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"You talkin' to me?"

4. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)



Martin Scorsese has been accused of a lot of things in relation to his incredible contribution to cinema. Accusations of blasphemy, condoning racism and glorifying the mobster life style have swung at him like haymakers. But the one thing he can never be accused of is compromising his vision for the sake of a profit or appearing politically correct, as evidenced by the genuinely disturbing cameo by the influential auteur himself. Such stubborness often results in highly personal works of art that pop up in essay questions.

Robert DeNiro is unsurpassed in his portrayal of the vietnam vet turned New York cabby who is trapped in a spiral of hell. God's lonely creature has had it up to here with the "scum" that plagues the street and he wants to do something about it as well as seek what appears to be impossible redemption by saving child prostitute Jodie Foster. This is a dark, disturbing world in which there is little distinction between hero's and tossers (my type of film then), and Scorsese explores this psychological craziness with the conviction of a god fearing knight.



DeNir'S Travis Bickle is the vehicle for the exploration, and the depths into his psych is truly a revelation into just how disconnected screenwriter Paul Schrader was when he wrote this. The sense of alienation, lonliness and disgust for crime is conveyed in a way that's very uncomfortable but, at the same time, very real amongst certain individuals. For example, it's inexplicitly implied that Bickle is hatred is directed towards the black citizens. He isn't quite KKK calibre, but there is a sense of him looking for an easy scapegoat and Scorsese films these scenes with uncomfortable close up shots of DeNiro's angry face looking down on the ethnic minorities. I interpreted these scenes as Bickle looking for anything to blame for the collapse of his world.

The film also features a bunch of extremely talented actors who more than hold their own against DeNiro such as Harvey Keitel's lowlife pimp Sport, his potential but hard to relate to love interest Betty and, of course, a young, beguiling Jody Foster who seems doomed from the moment we see her in her unflattering short pants barely fitting on her boyish, undeveloped hips.

The most amazing thing about this shocking, brave work is the slow tension build up to the inevitable. You know that there is something not quite right with Bickle from the start, but the majestic way his insanity fully emerges at the end of the film is perfectly executed. There is a line in 500 Days Of Summer where Joseph Gordon Levitt's character says, "loneliness is underrated". I would imagine Travis would somewhat agree, at least at the conclusion of this picture because the irony of it, of course, is that Travis insanity essentially frees him. It allows him to become accepted and recognised as a "hero". The very ID he tried to keep from rising is what gets him his redemption in the end, and only most powerful of filmmakers can get away with such endings. Bravo Mr Scorsese. Bravo.