Monday, May 28, 2018

Top 140 Things I Love About Taxi Driver (that no one talks about)

As far as my film tastes are concerned, Taxi Driver is the one. The boss of it all. The best of the best. I saw Martin Scorsese’s urban masterpiece for the first time when I was 10 years old. A few years later, I began hailing it as my favorite film of all time, which is still the case to this day. I love everything about this movie, and, as a result, have a lot to say about it. Taxi Driver has been viewed, studied and discussed for decades, so the “no one talks about” aspect of this post may not be entirely true. But, alas, here’s my deep dive into the conflicted, frenzied, tortured mind of Travis Bickle.

The music blares. The smoke rises. And through the smog, as if ascending from hell, the cab appears. Chills. All the chills. Here is…

Love how the music transitions from menacing (while the actor credits roll), to something much softer once Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) first appears. The music then goes back to menacing, then back to calm. We aren’t being led to feel one way or the other. It’s like we’re inside Travis’ tortured, unfocused mind.

I have dreams that look like this. Blurry, hazed, neon, rain-soaked. This movie is so engrained in my subconscious.

The smoke from the street somehow finding its way into the cab office. The street is a plague, forever on Travis’ back, threatening to consume him.

“Harry, answer that,” the great Joe Spinell barks. And then we cut to a reverse shot, and see Harry sitting there, talking on the phone. Like… why the hell didn’t the guy answer the phone earlier? He’s just sitting there. There’s a dark, curious humor contained in much of this movie, and it deserves to be talked about more.

Love the way Travis briefly looks off camera during his excellent delivery of this line.

Travis’ expression changing in an instant while his future boss berates him.

Travis’ embarrassment as he describes his level of education.

The Personnel Officer (Spinell) warming up to Travis once he learns Travis was a Marine. And watch the camera here as it slowly rises to Travis’ level in this shot, as if to make both men equals.

This actor crashing the camera. You would never see that in a studio movie today, not during a scene set in such a confined space. That character has no lasting relevance on the movie, but him walking right in front of us suggests that: A.) Travis is damn near invisible to the world (which he is determined to change), and B.) The movie is steeped in claustrophobia, trapping Travis in, wherever he is.

I cannot explain why a shot like this gives me so much inspiration. In the shot, Travis leaves the taxi stand and the camera slowly pans 360 to show us the full setting. It’s so simple, but so telling. This is Travis’ world now. And he seems proud to be a part of it, even if, to us, the world seems unglamorous. You don’t see shots in movies like this today. Most studio movie shots exist to propel the plot, as opposed to reveal the character.

Travis gently touching the back of a cab as it drives into the garage, kind of like you would to your friend’s car as they drove away. Travis is part of a group now. He belongs.

This is grade-A, flawless camera composition. Look how the parked cabs create a line of vision leading our eyes directly to Travis, and how the storefronts on the right seem to dwarf him. And notice the depth of the shot; the houses atop the green hill in the background. Travis is isolated, alone, in the dark, but beauty does exist outside of his world. He just never has a chance to experience it.

This will seem like a painfully basic observation, but I love that Travis Bickle, of all people, journals. For what purpose? Does it bring him peace? Does it calm him? Does he plan on going back and rereading his words years later, as a way to gain perspective?

Speaking of perspective, it’s important to make the distinction between 1976 New York and 2018 New York. If you’ve ever spent time in New York City, you know that Times Square is about as populated with tourists as Disneyland. It’s a bright, loud circus. That’s today. In 1976, Times Square and the area surrounding it, where much of Taxi Driver takes place, was dirty, dangerous and dark. I’ve met veteran NYPD detectives who said they were afraid to cruise the Times Square beat in the ‘70s. It’s insane how much a city can change.

Travis rolling up his window as he drives by a running fire hydrant.

This whip pan. The shot begins with Travis pulling into the garage, then quickly pans right to reveal Travis parking. Again, it’s such an interesting shot choice. Most anyone else would start the shot as Travis is parking. I love it. I love all of it.

Travis swallowing a pill dry. Love the way he shakes his head back and forth, almost like a dog.

The way Travis stretches his back. It seems like such an abrupt and straining movement.

So odd that, in Travis’ world, cleaning up come is far more common than cleaning up blood.

