By Chrystal Hooi
Directed by Martin Scorsese in 1976, “Taxi Driver” clinched the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. Scorsese is well-acclaimed for films such as Mean Streets (1973) and Raging Bull (1980).
Taxi Driver may seem like a love story on the surface, however it is beyond Travis, ex-Marine and taxi driver, trying to win the heart of beautiful blonde lady Betsy. The film is about his subjective view of New York City, as Travis says, “This city is like an open sewer. It’s full of filth and scum” and how he goes to ‘clean’ the city in his mentally instable state.
Before Travis (Robert De Niro) became a taxi driver, he was trained to fight in the Vietnam War, which caused him to be stripped of his personality, leaving him to be an empty shell with supressed anger and violence within him. Now, after he’s done fighting physically, he’s struggling with an inner war inside his mind.
Even when he got the job as a taxi driver, he didn’t mind working through the night so that he could find some purpose for his existence. This is accompanied by a slight faint sound of a ticking clock, seemingly portraying Travis like a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode amidst the crowd.
There is also an element of irony in the film, when Travis brought Betsy out on a date to watch a porn movie. On one hand Travis unintentionally ‘degraded’ Betsy, but on the other hand he wanted to save Iris from her prostitute ways, showing that he was struggling with his self-identity.
The film also focuses a lot on Travis’ emotions and portrays it through stills and dollies in various scenes.
One iconic scene is a shot of Travis on a payphone, where Betsy turns him down, the camera slowly dollies towards the right, revealing a hollow hallway. It reflects Travis’ pain of being rejected, as if we could not bear to watch him suffer.
Contrary to his sadness, time bomb Travis finally goes off as he explodes into a crazy killing rampage in order to save a 12 year old prostitute, Iris, from her job, with the camera shooting him shoot (pun intended) the time keeper and her boss in slow motion, giving the viewers full view of the whole scene as if you were there. Followed by that is a close-up shot of Travis with his hands soaked in blood as he shoots himself with an imaginary gun made from his hands. With his whole face taking up the frame, you can see his expression of relief from the drama, with all that supressed anger and pent-up frustration with himself and the society.
The camera then cuts to a long pan from the ceiling, slowly revealing the gruesome aftermath of the urban violence, in a full and raw bird’s eye view.
We don’t know the back-story of Travis, where is he from, why did he become a taxi driver, what are his issues, why isn’t he with his parents, or where his scar came from because this film is not a biography of Travis, but moments of his life, where Scorsese selects details for the film that we need to know that evokes the right emotions and that depicts his directing style.
This horror melodrama allowed viewers to see a sad psychotic Travis in his point of view, acclaimed a Palme d’Or in the Cannes Film Festival in 1976 and definitely a must-watch for those who love gore and killing shot in slow-motion.
List of References:
Cinema Autopsy. 1983. Film review – Taxi Driver (1976). [online] Available at: http://blog.cinemaautopsy.com/2011/07/04/film-review-taxi-driver-1976/ [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Ebert, R. 1976. Taxi Driver Movie Review & Film Summary (1976) | Roger Ebert. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/taxi-driver-1976 [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Mcmillan, D. 1976. Provide a detailed critical analysis of the ideological dimensions of a single media text. [online] Available at: http://www.derekmcmillan.com/taxidriv.htm [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].
Raymond, M. 2002. Senses of Cinema – Martin Scorsese. [online] Available at: http://sensesofcinema.com/2002/great-directors/scorsese/ [Accessed: 8 Jul 2013].
About the author:
Chrystal is a girl just trying to get things done in her life, one crisis at a time.