Dir.: Martin Scorsese
With: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster
Where to begin? “Taxi Driver” has a 98% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, was nominated for four Oscars, won the Palme d’Or in 1976 and is amongst the 100 AFI best films of all time. It is now on release at selected cinemas in the UK, which is a great chance to watch it again, or for the first time, on a big screen. It influenced a number of respected directors, firmly established De Niro on the acting Olympus, discovered Jodie Foster, spurned a huge amount of parodies and its ‘You talkin’ to me?’ scene is one of the most famous monologues in film history.
I remember watching it for the first time and how giddy it made me feel. Travis Bickle, the protagonist and the taxi driver of the film’s title, is the epitome of loneliness and isolation in a big city. He is the real enigma of the story. Nothing is told about his background, there are a few hints at his service at Vietnam and parents who live somewhere far away. His 12-hour shifts driving through neon-lit New York with all its dirt, sin and ugliness become a nightmarish backdrop for one man’s decent into delirium. Sometimes it is hard to tell where reality ends and dreaming begins – some of the scenes seem to be so fantastic and yet believable that they might as well exist in Travis’s mind.
His fruitless attempts at establishing some kind of connection with other human beings are very pitiful and tragically funny. It is no wonder that he ends up taking on a role of a crusader, someone outside the law and forever lonesome in his apparent heroism. The sense of responsibility he acquires for Iris, a twelve-year-old prostitute played by Jodie Foster, is incredibly moving and their scenes together remind me of a brother-sister relationship. At the same time Iris, with her childish body and clothes appears much older and wiser than Travis. He is in some ways more helpless than she is.
I cannot stress enough how worthwhile it would be to watch this film. It is one of those stories that will shock you, move you and will stay with you forever. The ending will leave you guessing whether any of the violence actually took place or whether it is all a product of Travis’s imagination. I’d recommend going to see it at night and taking a taxi home afterwards :)