I love Travis’ interaction with this woman (played by De Niro’s ex wife, Diahnne Abbott). From Travis’ fear that he may get kicked out of the theater, to her dismissively saying, “What you see is what we got.” And the way he keeps adding more and more snacks to his order, as if to save face for his flirting, is just perfect.

God, just look how small and scuzzy this whole setting is. A handful of seats, the tiny screen, the concessions stand within view. What a world Scorsese has embeded us in.

Love how Travis seems confused by what he’s watching. “Why am I here? Why is this here? Why is anything here?”

Oh, and as a cinematographer, I’ve subconsciously stolen this shot a few times, namely for my best friend Nick’s film, There I Go. (See the shots from 19:24 to 20:15 specifically.)

These shaky, handheld, gorilla-style shots (i.e., filmed without permits), juxtaposed with the glorious, steady, slow motion shot of Betsy (Cybill Shepherd).

Also, Martin Scorsese makes two cameos in the film, which, presumably have nothing to do with the other. More on that later.

This extra wearing his shirt with the Columbia Pictures logo (Columbia distributed the movie) inside out.

Love how one of my favorite lines of Travis’ journal narration (“They. Cannot. Touch. Her.”) is crossfaded over the image of Betsy.

Harvey Keitel was originally offered the part of Tom (eventually played brilliantly by Albert Brooks). Can you imagine?

Easily my favorite line of Brooks’ in the film. The randomness, the off-screen delivery – charm my beating heart.

It’s important to note that this is only one of two scenes in the film that doesn’t feature Travis directly. Though, in both scenes, Travis is just outside, watching, waiting. He’s there, even when he isn’t.

Part of what makes this movie so damn good (even when De Niro isn’t on screen) is the focus on character and chemistry, and how camera movement can affect both. This scene is a perfect display of that. As Shepherd and Brooks engage in playful, dismissive banter, the dynamics change as the camera moves up and down, left to right. It’s such stunning, purposeful work.

Tom losing control of the door as he opens it. Or maybe he briefly loses his balance. Brooks’ character choice? An accident? Works either way.

Travis moving his hand back and forth across the steering wheel as he waits for the light. He still has that eager anticipation in his eyes that one gets after they start a new job, but before they realize the challenges that job will bring.

Travis pushing this junkie out of his way.

Travis, unable to hang with the boys. Look at his body positioning in this shot. Off to the side, slouched forward, barely changing his expression. This is a man who simply cannot fit in.

Travis offering the slightest of nods to Charlie T (Norman Matlock). There’s a thinly veiled racism within Travis that is so odd to me. It’s as if he doesn’t understand why he views black people differently, either. 

This is my favorite double take in all of film. Travis is such a lost man, he doesn’t even know how to respond to a perfectly innocent question. In fact, this may be the first time he’s ever heard the slang phrase, “How’s it hanging?” He seems so confounded by the question. Should he take it literally? Should he attempt to be affable?

The slow motion shot of the pimps at the other table. More thinly veiled racism from Travis. Why is he so suspicious? (And, again, this is camera movement informing character. THAT’S what great cinematography should do.)

Travis’ relaxed yet confident strut as he walks over to greet Betsy.

And Betsy’s calm yet curious face as Travis approaches. That’s acting.

Tom trying to (unsuccessfully) get Travis away from Betsy.

This is my favorite meet-cute in all of film. The chemistry of their interaction, Travis’ nervousness, Betsy’s confidence, Travis’ “lonely person” speech, the camera movements, and Travis’ proud declaration of, “Four o’clock today? I’ll be here.” It’s all so flawlessly executed. It really convinces us that these two have a bright future together.

Tom eavesdropping on their conversation.

Love that Travis combed his hair before his coffee date with Betsy.

Travis telling us that not only does he think he made a good meal selection, but that Betsy could’ve had anything she wanted.

De Niro’s charming delivery of this line.

Travis’ back and forth with himself (in narration) consistently produces gems like this. It’s such a relatable thing to think, and say. Scorsese is so good at helping us relate to psychopaths through dialogue.

Travis’ gleeful, childish smile when he realizes Charles Palantine (Leonard Harris) is in his cab.

