliant performance from Robert De Niro. His grim intensity of an avenging angel with a skewed moral compass is breathtaking. De Niro as Travis Bickle was also joined by Cybil Shepherd’s Betsy as the object of Bickle's fevered dreams, Harvey Kietel as Sport and Jodie Foster as Iris.
Jodie Foster was only 12 years old when she filmed Taxi Driver and so she had to be protected from the adult themes required by her character. Her elder sister Connie doubled for her during these scenes.
"Why do you want me to go back to my parents? They hate me. Why do you think that I split? There ain't nothing for me there." Iris
Prior to Taxi Driver Scorsese and De Niro and made Mean Streets and subsequent collaborations between them would include New York, New York (1977), Raging Bull (1980), The King of Comedy (1983) and GoodFellas (1990).
"She appeared like an angel out of this open sewer." Travis Bickle
And thirdly Bernard Herrmann's (Citizen Kane, Vertigo, North by Northwest) vibrant and at times nostalgic score frames the film beautifully.
With its tough subject matter the film of course does not sound like a cinematic hit, in fact Schrader was told by De Niro that people would be watching Taxi Driver 50 years later and whether anybody watched the film upon its release was not important. However the film did find an audience, critics raved about it and here we are excited to see it again on the big screen. Sight and Sound magazine conducted a poll in 2012, asking critics to vote for their Greatest Films of All Time and Taxi Driver ranked 31st, quite some feat for a film that was shot says Schrader on a "nickel and dime."
"My whole life has pointed in one direction. I see that now." Travis Bickle
Taxi Driver pulls in to Showcase as part of our Flashback season on Tuesday January 10, 7.30pm and Friday January 13, 10pm