A few months ago I had the pleasure of writing on Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets for its showing on Turner Classic Movies. I’m pleased to add my notes on Taxi Driver in honor of its late night/early morning screening on September 29.
Taxi Driver (1976), Martin Scorsese’s searing portrait of loneliness and violence on the mean streets of New York, is an American original. Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle, the insomniac taxi driver of the title, is an angry, alienated Vietnam veteran who takes a job driving a taxi on the night shift. He muses in voice-over over the urban cesspool that he encounters in his nocturnal prowlings: “All the animals come out at night: queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick venal. Some day a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.” He’s a pressure cooker of alienated desperation and rage who hates this existence yet is so disconnected from the rest of the world that he can no longer relate to the people outside of his tawdry world of hookers and hustlers and the homeless. When he scares off his dream girl (Cybill Shepherd), he channels his rage into plotting the assassination of a political candidate and saving a teenage hooker (Jodie Foster) from her pimp (Harvey Keitel with long, stringy hair). It remains one of the quintessential films of 1970s American cinema, a brooding blast of modern gothic cinema that boils over in madness and self destruction. Scorsese’s uncompromising vision and vivid direction and a fierce, fearless performance by De Niro have inspired countless young filmmakers and actors in the decades since its release.
Read the entire feature here. The film plays on TCM at 2am on September 29. Check listings for local time.