Travis’ picture on his taxicab license. His expression is somehow specific, but also hard to describe. He simply looks unwell. Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) mug shot in The Departed always reminded me of this.

Travis interrupting his “New York City Is Filth” credo to Palantine by honking his horn at something in the street. Was that scripted? Improvised by De Niro? Was someone really in the street?

The Secret Service agent looking at Palantine during Travis’ speech.

The long, careful pause Palantine takes before responding to Travis.

The sincerity in Travis’ voice when he tells Palantine he’s going to win.

If you look closely, as Palantine steps away from the cab, he gives one of his Secret Service agents the slightest of nods, as if to say, “Well, that cabbie was really something.”

Travis nodding to himself as Palantine walks away, as if he’s thinking, “Yep, I made a difference there. He heard me. I matter.”

I LOVE seeing how movies influenced directors of a younger generation. This has Tarantino all over it.

Travis hesitating to run a red light as his cab gets vandalized by some kids.

This guy’s hair. A tornado wouldn’t disrupt that thing.

I love the way Shepherd plays this scene. It’s as if Betsy thinks it’s a joke at first, then, cautiously, she decides to trust Travis and see the movie anyway.

This little glance Betsy gives Travis. She’s clearly annoyed by the movie selection, but it’s almost as if she’s wondering why the hell Travis is so comfortable with it. I mean, look how far he’s settled into his seat.

Betsy struggling to exit her row.

The sad irony of this line.

Scorsese has always said this is his favorite scene in film, because, through performance and camera movement, we really get a sense of how pathetic Travis is. I also think this is the turning point in the film. Up until now, it’s safe to classify Travis as an odd loner, but I wouldn’t consider him dangerous. Betsy’s rejection changes that. As screenwriter Paul Schrader said of Travis, “The girl he desires he cannot have, the one he can have he cannot desire. When he can’t kill the father figure of one, he kills the father figure of the other.”

It’s also worth mentioning that this scene, more specifically the moment the camera pans away from Travis, changed movies for me. I had never seen a movie switch from a subjective point of view to an objective point of view with one simple camera movement. I remember rewinding this scene over and over and over, trying to figure out why the camera moved in this way. And then it clicked: Scorsese can’t even bare to watch this, it’s that pathetic. Watching this scene honestly gets me a little choked up. I can’t explain fully explain it, but this camera movement made me love movies.

I love how the movie makes room for the time inside Travis’ decaying mind. I can think of very few movies that let their narrator literally sound a thought out three consecutive times in a row. This idea of letting the film breathe a bit helps us feel like we are witnessing a mind collapsing in real time.

Look at him now. Here is a man who does not understand why a woman he loves does not love him back. He’s confused, he’s afraid, he’s enraged. And right before our eyes, the true Travis Bickle is born.

I always love when movie characters do this. If you’ve ever been physically assaulted, you know what a person’s hands are capable of, and therefore, perhaps, you question anytime hands are put on you without consent. I love the way Travis briefly looks down at Tom’s hands as Tom calmly tries to stop Travis from walking. Travis knows what hands can do. He’s lived in war. And if you touch a warrior without asking them first, you are asking for trouble.

I jump every time I see Travis get into this combat position. Albert Brooks must have been shitting himself.

I’m backtracking a few seconds (because I genuinely have never noticed this before), but how remarkable is it that this brief shot of Betsy is the only shot of her face we get during this entire scene? What an interesting choice that is. Scorsese let’s the entire scene play out on De Niro, never cutting to Shepherd after this initial shot. It’s hard to think of a director who wouldn’t include a reaction shot of Betsy. But Scorsese doesn’t, and it works. This is Travis’ story. Abandon all faith, ye who enter here.

How calmly Travis walks away after he’s forced out of the office. Even though he knows a cop is chasing him, he doesn’t run, he walks.

Christ, I would love to know how Travis’ interaction with this cop went. If there was an interaction at all.

Martin Scorsese’s brief turn as a disgruntled passenger has been talked about plenty. I love so much about this scene, primarily that the only reason it exists in its present form is for a very simple reason: The actor originally hired to play the part, George Memmoli (of Mean Streets and Phantom of the Paradise fame), dropped out at the last second, and in an effort to save time and money, Scorsese decided to play the part himself. It’s funny how something so iconic came to fruition because of something so basic.

