Thursday, August 28, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXXVI

Taxi Driver
This 1976 film directed by Martin Scorsese ends with a mixed message. While Robert De Niro's character Travis Bickle's first instinct is to lash out in a destructively antisocial manner because he was jilted by a woman (Cybill Shepherd's character Betsy), the way he finally lashes out in a destructively antisocial manner -- to free Jodie Foster's street-walking Iris Steensma -- secures him as hero. While his motivations in the latter violent outburst are understandably more laudable, Bickle's more antihero than hero as his post-Vietnam war trauma and trials add up to a distaste for most New Yorkers, if not the city itself. The movie's cast is awesome, including an early role by Harvey Keitel and a political campaign nebbish played by Albert Brooks, and the cinematography is solid. Even though I don't think the "You talkin' to me" line is the most memorable (I much prefer the following exchange: "I think you are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen," "But how do you feel about the candidate, Palatine?"), it's clear why this movie has found such a priveleged place in late-'70s filmmaking. And finally, Bernard Hermann's score, his last, adds a layer of jazzy atmosphere to a film that becomes increasingly dark and desperate.

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