“You talkin’ to me?” is one of the most iconic lines in film history. The scene consists simply of Robert De Niro talking to himself, standing in front of a mirror fantasizing about pulling a gun on someone. It is a great memorable scene but definitely not flashy, much like the overall tone of this film. But for that line to be the only thing remembered from Martin Scorsese’s masterful TAXI DRIVER would be an injustice to the classic film.
At its core TAXI DRIVER is a film about a late night New York City taxi driver. However, the character depth of 26-year old Travis Bickle (brilliantly played by Robert De Niro) is far more complicated. Travis has strong opinions but is socially awkward and his eyes to the city discover more than anyone should ever be exposed to. He becomes obsessed with Betsy (played by an incredibly gorgeous Cybill Shepherd), a young worker on the presidential election campaign. His assured confidence is sweet and charming but his lack of social awareness leads him destined to be alone. As the New York evenings wear on, Travis becomes more and more disgusted by the corruptness and filth that he bares witness to night after night. One sad product of this dark world is a 12-year old prostitute named Iris (wonderfully portrayed by Jodie Foster), whose tragic lifestyle becomes a breaking point for Travis. Fed up by bad people doing bad things, Travis strives to make a difference, however his reasoning and actions seem to go down the same dark path that he despises and skews the line between hero and villain.
Capturing the inner dealings of New York City nightlife from a taxi driver’s perspective is an interesting feat to say the least. Beware, this New York City is a seedy place, heightened by the saxophone driven musical score played throughout the film. Director Martin Scorsese shows no mercy exposing the breeding cesspool within the city while admiring it at the same time. Putting the audience in the driver’s seat, almost the entire point of view is from the Travis’ perspective. We see what he sees and feel what he feels. Verbally describing his frustration, Travis narrates his job without a hint of irony or emotion as he explains the horrific ongoings within his taxicab. Something is clearly not right with the people in this city and furthermore something is also not quite right with Travis Bickle.
The methodic slow pace surprisingly doesn’t bore in the least but rather heightens a sense of suspense on what is going to happen next. Not knowing much about the past of Travis Bickle, De Niro still manages to create sympathy for this border psychotic character. Through superb acting and excellent direction the audience is forced into his confusing yet slightly understandable frame of mind.
Landing at number 47 on American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films and nominated for four Oscars at the 1976 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Score, TAXI DRIVER is widely consider one of the greatest films of all time. It is impressive with its unlikely subject and narrative. Somewhat hypnotic in its deliberate methodic movement, the film abruptly quickens to an explosive ending that will stick with you long after you finish your much-needed shower.
Video: (1.85:1 1080p High Definition) With a nearly flawless transfer, the picture looks fantastic cleaning up all the faulty clarity.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD MA) The sound is clear and affective.
Interactive Script To Screen: Allows the audience to read along with the script as the movie is played.
Original 1986 Commentary with Martin Scorsese and Writer Paul Schrader Recorded by the Criterion Collection: Listening to Scorsese is extremely educational and I would recommend this to any aspiring filmmaker or anyone passionate about the film medium. Schrader also gives a deeper insight into his script. Highly recommendable.
Commentary with Professor Robert Kolker: I find these commentaries from film historians or experts that are not involved with the movie only fans to be very interesting. An outsiders educated opinion gives fresh tidbits and clever tactics used either on purpose or by accident by the filmmaker.
Commentary with Writer Paul Schrader: These are similar notes that he has said before adding a few new anecdotes only with longer spaces of silence.
Martin Scorsese on Taxi Driver (16:52): Scorsese is always detailed with his thoughts and he is no different here.
Producing Taxi Driver (9:53): Producer Michael Phillips gives a detailed account of getting the film made
God’s Lonely Man (21:42): A deeper look at the character of Travis Bickle and his identifiable loneliness from writer Paul Schrader.
Influence and Appreciation: A Martin Scorsese Tribute (18:30): A bunch of people singing praises upon working with Marty and his brilliant skills as a director at such a young age.
Taxi Driver Stories (22:23): These are interviews with guys who were actual Taxi Drivers during the time the film takes place and the dangerous and unusual stories they experienced in their profession. This is a pretty interesting insight into the history of the cabbie profession.
Making Taxi Driver (1:10:55): an in depth and detailed look at the entire process of making the film. This is definitely the crème of the crop of the features covering nearly all aspects of the film with interviews with just about everyone involved looking back and discoing their experience.
Travis’ New York (6:16): A discussion and description of what New York City was like in the 1970’s.
Travis’ New York Locations (4:49): Nine different scenes in the film from 1975 compared with footage taken in 2006 using split screen to see how the city has changed.
Storyboard to Film Comparisons with Martin Scorsese Introduction (12:53): Scorsese talks about visual sketches he used to help get his film made and made sure to get those shots first. A split screen of the crude sketches compared with the actual scene.
Animated Photo Galleries (9:28): These are images of the musical score, location shots, publicity materials and Scorsese working.