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Taxi Driver (1976) - Martin Scorsese

Related: alienation - New York - Martin Scorsese - American cinema - 1976

Taxi Driver (1976) - Martin Scorsese [Amazon.com]

Notes from the Underground has been cited by Paul Schrader as an influence when he wrote the screenplay for the film Taxi Driver, which has existential themes. The film actually quotes Dosteovsky in the line: "I'm God's lonely man."


Taxi Driver is a 1976 film written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro stars as the title character. Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Peter Boyle are also featured.

Travis Bickle (De Niro), an alienated, sexually repressed young man from the Midwest, has recently been discharged from the Marines. He suffers from insomnia and consequently takes a job as taxi driver in New York and volunteers to work the overnight shift. Bickle spends his spare time watching pornography in seedy theaters and driving around purposelessly.

Bickle is horrified by what he considers the moral decay around him, and when Iris (Foster), a 12½ year-old prostitute, gets in his cab one night, he becomes obsessed with saving her despite her complete lack of interest in the idea.

Bickle is also obsessed with Shepherd's character, an aide for a New York State Senator. She agrees to a date with Bickle, but he takes her to a pornographic film [Kärlekens språk/Language of Love (1969)], and she leaves, disgusted.

Bickle then plans to assassinate the Senator. When this fails, he kills Iris's pimp (Keitel). He is wounded in the fight, and seems to be dying.

The climactic shoot-out was, for its era, intensely graphic, and retains much of its visceral impact today. To attain an "R" rating, Scorsese altered the colors in the scene to make the brightly-colored blood less prominent.

A brief epilogue of sorts ends the film and shows Shepherd hiring Bickle's cab, and commenting on his "saving" Iris. Some have seen this epilogue as Bickle's dying fantasy, while others see it as a real resolution of Bickle's acts.

Roger Ebert has written of the film's ending, "There has been much discussion about the ending, in which we see newspaper clippings about Travis' 'heroism', and then Betsy gets into his cab and seems to give him admiration instead of her earlier disgust. Is this a fantasy scene? Did Travis survive the shoot-out? Are we experiencing his dying thoughts? Can the sequence be accepted as literally true? ... I am not sure there can be an answer to these questions. The end sequence plays like music, not drama: It completes the story on an emotional, not a literal, level. We end not on carnage but on redemption, which is the goal of so many of Scorsese's characters." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxi_Driver [Oct 2004]

Amazon review

Taxi Driver is the definitive cinematic portrait of loneliness and alienation manifested as violence. It is as if director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader had tapped into precisely the same source of psychological inspiration ("I just knew I had to make this film," Scorsese would later say), combined with a perfectly timed post-Watergate expression of personal, political, and societal anxiety. Robert De Niro, as the tortured, ex-Marine cab driver Travis Bickle, made movie history with his chilling performance as one of the most memorably intense and vividly realized characters ever committed to film. Bickle is a self-appointed vigilante who views his urban beat as an intolerable cesspool of blighted humanity. He plays guardian angel for a young prostitute (Jodie Foster), but not without violently devastating consequences. This masterpiece, which is not for all tastes, is sure to horrify some viewers, but few could deny the film's lasting power and importance. --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

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