Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)

In researching a possible lecture on The New Hollywood of the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, I came to the realization Taxi Driver might be the ultimate incarnation of that period’s angst, contradiction, and beauty. Scorsese uses a distinctly rhythmic and dreamy approach to Travis Bickle’s journey, moving back and forth between cramped close-ups and wide angle vista’s of the NYC cityscape. Both include Bickle in almost every shot, exemplifying his ambiguous psychology and alienation in a world he sees as a sewer. Scorsese also injects some classical Hollywood iconography from the gangster picture to make Bickle’s experience ever more complicated and dire – the prostitute, the pimp, the cabbie, the politician all play a role in defining Bickle’s fate. In the end, Bickle defines these archetypes through the fear, love, and insanity tearing at his soul. Leftist reform movements nor Right wing politicians can serve Bickle’s needs because he is a product of the insecurities and horrors of both, a military man and a humanist, a racist and a savior. Taxi Driver is above all a haunting requiem to the security of a nation’s psyche, which will end up repeating the travesties of the past without realizing the ironies of such horrors. A walking contradiction of rage and honor, Bickle might be the only ostrige sticking his head out of the sand, seeing the world for what it really is, and that’s a scary thought.

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