You Talkin’ to Me?: Urban Alienation and Insanity

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March 10, 2014 by Welcome to the Jungle

taxi driverYou Talkin’ to Me?: Urban Alienation and Insanity
Review by Rob. H.

Taxi Driver
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Columbia Pictures (1976)

Taxi Driver is a 1976 classic staring Robert De Niro that paints a terrifying picture of urban alienation and loneliness for its tragic anti hero.

Directed by Martin Scorsese, Taxi Driver is the story of a troubled anti hero named Travis Bickle, played excellently by Robert De Niro. Travis is a tormented young man who after serving as a United States Marine in the Vietnam War, received an honourable discharge and now lives in Manhattan. Socially inept, and plagued by insomnia, depression and bordem, he now works a twelve hour graveyard shift driving taxi’s almost every day to keep himself entertained. Travis canvases the dirty boroughs of the city, and his clients consist of pimps, prostitutes, and other unsavoury characters, all of which irritate and visibly disgust him. He fantasizes about “cleaning up” the streets, which he admits to a US Senator named Charles Palantine, a President hopeful. As the movie progresses, Travis’s paranoia begins to get the best of him, and he begins to act on his violent fantasies. This path of self destruction leads to an political assassination attempt and a climatic shootout, before an ambiguous ending. Along the way, Travis meets a campaign worker named Betsy, a romantic interest who plays an imoratnt role in the first half of the film, and becomes obsessed with rescuing a twelve year old prostitute named Iris, who plays an important role in the latter half of the film.
While all of the actors do an exceptional job in this film, no performance is better than that of Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle. He is simply mesmerizing every time that he appears on screen. The viewer feels sorrow for him, due to his awkward and socially You talkinginept demeanour. Travis struggles to fit in with society, and many of his attempts are cringe worthy, further fuelling the audiences sympathy for the character, despite his mental instability and violent actions. His classic line “You talkin’ to me?”, which he asks his reflection in the mirror in a subtly threatening tone hammers home the point of how lonely he is, as well as foreshadows the violence he is dangerously close to.

The only other actor in the movie that comes close to De Niro is Martin Scorsese in a small, but pivotal cameo role that changes the entire course of the movie. The character he plays leaves both the audience and our deranged hero Travis feeling very uncomfortable.
Taxi Driver was one of Martin Scorsese’s first films, and many elements explored in Taxi Driver become staples of his later work, such as Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and The Departed. Director trademarks such as the theme of redemption and the use of slow-motion are used in Taxi Driver. Like many of his other films, Scorsese makes a quick cameo in Taxi Driver.
Taxi Driver, was highly controversial at the time it was released due the violence and gore, which had previously been unseen in movies at this time. The special effects were so good that to attain an “R” rating, the color of the blood had to be altered in post production. There are no computed generated images in the Taxi Driver. The main title music is soft and soothing jazz, however it conveys a sense of loneliness, appropriate for the main character. The remainder of the music is jazz, but heavier on the drums. This music evokes the image of film noire, a genre that clearly had a large influence in the making of Taxi Driver. The music does not detract from the story in anyway, and serves to enhance dialogue and visuals.
Taxi Driver is an excellent movie, and something that everyone with an interest in movies should watch. It has excellent acting, excellent cinematography, and an excellent script. I give Taxi Driver a ten out of ten, and cannot deliver enough praise to this film. It simply is one of the greatest films of all time, and in 1994 was selected for preservation by the National Film Register, after being deemed “Culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant by the US Library of Congress.

Rob. H. is a grade 12 student at FHS.

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