Scorsese doesn’t get enough credit for his acting abilities. This man can act, and act damn well. Any performer who can make us afraid for Travis Bickle is doing something right. (For those interested, this is my favorite Scorsese performance, just above his steely work in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show.)

Love the slow tracking shot to find the window. The cinematography of this film is so good at putting us in Travis’ shoes. It’s ingenious work.

What Scorsese’s character says here has been talked about ad nauseam. And for good reason – there’s some very harsh language casually thrown around. But more important to what is being said is how Travis receives it. In essence, this passenger is saying everything Travis is thinking. Up until Betsy rejected him, we’ve sided with Travis. We’ve rooted for him and hoped he would get out of his funk. But now, knowing that Travis is uncommonly angry, we fear what he’s capable of. This passenger talks about hurting a woman who wronged him – will Travis have similar considerations? This passenger speaks of guns, rage, and violence, and Travis clearly takes notice. It’s almost as if this passenger plants the seed in Travis’ mind that civilian violence is not only okay, but, at times, necessary. Watch De Niro’s face as Scorsese laughs hysterically while asking, “I bet you really think I’m sick, right?” No, Travis doesn’t think you’re sick. He thinks you’re on to something. This is an absolutely terrifying scene, for multiple reasons.

Travis paying Charlie T back. Either Travis no longer views black people as inferior (as was suggested earlier), or he really needed that $5.

But then, two curious things happen in a row: As Travis leaves the table, Charlie T says, “Bye, killer,” and playfully points at Travis. As Travis leaves, he looks back at Charlie T, almost as if to wonder, “Is that me? Am I a killer?”

And once outside, a gang of guys holding weapons walk by, and Travis sizes up one of the gang’s black members. Is this latent racism? Or are the wheels spinning in Travis head that, “Yeah, I’m a killer, and now I need some tools”?

I LOVE that Wizard (Peter Boyle) finishes Travis’ thought by saying, “Things got ya down?”

This is the closest thing we ever get to a confession of premeditation. I love how well Schrader, Scorsese and De Niro packed so much repression into one character.

Two things to love about the way Travis shakes Wizard’s hand: One, it’s just a weird ass handshake, and two, Wizard seems to think so too.

The tonal shifts of Taxi Driver are one of the things I love most about the movie. (And the fact that those shifts are achieved through music is why Bernard Herrmann’s score for the film is my favorite movie score of all time.) Take this scene, for instance. After his talk with Wizard, Travis goes about his life normally. He eats junk in his apartment, drives around, passes Betsy’s work, drives some more. He’s lost, but hell, maybe Wizard talked him out of his funk. Then BAM, Travis almost runs into the girl who asked him for help earlier. There she is, right in front of him: a purpose, a fight, a will to live. And suddenly, there is a change.

Hmm, the first gun Travis asks Easy Andy (Steven Prince) about is the gun Scorsese’s passenger character said he was going to use to kill his wife. Coincidence?

I LOVE how you can hear kids playing in the distance throughout many scenes in the film. It gives those scenes a sort of dangerous innocence.

Everything about the construction of this scene – the close-ups, the slow panning shots of the guns, Travis’ stunned expression – makes it feel like we are watching someone who has finally found the true love of their life. We see it in movies all the time. In music biopics, it’s the first time the young musician picks up their instrument. In romcoms, it’s the first time He locks eyes with Her. Betsy wasn’t Travis’ great love. Neither is Iris (Jodie Foster). No. Travis’ real love is carnage. Rage. Implements of destruction.

Easy Andy is played by Steven Prince, and if you don’t know who Steven Prince is, you really need to learn who Steven Prince is. Watch American Boy, the documentary Scorsese made about Prince two years after Taxi Driver was released. The doc is 55 minutes long and not a second of your time will be misspent.

I love these pull-ups. The tight space, the camera movement, Travis’ absent expression, and the way he’s almost looking directly at us.

