By LARA ANDERSSON
⚫ Review of ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976) ⚫
It was both strange and exciting to finally meet the character I’ve heard quoted—and perhaps quoted myself—many times throughout the years. The famous line, “You talkin’ to me?” though, sounds much better and—despite the fact that he’s scrawnier than I’d imagined—much more intimidating when De Niro says it. Directed by Martin Scorsese, “Taxi Driver” follows an unstable war veteran, Travis Bickle, around a grimy, sleazy 1970s New York City. When he applies to become a taxi driver, Bickle is asked what exactly it is that he wants from the job. He replies simply, “I just wanna work long hours.” He drives around the city, through a stream of ethereal, glaring lights and rain-blurred images of drug addicts, prostitutes and crime. Though his surroundings are bleak and often violent, the languid, jazzy notes of Bernard Herrmann’s last scores often permeate Bickle’s cityscape, giving it an enchanting, seductive quality. His aimless ways stop, suddenly, when Bickle meets and decides to save a 12-year old streetwalker played by Jodie Foster. The rest I can’t say—it’s too good to give away.
“Taxi Driver” was nominated for four Academy Awards and won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1976. It garnered attention beyond the film world but also became the focus of media frenzy following John Hinckley Jr.’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan in 1981. When asked why he did it, Hinckley explained that it was a token of love for Jodie Foster, whom he had fallen madly in love with upon viewing her performance in Scorsese’s film. Three days after watching “Taxi Driver,” I’m still in a daze, haunted by De Niro’s incredible acting, the dazzling city lights, and the smooth jazz that tied the two together. Though it’s a dark, eerie film, it stays in my memory as something chillingly beautiful.