OTB#5: Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver. Martin Scorsese. 1976. ⚅

OK, let me just tell you where I’m coming from: I don’t like Martin Scorsese’s movies. All the ones I can recall seeing are about uninteresting morons that do uninteresting and stupid things. They’re usually competently shot, with a cast of actors that make watching the movies not sheer torture, but

And I loved the way Hollywood collectively stuck up their middle fingers at The Irishman this year by nominating the film in every possible category, and then not giving it a single award. That’s savage!

OK?

But I haven’t seen this film since the 80s. Perhaps it’s the Scorsese movie that’s actually any good?

[fifty minutes pass]

This movie is really good! It’s possible that I’ve never seen it before, because none of it is familiar to me, and these shots are so iconic that I think I’d have remembered? Anyway; as usual with Scorsese, it’s about some moron, but this time he’s actually insane! Psychotic! It’s like he could kill Cybill Shepherd any moment! I’m not sure whether that’s what Scorsese is going for here, or whether he imagined that we would sympathise with this deranged person (probably?), but I’m here just going “EEEP!” and enjoying myself.

I’ve never seen De Niro better than he’s here — he’s completely believable (within the context of this pretty unrealistic framework). The cinematography is so engaging — all the saturated nighttime colours. Love it.

[the end]

OK, there’s nothing as shocking as seeing Harvey Keitel with long hair and muscles. NOTHING!

Anyway, this was really good. At first I didn’t quite know where they were going with the Jodie Foster sub-plot. Was this going to be the usual “Nazi (or whatever) killer protagonist — but he’s kind to dogs, so it’s all deep and stuff: See, it’s so deep!” thing? And… It kinda is? But it kinda isn’t. I know, that’s very erudite.

And, just let me say: Foster, at thirteen, doing those scenes: Eep. But it sounds like it wasn’t as creepy as it’s in the movie:

But what you did in that movie is so incredible and you had to do scenes with De Niro. Were you nervous? Were you scared?

Well, I made a lot of movies before then. So I had probably made way more movies than Robert de Niro and Martin Scorsese at that point. I’d probably made, I don’t know, 10 or 11 movies. So I wasn’t nervous. I think I was too young to be nervous. But, um, Robert de Niro decided to sort of take me under his wing and he would continually take me out to coffee shops and run the lines with me, sort of in character, and then do improvs, which I didn’t 100 percent understand, but by the time we really started shooting, I really understood what he had done.

It does have some of the same problems that Apocalypse Now has: It depicts somebody that the filmmakers are critical of (Kilgore, Travis), but inevitably makes them seem really cool. I’m guessing that a significant portion of men have modelled themselves explicitly on this scene:

He is, of course, a schizophrenic guy rehearsing killing a random politician… but doesn’t he look cool doing it?

And… I now understand why Scorsese is a thing: He made this one good movie, and people are fantasising that his other movies are good. You can see the same syndrome with, say, Kenneth Branagh and even actors like Nicolas Cage, where they made some really strong stuff early on, and then everybody… overrates… their later work, even if they haven’t made anything worthwhile in decades.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

4 thoughts on “OTB#5: Taxi Driver”

    1. Indeed. But now I can’t edit it without making your comment seem nonsensical! What a conundrum!

Leave a Reply