Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: Paul Schrader
Cinematographer: Michael Chapman
Producer: Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips
by Jon Cvack
Continued from Part 1...
The entire political backdrop to the film is one of my favorite elements, providing such an eerie vibe throughout the story. Like The Game, it makes me want to experience the whole thing all over again, not fully grasping the details while getting lost within the world. Although I can’t recall what I felt the first time, I assume it was expecting Travis to kill the Senator. As he sinks further into despair, spouting off his nihilistic rhetoric, watching his mind melt away; as he believes the world is sinking into shit, you can’t but think he’d want to kill the Senator. Even after the first viewings, and even for a second on this one, I always wonder if he’s going to go off and do it. Like many great films (with Titanic being off the top of my head), the characters are so real that I feel as though hoping they’ll make a better decision this time around and change the film. I think it’s one of the most miraculous reactions to have when watching a movie; to retain hope that this thing which is unchangeable could maybe be different on a subsequent viewing.
In the end, I’m left always wondering what it all means. I’ve compared great films to great music before, and it seems fitting again. You can’t put words to what a great song makes you feel, and the same applies to Taxi Driver. When I read about the film on Wikipedia and see that Travis is only 26-years old, it becomes a much more frightening tale. The way college students are attracted to the film is a kind of unnerving to think about. Many connected to his sense of alienation and view of the world, but even then, when you look up his quotes, most of it is homophobic and racist. He hates the city, seeing non-whites as amoral; easily comparable to a neo-Nazi, or any other far-right extremist pissed about where the country’s going. When you’re young and angry and feel like everyone’s an idiot for not knowing how smart you are, having a character this well developed allows you to connect. Deep down I think those who idolize Travis Bickle have some dark or even nightmarish desire of their own. Why else have the poster of the man, or dress up as him? He’s the type of person we hear about every other week on the news, who shot up a crowd, school, or church, completely deranged and ill; and yet people connect to that. I think that’s more interesting than anything the film might explore.
It all attests to cinema’s “badass” ability to transport you into another world. The feeling that Scorsese conveyed was alienation, anger, and dissatisfaction. If this movie came out today, given the political climate, I’m sure it’d be equally as successful. This is that rare story where hardly anyone finds it to look or feel antiquated. It’s what happens when a genius filmmaker assembles his team in order to execute a vision, which ends up ushering in an entire lifetime of imitation. Many have attempted, but no one has made another Taxi Driver. And I think a large part of that is because no one wants to portray a horrible person with such humanity. The closest film to this is Downfall, where some criticized the film for humanizing Hitler. What most saw was a real and powerful portrait of a complex man, who just so happened to be a monster. Imagine a film coming out today with a white man ranting racial epithets into a mirror, holding guns? The Social Media warriors would attack that film with grand fury, citing it as a reason some person in real life kills someone, even though it’s been happening all along. The thing is, though, that people like this do exist, and they are complex. It’s only by opening them up that we could maybe understand. It takes a great mind to find the balance, and maybe that’s why only a few have ever come close to replication.
BELOW: Dylan Roof, Nikoas Cruz, James Holmes - I suspect they all related to Travis Bickle (though no I don't think the movie affected their actions in any way)
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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