Taxi Driver (1976)
When you’ve been locked away in your room, somewhat depressed and angry at the world, who better to turn to than Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle? Ok I’ll admit Martin Scorsese's gritty male social angst and anger drama may have been an odd choice but I wanted to watch it for three reasons: The Irishman is out soon, I recently saw Joker and wanted to remind myself where the films overlap (or if they do) and finally because it’s my blog and I wanted to review it.
Vietnam veteran Bickle (Robert De Niro) is living in New York, working night shifts as a taxi driver because of his insomnia and disgusted at the prevalence of filth around him. Filth of the walking and non walking kind. Oddly, Bickle’s favourite pastime is to go to seedy porn cinemas, which in itself is a little bit grotty. Although if it makes it less debased, he genuinely seems to go to watch, drink soda and eat sweets, no in-pocket-knuckle-shuffles.
In my humble opinion, that makes it much weirder.
But Bickle is weird. He’s a loner, he’s detached from reality to an extent, and he increasingly harbours violent desires toward the world. When he bumps into twelve year old prostitute Iris (Jodie Foster) his life takes a spiral into the underworld abyss which simmers in the backstreets of New York.
Taxi Driver looks great, the bright lights and grime of seventies NYC bouncing off Bickle’s cab as he cruises the night make iconic viewing- much imitated since. My special edition Blu-Ray wasn’t as sharp as I was hoping though; the special edition Jaws I watched recently had been cleaned up beautifully. Perhaps that’s a deliberate choice on the part of the powers that be. Whoever the hell’s job it is to touch up prints of films.
I have to say, while De Niro’s Bickle believably descends down a rabbit hole, I didn’t really identify with him. Unlike Joker, where oddly I found some of Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal identifiable. Joker had a dark sense of humour. There is no humour in Taxi Driver, which isn’t a criticism but it does make for bleak viewing. There was much of Taxi Driver in Joker, though: the filthy city, some of the visuals and one finger gun to the head which is absolutely no coincidence.
Jodie Foster is fantastic, you can see why Taxi Driver launched her career. Harvey Keitel is all toned up and creepy as all hell playing Iris’s pimp and Robert De Niro gives an understated performance which belies its reputation.
A difficult review to stick jokes in, what with the rather grim subject matter, but Taxi Driver isn’t an easy watch even forty three years later. Joker echoes it, but is also very different. Taxi Driver is set in the real world. 8/10