The scene of Travis blankly watching a porno film is something I intended on ripping off in my short film, Earrings. During a scene in Earrings, I wanted the main character to sit idly while watching something jarring on TV. She clearly doesn’t care what’s on the TV, she’s just passing the minutes until she can put more alcohol down her throat and crushed pills up her nose. My initial choice was to have her watching porn, as Travis does. But ultimately, for my purposes, that choice felt too gratuitous, so I changed it to a news segment about a car accident. (I know I’m getting a little off track here, but the influence of Taxi Driver is deep within me.)

This is the only time in the film I can recall hearing a ticking clock. That’s interesting. And, like the gun-buying scene from earlier, I love that you can hear the life outside of Travis’ walls. No one is safe. Not anymore.

Oh, and look at that metal bar doorstop on Travis door. I love the emphasis on that. I pray for the poor bastard who tries to break into this damn apartment.

This is one of my favorite interactions in the film. I love the way Travis initially circles the Secret Service agent (Richard Higgs), as if Travis wants to blend in, but also wants to be noticed.

And the beat the agent takes when he notices Travis for the first time. Just priceless.

The cut between Travis pointing out the “suspicious-looking” people to him actually turning to look for them is as important to me as the camera movement in the hallway from earlier. This editing cut changed my perception of film. I had never seen an editing cut so blatantly disregard continuity. A traditional cut would be: start with the wide shot of Travis pointing, then cut in closer to the agent and Travis, as Travis continues to point. That way we know we haven’t lost any time. Instead, when Scorsese cuts in, it’s a few seconds later. Travis isn’t pointing anymore, in fact, he isn’t even in the frame. He’s pacing back and forth, trying to spot the “suspicious characters.” The sound doesn’t match up either. Not only does this cut go against the editing traditions of film, but it works flawlessly. I cannot tell you how much this single editing cut taught me.

Travis never smiles more than he does in this scene, and I love how his smiles feel forced. Like he saw someone do it on TV, and he thought, “Oh, okay, that’s what people do when they’re being polite. I’ll have to try that.”

For the record, while Henry Krinkle isn’t as good a name as Travis Bickle, it is still a very fine name.

Another one of Travis’ awkward handshakes.

And, again, watch Travis’ expression here. From fake happy, to real Travis, to fake happy again. What a damaged mind.

What more can be said about one of the most iconic scenes in film history? In an attempt to add something to the conversation, I will say that I love how Scorsese cuts to this shot right as De Niro barks out his first, “You talkin’ to me?” Scorsese didn’t hold the shot and wait for De Niro to deliver the line. Instead, he cut right into it. It makes the delivery of the line much more jarring.

Okay two more things. One: the entire “You talkin’ to me?” bit occurs in one shot lasting 33 seconds. That’s it. It really doesn’t take long to create something infamous. Second, De Niro’s famed mole is on the right side of his face, not the left (as it is in this shot). This means this entire scene was achieved by shooting De Niro’s reflection in a mirror. They didn’t even turn the camera around to shoot him straight on. That’s fucking insane.

Travis repeating his narration again, but this time it’s accompanied by a jump cut.

I say this all the time in real life. It’s one of my go-to obscure movie quotes.

I love that Travis is on a first name basis with this store owner (Victor Argo). What kind of person do you have to be to be friends with Travis Bickle?

At 42 seconds long, this panning shot of Travis hearing (and subsequently stopping) the robbery is one of the longest shots in the film.

Travis’ expression as he watches people joyfully dance on TV (and listens to the whimsical song playing). Psychopaths often have trouble finding joy in things others commonly like. Remember Robin Williams watching The Simpsons in One Hour Photo with a blank expression on his face? Here is…

Love the three brief shots of Travis watching Palantine speak. The framing of the first two shots are so great because we cannot actually see Palantine’s face. Again, no director would choose this angle for those shots. And the third shot is so startling, because it is actually from Travis’ point of view (as opposed to the over-the-shoulder angles of shots one and two). When we cut to Travis’ POV, we’re able to see the Secret Service agent staring straight ahead. Is he staring at Travis? At us?

In his letter to his parents, Travis says that he is writing now, in July, because it brings his parents’ wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, and his mother’s birthday. Father’s Day has only ever occurred in June. But hey, at least Travis tries.

Also, only Travis Bickle would conclude a letter to his parents by saying, “I hope no one has died.”

