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mdtinney's Movie Reviews (315)

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Taxi Driver (1976) 
A disturbing yet fascinating Scorses Masterpiece!
4/4 stars

It's not everyday when you come across an "out of body' experience. The last time I felt it at the movies was when I saw Star Wars. That was before I saw Taxi Driver. I rented Taxi Driver and was blown away. I couldn't even say a word until ten minutes after it was over. How was it that a movie like this could have such an impact?

The film stars Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle who takes on a taxi career after serving in the Marines in Vietnam and suffering from some horrible discharge. From the beginning we already feel something unpleasant about Travis. We can see that he's lonely, reserved and a bit socially awkward. We sense something more intense underneath but we don't really know what it is. Wandering into porn movie theaters makes him seem even more lonely and perverted. This is his quality time after long days of witnessing a violent atmosphere of pimps, prostitutes and homeless drug addicts.Taxi life sure isn't the solution to his miserable and solitary life. But one day, Travis spots a girl played by Cybil Shepard who works at a campaign headquarter for a presidential candidate. We watch Travis trying to flirt and ask her out and although it seems charming to an average bimbo, it comes across as totally awkward. There are long pauses of silence and observations that sound creepily insulting. "I can see the way you carry yourself that you're not a happy person" he says. When he takes her out to lunch, we see Travis's loneliness amplified with a a mild sense of paranoia. This scene is utterly ironic in how we see a typical first date as sounding nervous and alienating. Who is this guy? Cybil seems intrigued by him and is reminded of a Kris Kristoferssen song: "he's a poet and a pusher, partly truth, partly fiction, a walking contradiction." It's a great description of Travis but he immediately gets insulted. Rather then analyze the song, he just gets defensive." "I'm not a pusher and I never have pushed." He proves himself wrong. After a bad date of trying to take her to a porno movie, he can't take "no" for an answer. We start to see more of Travis's creepy personality unfold as he obsesses over her by sending flowers and finally bursting in the office to yell and scream at her. Why doesn't he get it? After all the drunks, weirdos and psychos he picks up, couldn't he learn something ? No, instead, he is driven to a plan of madness. We don't know exactly what but its definitely building inside him. We see this in an amazing scene with Peter Boyle outside a cafeteria. Their interaction reinforces the loneliness and alienation between these characters. Its a quiet scene but its so true in its portrayal that it seem scary.

The film looks like a documentary at times because we see street action in the background that weaves in and out of the foreground giving you a sense of real life drama. Some of the shots are particularly shocking and so matter of fact. When an encounter with a pimp turns bloody, we see it from a distance as if we were pedestrians witnessing a crime. The violence in this film is anything but glorified. It puts the film in a gritty and dirty atmosphere that we don't want to participate in. But its not just the violence that hooks us in, its the bizarre and psychological mysteries that carry the story. How did Travis get infatuated with Cybil Shepard? Was it coincidence that she worked for the presidential nominee? How events happen and get traced in this film is utterly disturbing. I still can't explain how a film could have an impact to the magnitude that it did. One thing I do know is the director (Martin Scorsese), the screenwriter (Paul Schrader) and the main actor (Robert DeNiro) were all going through similar experiences during the making of this film. That is rare in a field that involves a lot collaboration. When it does happen it as it did, it becomes truly magical. This is without a doubt, one of Scorsese's best film to date.


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