Friday, 8 January 2016

Taxi Driver (1976)

"Some day real rain will come and wash these scum off the streets."

What to say about Taxi Driver that hasn't been said already? That it's a towering cinematic study of loneliness and of the kind of dangerously alienated outsider who will one day explode horribly, that Robert De Niro's performance here is one of the greatest performances ever?

There's not much new to say about this justifiably acclaimed film, really. But I'll try.

Travis isn't just alienated and alone- he talks to lots of people but connects with none of them- he's stuck in a dead end job with no hope, probably a virgin, and left with nothing but his macho fantasies, his dislike of what he doesn't understand and his need to find people to whom he can feel superior. The taxi, with its separation from the passengers, is a fitting metaphor for Travis' disconnection from the world.

There are some superb performances from a young Jodie Foster and Harvey Keitel, but the film relies on De Niro as much as any production of Hamlet relies on the actor playing the Dane, and he's just as good here as any of the best screen performances in that role. It's something about his eyes, his delivery. He inhabits Travis, perhaps the most frightening character in cinema, a character who is wound up tight and inevitably going to unravel.

The film gives us a surprising and unexpected "happy" ending as Travis escapes in caught from his clumsy attempt at political assassination and instead ends up lauded as a fifteen minute hero for violently rescuing the twelve year old Iris from her pimp, but even this makes us uneasy. Travis' life is no better than before. He's snapped before and he'll snap again. We end the film with all the tension of a time bomb waiting to happen.

As usual for Scorsese we get a superb soundtrack and impeccable direction for this art film about working class alienation, which sounds almost Marxist for a Hollywood film. 

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