At 53 seconds long, the shot of Travis watching TV, and subsequently kicking the set over, is another one of the film’s longest shots. This shot in particular sustains the tension of Travis’ damaged mind so well.

I love that this is Sport’s (Harvey Keitel) first reaction to Travis. What a slimy and flamboyant performance this is.

Also, listen how Travis’ language changes so that he sounds more like Sport. In order to blend in, he observes and pretends. That’s Travis Bickle.

What an amazing character choice, to keep rubbing his mouth with that handkerchief. Keitel’s work in this movie doesn’t get revered enough.

I mean, just look at the way Keitel physically commands the space. Daniel Day-Lewis is great at this too. They can both occupy space without drawing attention to themselves.

Imagine this guy’s life: sitting at the top of the stairs, reading trash magazines, chain smoking, waiting for Johns to finish doing awful things to underage girls, ready to enforce if need be. He even has a hot plate there, and a pot for food. I mean seriously, what kind of tortured life did this guy come from?

Iris’ eager yet casual delivery of, “Come on…” is absolutely devastating. How long has she been doing this?

Travis’ conviction when he tells Iris she has a nice name. He’s starting to reveal to us that he actually has a heart.

In fact, this entire scene represents another tonal shift in the film. Again, this is largely why Taxi Driver is my favorite film – it keeps changing what it is throughout. Its characters are three dimensional, and impossible to pin down.

I love the way Travis talks to Iris. He’s stern, but also engages in a vernacular that she’ll understand.

Travis stammering over his words in frustration.

This is the other scene Travis isn’t present for (yet it is suggested that he’s waiting outside). This scene is so difficult to watch. It is textbook pimp manipulation, and Iris’ arc of, “I don’t’ like what I’m doing,” to silent acceptance is shattering.

This is my favorite shot in film history. The slow pan right, the hold on Travis’ torso. What are they keeping from us? When the camera finally pans up, we are utterly shocked. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. Here is a man who stood up. Here is… Travis Bickle.

The sound design of Travis’ clapping. It’s slightly hollow, a little off. Sort of like Travis himself.

Palantine’s face as the scuffle ensues. Guy never knew how close he came.

I haven’t mentioned enough how funny this film can be. Certain lines always crack me up.

Travis fumbling somewhat to pull his gun out.

I love that the longest shot of the film (1 minute 33 seconds) is of Travis shooting Sport. The scene was clearly shot on a different film stock (presumably one that worked better in low light), and is executed perfectly. And the way Travis sits on the stoop after the shooting, as if contemplate what he’s just done (and if he wants to keep going), is brilliant.

The slow motion shot of Iris turning after she hears the gunshot in the hallway.

I can’t believe the gut shot outside didn’t kill Sport. Crazy that he made it up the stairs and is still willing to fight.

Another great use of slow motion, as Travis walks backward upstairs, and the pimp repeatedly yells, “I’ll kill you! I’ll kill you!”

The way Travis storms into this room, with the pimp on his back. It’s like they’re animals, operating off instinct.

The sound of blood splattering after Travis kills the pimp.

What’s most interesting to me about this scene is that, obviously, Travis wants to die. He tries to kill himself with two separate guns. Why, then, doesn’t he point an empty gun at the police, who would most certainly shoot him? I’m not sure, but it makes me appreciate Travis’ torment that much more. In the few seconds between him sitting on the couch, and the cops arriving, Travis’ chooses to live.

“I really want this overhead shot. It’s the only camera movement Schrader put into his script. How the hell can we do it?”
“Hmm, how about we rip the fucking floor out of the apartment above, and just shoot down?”

Here’s the thing. We all love a good twist ending. Something that we genuinely didn’t see coming, and absolutely floors us. The first time I saw Taxi Driver, I was convinced it was going to cut to black as the camera pulled away from the crime scene in the street. But when it cut to Travis’ apartment, I thought, “Oh, wow, there’s more.” And then, immediately, I knew this was going to be a scene eulogizing our dead anti-hero. But when it was revealed that Travis Bickle was not only alive, but had turned into a hero, I was absolutely floored. I don’t know if you can even call this a “twist” ending, but my point is, no ending in all of film will ever surprise me as much as this one.

