Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Taxi Driver is a 1976 film written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese. Robert De Niro stars as the title character, alongside a cast including Harvey Keitel, Jodie Foster, Cybill Shepherd, Albert Brooks and Peter Boyle. The film is heavily influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.
Travis Bickle (De Niro), an alienated, sexually repressed young man of 26 from the Midwest, has recently been discharged from the Marines. He suffers from insomnia and consequently takes a job as taxi driver in New York City, and volunteers to work the overnight shift "anytime, anywhere". Bickle spends his spare time watching pornography in seedy theaters and driving around aimlessly through the darkest and most repulsive neighborhoods of Manhattan.
Bickle is horrified by what he considers the moral decay around him, and when Iris (Foster), a 12½ year-old prostitute, gets in his cab one night to escape her pimp, he becomes obsessed with saving her despite her complete lack of interest in the idea, explaining that she was "stoned" and her pimp, Sport, is actually a kind and caring person.
Bickle is also obsessed with Cybill Shepherd's character, Betsy, an aide for a New York State Senator running for the presidency and promising dramatic social change. She agrees to a date with Bickle when he flirts with her and sympathizes with her own apparent loneliness, but he mistakenly takes her to a pornographic film, and she leaves him, disgusted.
Other disturbing scenes include Travis' purchasing of various weaponry (a hunting knife and four handguns) from an energetic "salesman" named Easy Andy, a disturbed businessman in the back of Travis' cab (played by the director himself in a last-minute substitution) explaining to Travis how he wishes to kill his wife, who is playing around with a paramour, and a convenience store scene where Travis entices a thief at the counter to turn around and face him before Travis calmly shoots him through the cheek.
Bickle then plans to assassinate the Senator at a public rally, perhaps seeing him as a buffer between him and Betsy. When he is spotted by secret servicemen and flees, he desperately drives uptown and shoots Iris' pimp Sport (Keitel), before storming into the brothel and brutally killing the bouncer, the wounded Sport who returns, and Iris' mafioso customer. He is wounded neck and arm in the fight, and he seems to be dying as he sits down on the couch before policemen enter the room. In a disturbing symbol of insanity, or so it seems, he raises a bloody index finger to his head and pretends to be shooting himself. A slow-motion overhead tracking shot moves out of the room and examines his path of violence, moving over blood stains, the 3 dead bodies, down the steps and outside to the crowd of police and curiosity seekers swarming outside.
The climactic shoot-out was, for its era, intensely graphic, and retains much of its visceral impact today. To attain an "R" rating, Scorsese desaturated the colors, making the brightly-colored blood less prominent. In later interviews, Scorsese commented that he was actually pleased by the color change and he considered it an improvement over the originally filmed scene, which has been lost.
Some critics expressed concern over young Jodie Foster's presence during the climactic shoot-out scene. However, in the documentary Making "Taxi Driver" (included in the DVD release of the movie), Foster stated that she was present during the setup and staging of the special effects used during the scene; the entire process was explained and demonstrated for her, step by step. Rather than being upset or traumatized, Foster said, she was fascinated and entertained by the behind-the-scenes preparation that went into the scene.
A brief epilogue of sorts ends the film and shows Shepherd's character climbing into Bickle's cab, and commenting on his "saving" Iris and Bickle's own media fame, but Travis seems to be mentally recovered now and denies himself as being any sort of hero. Some have seen this epilogue as Bickle's dying fantasy, while others see it as a real resolution of Bickle's acts. As Betsy departs his cab, Travis drives away, and a curious ring sounds as Travis quickly adjusts his mirror, before the credit role on the background of the bright and distorted city lights seen from the cab's perspective. Director Scorsese comments on Travis' final moments in the DVD, mentioning that this "mirror glance" could be a symbol that Travis might fall into depression and violent rage once again in the future, although it is still open to interpretation.
Roger Ebert has written of the film's ending, "There has been much discussion about the ending, in which we see newspaper clippings about Travis' 'heroism', and then Betsy gets into his cab and seems to give him admiration instead of her earlier disgust. Is this a fantasy scene? Did Travis survive the shoot-out? Are we experiencing his dying thoughts? Can the sequence be accepted as literally true? ... I am not sure there can be an answer to these questions. The end sequence plays like music, not drama: It completes the story on an emotional, not a literal, level. We end not on carnage but on redemption, which is the goal of so many of Scorsese's characters."
Taxi Driver was a financial success, and won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976 and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It was #47 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years, 100 Movies, and #22 on its 100 Years, 100 Thrills. It is consistently in the top 50 on the Internet Movie Database's list of top 250 films, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
Some critics have argued Taxi Driver is perhaps the first film to address--however indirectly--the impact of the Vietnam War on soldiers who fought in the conflict. For example, when Bickle determines to assassinate Senator Palantine, he cuts his hair into a mohawk. This detail was suggested by actor Victor Magnotta, a friend of Scorsese's who had a small role as a Secret Service agent, and who had served in Vietnam. Scorsese later noted that Magnotta had "talked about certain types of soldiers going into the jungle. They cut their hair in a certain way; looked like a mohawk ... and you knew that was a special situation, a commando kind of situation, and people gave them wide berths ... we thought it was a good idea."
John Hinckley, Jr.
Taxi Driver was reportedly part of a delusional fantasy on the part of John Hinckley, Jr. which triggered his attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981, an act for which he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. His stated reason was that the act was an attempt to impress Jodie Foster by mimicking Travis' mohawked appearance at the Palantine rally.
Travis in pop culture
- The Clash song "Red Angel Dragnet" from their album, Combat Rock, refers to Bickle, and quotes dialogue from the film.
- The Scientists' song "If It's The Last Thing I Do" (a.k.a. "Travis") starts "Sometimes I feel like Travis Bickle/ Just wanna shoot up all the bad lurking in this town".
- The Narrator from the 1999 film Fight Club names himself "Travis" at one of his group meetings. Edward Norton decided to name himself in all the scenes after a classic Robert DeNiro character, but ended up adding other names as to make it less obvious.
- Rancid's 2003 album Indestructible includes the song "Travis Bickle."
- Millencolin's song "Botanic Mistress", from their album Home from Home, begins with the line "I felt like Travis Bickle, tyrannical, lonely and blue", and later in the song has "And I'll feel like Bickle once more, And maybe I will lose it, Go insane and start a gun war?!".
- The Beastie Boys reference Travis Bickle in the song "High Plains Drifter"
- Pantera use sounds and dialogue from movie in their song "The Badge" from The Crow soundtrack.
- Loneliness has followed me my whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man.
- You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? You talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here.
- I first saw her at Palantine Campaign headquarters at 63rd and Broadway. She was wearing a white dress. She appeared like an angel. Out of this filthy mess, she is alone.
- Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.
- Making "Taxi Driver" (documentary)
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details