Release Year: 1976
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schraeder
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster, Cybill Sheperd, Harvey Keitel, Albert Brooks, Peter Boyle, Leonard Harris, Harry Northup
Rating: Nominated for 4 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Supporting Actress (Jodie Foster), Best Score. Nominated for 2 Golden Globes: Best Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Screenplay)
Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro), a mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran, can’t sleep and takes a job as a taxi driver in New York City. The sleaze and dirt of the city feed his urge for some violent action to break his growing sense of isolation and comes across a twelve-year-old prostitute he attempts to save in the process.
If you had to pick a handful of films that defines the 1970s, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver would undoubtedly make it onto everybody’s list. A dark look at loneliness in the big city, urban decay, the violence of American culture, and in a circumspect way a hard look at the Vietnam War. Robert De Niro (Goodfellas, 1990) stars as Travis Bickle, the eponymous taxi driver carrying what feels like the pain of a generation on his shoulders, and delivers a portrait of an unravelling mind that is hard to top. Taxi Driver was filmed right after The Godfather: Part Two was released and made a star of De Niro, but had it been the other way around, this alone could surely have made a star of him as well. Bickle’s detour centres around two different women: Cybill Sheperd’s accompliced young woman whom Bickle falls for, and Jodie Foster’s twelve-year-old prostitute whose salvation becomes Bickle’s raison d’être after other more sinister plans fail by pure coincidence. The film’s core theme is loneliness and isolation, but it touches on so much more and each reviewing will bring to light new aspects and details, especially it’s ending will leave you pondering the many meanings of the story. It is both endlessly interesting and incredibly dark, arguably one of the hardest non-horror films to watch. Perhap’s only drawback is that it is too dark to be truly enjoyable to watch for anyone other than those with an interest in the technical side of film making. However, with a ambient score, great direction from a young Scorsese, and impeccable acting, Taxi Driver is an American classic for a reason and a must-see (at least twice) for film fans.
Between signing his contract for Taxi Driver and when filming began, Dr Niro won an Oscar for The Godfather: Part II (1974) and his profile and the salary he could demand soared. The producers were worried that De Niro would demand a raise, since the studio was discomforted by the project and looking for an excuse to pull the plug, but De Niro said he would honour his contract so the film could get made.
Jodie Foster, who was twelve years old at the time (same age as her character), could not do the more explicit scenes. Her 19-year-old sister Connie Foster was cast as body double.
The iconic mirror scene was completely ad-libbed by De Niro. The screenplay simply says “Travis looks in the mirror”.
Director Martin Scorsese can be seen sitting outside the Pallantine election office at the beginning of the film. Scorsese also plays the tai passanger who pays Travis to park so he can look at the silhouette of his girlfriend and her mistress.
Picture Copyright: Sony