A film student's recommendations, reviews and essays on motion pictures new and old
A Modern Classic: Martin Scorsese’s Taxi DriverDecember 2nd, 2011 at Fri, 2nd, 2011 at 3:11 pm by samuelhwolfe
Recently, a friend and I were speaking about the dominant theme of loneliness in Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
The general summary of our conversation could be described as follows: for the beautiful, talented, smart, and/or gifted people of the world, love and acceptance come easily. But, for those who are ugly, fat, dumb, or whatever you want to label them as, life is just plain hard.
Think about what we do when we’re lonely. For one, we think to ourselves either consciously or subconsciously, “This doesn’t feel good.” Then, a desire to eradicate the inner torture that loneliness bestows upon us occurs. In some cases, when this constant state of solitude becomes the every day normal routine for someone, the lengths they will go to find significance can be drastic. This was obviously true for Travis in Taxi Driver. In our society, extremely drastic measures taken by lonely people in order for them to feel of importance are labeled as acts of madness or terrorism. Just think what the headlines would’ve read had Travis gone through with his plan to kill the senator.
Mark Twain said the following regarding classic literature, “A classic is something everybody wants to have read, but no one wants to read.” I suspect the same holds true for classic cinema, and undoubtedly, Taxi Driver falls into the category of a classic. Well, a “modern classic” perhaps. But anyway, I’m not sure what it is about old movies that inhibits us from wanting to see them. For me, I guess it would be the dramatized theater style acting, distracting scores, and by today’s standards, poor image quality. But again, it seems that in order to even begin to acquire a thorough understanding of cinema, it’s absolutely necessary to understand the origins and establish a respect for the important landmarks of the art.
Taxi Driver movie follows the life of a man named Travis (Robert De Niro), a NYC taxi driver who works 12 hour night shifts, prepared to drive anywhere and willing to drive any customer. He journals about his lonely life and after a failed relationship observes, “I realize now how much she’s just like the others, cold and distant, and many people are like that…” Travis’s isolation becomes overwhelming and he recedes deep into his own mind, convincing himself he must assassinate a U.S. senator. But at the same time, Travis also finds himself drawn to a young girl (Jody Foster) who is stuck in a life of prostitution. He desperately wants to help her get out. Travis’s frustration with the world around him grows until the film’s climax comes out of nowhere and hits you like a train.
Personally, I was able to stay involved with Taxi Driver was because of De Niro’s eerily convincing portrayal of a lonely man with nothing to lose and searching for anything to gain. This is achieved largely through the talent of Robert De Niro, as his narration provides for a very realistic and troubling look into the point of view of someone who has nobody and nothing to his name.
Next time you’re browsing for a movie at the video store, bypass all the new releases (which are mostly trash) and get this movie instead. You’ll be glad you did.