Travis casually leaning against a pole, talking with the cabbies. They aren’t glorifying him as a hero. They’re just talking. And Tarvis is natural, he’s calm, he blends in. Finally, he is one of the guys.

Travis knows Betsy is in the back, but he’s playing it cool, waiting for her to speak. There is a calm to him that I so adore.

Her hair blows just right, her eyes shine wide, the city thrives in the background. And the music plays. Oh, does it play.

Love the way Travis resets his meter so that Betsy isn’t charged, all without saying a word to her.
And then there it is, the final look at himself. Travis cruises along and gives himself a sharp look in he mirror. Is he back? Is he gone? Where will he go from here? Exactly.


  1. Truly one of the great films ever made. So dark, so eerie, so scary, so engaging, so rapturous. What else is there to say? I heard the film was partially inspired by The Searchers by John Ford as Paul Schrader as it relates to John Wayne's character as someone who is troubled as well as having some issues towards people he seem unfit with society.

    It remains a film where you find something new every time it is re-watched as well as get more of what is going on. It is dark yet it remains so entrancing. In my list of Palme d'Or winners, it's currently #7 as of right now.

    I went to New York City in the summer of 1995 where I went to Time Square. It was still filthy and seedy but there is something about it that felt really cool and exciting. I even got to see CBGB's on a bus. New York City today is just.... zzzzzzz.... I blame Giuliani that stupid fuck. He is always bending over to take it up the ass from our dictator and like it.

    1. LOVE this comment! Agree with everything you said about the film and yep, it's biggest influence was The Searchers. Travis even wears a similar, updated wardrobe of Wayne's character, and Sport is modeled after Scar. Damn, I need to watch The Searchers again now.

      And man, I was so stunned rewatching Taxi Driver this time, because it made me really realize how different NYC is. The Deuce captures '70s New York damn well too. Have you seen that show?

    2. I have. A show that more people need to see. It's an awesome show.

    3. Of course you have. You're the man. And yes, more people need to see it.

    4. "I blame Giuliani that stupid fuck. He is always bending over to take it up the ass from our dictator and like it."

      Seriously? Was that really necessary? Also, you prefer a sketchy Times Square over the tourists? Some serious TDS you got there. Serious, chronic TDS.

      I sincerely hope that you walk away from that mindset soon and that you can at least enjoy life for the next five years.

  2. You make me want to watch this again. I only saw it for the first time a few years ago.

    1. I love that! I hope you have a chance to watch it again soon. What a gem.

  3. You know Alex, this may be the first time I've posted comment on this blog of yours but its posts like this one that make enjoy reading it so much. It is easy to see that your love for film is genuine. I'd also say that your passion is infectious to the point that I could easily see someone becoming a film lover just reading your blog. Cheers!

    1. Dylan, you have no idea how much this comment means to me. Thank you so very much for reading the blog and leaving this comment. Made my day! I'm so happy you like the post.

  4. Whenever I see "Taxi Driver" in the title, or can quickly guess that it might come up in the article, I know I'm in for a good time.
    I'm also cool if you wanted to add ten things everyone does talk about, in these lists, as I imagine it is hard not to comment on the things everyone has probably wrote before now. Such a fantastic movie!

    This is also one of those movies that makes me realize how old actors are based off of how young their costars are in the present day. How old is Jodie Foster now and how much older must Robert De Niro be now?

    Like how old is Ben Stiller if he was in a film with Christian Bale when he was young? (Empire of the Sun) Same with Kirsten Dunst and both Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise. (Interview with a Vampire) Like, those actors don't seem much older but they have to be, right?

    1. Oh yeah, this post (more so than any of my other "No One Talks About" posts) definitely included some things people talk about plenty. But I just couldn't help it haha. I'm so happy you're a fan of Taxi Driver.

      And yes, it's crazy how young everyone looks in this. Jodie Foster was only 12 when they filmed this! And then, just 15 years later, she's playing one of the strongest women in film, Clarice Starling. Time is so surreal.

    2. Foster would make a wonderful addition to the In Character series, she's like Marisa Tomei in that she's become quite conformable in where her career is at now.
      She's amazing in Inside Man, Accused and sometimes I forget she's Clarice in Silence of the Lambs, and she becomes that character in that role. I also often think of her in Nell, or specifically, the scene where Liam Neeson finally figured out what her origins of speech comes from. It blew my very young mind at the moment and I had to watch the film again to see if I could figure it out what she was saying the whole time.
      I've always been a nerd for how language works as its so interesting.

