A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a nighttime taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge to violently lash out, attempting to save a teenage prostitute in the process.
Year 1, Day 204
BEFORE: Martin Scorsese returns to the marathon (last directed The Aviator) with one of his earlier films, Taxi Driver. This film was actually a minor contender in the 49th Academy Awards with four nominations, including Best Picture and Actor, but no wins. I’m interested in seeing whether Scorsese’s style was different in his early years as most his films I’ve seen are from the past two decades.
AFTER: “You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” For those who didn’t know, that famous line comes from Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro, last seen in The Deer Hunter), the lonely taxi driver. And it is because of Travis that I find this film so entertaining.
In terms of style, Taxi Driver looks and feels very much like Scorsese’s other films. Last year I had to write a paper on auteur theory and Scorsese was one of the directors I focused on. The two elements I thought were the biggest part of Scorsese’s style were giving the viewer a look into a world they have never experience and the importance of relationships in life. I am such a big fan of Scorsese because of his style and his ability to create characters and an environment which I’m not used to. You live the story of Taxi Driver through Travis Bickle who seems like a nice enough guy but he doesn’t have any friends and doesn’t seem to want to make any. So you begin to care for Bickle and his plights as he tries to do the right thing. He may become a little crazy and take things too far, but there’s always that part of you who wants to cheer him on because his heart’s in his right place. He’s doing what he does for Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) and for Iris (Jodie Foster). The relationships Bickle forms are not your typical Hollywood romances. Part of you is happy for Bickle that he’s finally making friends and having more to his life than driving a taxi every night each week. But there’s also a big part that fears for Betsy and Iris because you know that Bickle isn’t all that stable and could snap at anytime.
But while I very much enjoyed the characters and the very simple story they follow, I was not that big a fan of the pacing. To bring up another controversial opinion of classic films I have, Goodfellas - Scorsese’s highly respected mob film - is not that appealing to me. Now I’ve only seen the film once and that was a few years ago so these words aren’t my definitive take on the film, but watching Taxi Driver I saw a similarity; the film dragged on. From what I remember Goodfellas was much worse in terms of length and story structure, but Taxi Driver had glimpses of these problems. I felt the film and the story of Travis Bickle would have been much better told in a more condensed way. Lengthy films are good for telling epics and broad sweeping tales of grandeur whereas I feel shorter films are much better for character examinations. Taxi Driver is by no means epic in length (it clocks in at only 113 minutes), but even ten minutes could make a big difference. The pacing didn’t make Taxi Driver unbearable to watch, it just made it less pleasant than I feel it could have been.
Taxi Driver is one of those films I feel will stick with me for a while. There wasn’t anything overly eye-catching or some big twist at the end that will keep me thinking for days (well, there was one little thing but I’ll just chalk that up to interesting). But there was something about seeing this life of a taxi driver that was oddly appealing to me and save for some minor flaws, was quite entertaining to watch.
RATING: 4 out of 5