      Instead of Ben Stiller, I should have said John Malkovich for my Christian Bale reference, as if he was only 13 how old must Malkovich be! (64 to Bale's 44, as I just looked it up)

    3. Haha I figured you meant Malkovich - all good! I love that you're a fan of Foster's work in Nell as well. I like her in damn near everything, but she's fantastic in that role. I wish more people saw that movie. Maybe I will do an In Character piece about her. Good call!

    4. Just going down her Wikipedia page, she's one of those few actors who gets their own filmography page as there is so much work! She's been in so many films that I had forgotten she was in a few like Freaky Friday. I liked her in Contact as well, a film I had to watch again as I missed an important scene (or something) and the movie didn't make as much sense. I needed my hand held more as the rewatch didn't quite explain whatever it was that I missed.

    5. Contact is a tough one to fully get. I should rewatch that one too actually.

  5. Spectacular post, as always. Your posts like these are always amazing. I haven't seen Taxi Driver in ages, and I've only seen it once, so after reading this...I need to give this one a re-watch!

    1. Thanks Courtney! I'm so happy you liked the post and I really hope you have a chance to see Taxi Driver again soon!

  6. Love this post. This is one of those go to films for how to shoot a city. New York in the 70's has never looked filthier or grimier.

    I hope this is a prelude to a First Reformed review. Just saw it today and it is hands down the best film of the year so far and my favorite thing Schrader has done since Mishima. I have a feeling you will love it.

    1. Thanks Luke! I did love First Reformed. And instead of a review, I think my next Director's profile will be on Schrader. I'm currently making my way through his work in order. Having a blast!

  7. I LOVE Taxi Driver. It is one of my all time favorites. Robert De Niro's performance in it is just flawless. He is still my favorite actors largely thanks to this role. I'm gonna have to re-watch it again soon thanks to this post. It's been too long now.

    1. YES! Love hearing this. So happy you're such a fan of this film, and De Niro's work in it. I hope you enjoy your rewatch!

  8. I grew up in 70s and 80s New York. You're right. Present day Times Square is a totally different planet. It had a terrible rep back then and it was well deserved. This movie highlights this so well. And what a fantastic film it is. Love all the little tidbits you pointed out, as always. I need to revisit this again.

    1. Oh man, I love hearing this personal insight! I can't believe it was cleaned up so much, in a relatively short period of time.

      Also, have you seen The Deuce on HBO? It's the best recreation of '70s New York that I've ever seen. I have no idea how they do it with such a small budget. It's astounding.

    2. I've not seen, nor heard of The Deuce, don't have HBO. In my neck of the city, we used to call it "forty-deuce."

    3. Gotcha. It is such a good show. David Simon co-created it, and it definitely has a similar vibe to The Wire and Treme. Gritty, raw, real. Maggie Gyllenhaal is astounding in it. Hoping she gets some Emmy love.

  9. Interesting to read your thoughts on one of my favorite films. I didn't know the "talkin' to me" scene was shot using a mirror. Reading this post makes me want to go find the dvd again!

    A striking moment to me (probably an obvious pick) is the mohawk haircut transformation. It's still shocking on rewatch.

    1. So happy this is one of your favorite films too. The reveal of the mohawk is my single favorite camera shot in all of film. It's so simple, but so very effective. And to think, that mohawk wasn't even real! I can't get over that - it looks so authentic.

  10. This was simply amazing to read, Alex. Such clear and concise analysis, with each line and screenshot totally exuding your clear love and admiration for the film. This didn't merely make me want to re-watch Taxi Driver, but I almost feel as though I just have, simply by reading your post. No stone has been left unturned. A wonderful tribute to what is easily one of the finest films ever made. The kind of dedication that must go into posts like this is nothing short of totally inspiring. Love it!

    1. Damn man, thank you so much! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this comment. I'm so happy you enjoyed reading the post. It's funny, I actually watched the movie again last night and was spotting things I could've included in this post haha. The brilliance of that movie never ceases to amaze.