Film review: The Aviator (2004)


Just a brief review today.

Probably not of the same brilliance as some of Scorsese’s earlier masterpieces. All the same it’s an entertaining ride and an interesting biopic of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating individuals, Howard Hughes. Even if you like me knew next to nothing about Hughes, it’s a fun watch.

Was Howard Hughes a genius or a madman? You can argue in both directions. He was incredibly wealthy, impulsive, reckless, flirtatious, and in later years, eccentric and reclusive. What would you do with a fortune? In Howard Hughes case he decides to make movies, which would become among the most expensive, controversial and ambitious of the 1930s. He produced the original Scarface (1932), Hughes battled with censor boards over the violence.


Scorsese’s film may resurrect interest in some of Hughes’ previous work, I definitely want to catch the war epic Hells Angels (1930), after watching the making of it during The Aviator.

Hughes was a flying enthusiast, a pioneer of human aviation, risking his life by opting to fly experimental airplanes himself. Even after plan crashes, he still continued to want to build planes and be a pilot.

Its tough for me to comment on the performances, as I am not terribly familiar with the real life Howard Hughes, depicted here by long time Scorsese collaborator Leonardo DiCaprio. I have not viewed enough of the movies of the real Katharine Hepburn (played by Cate Blanchett) to really say if she behaves like that. Then again, we mostly see Katharine Hepburn’s private life, so maybe comparing is only possible for her family and friends.


What I can say is I found the Ava Gardner character to be under-developed, not enough screen time, we never really discover why they were attracted to one another in the first place, which is a pity. In comparison, Katharine Hepburn’s romantic involvement with Howard Hughes was far more interesting and gave an insight into how these two big celebrities of the past met and spent time together. I was never bored, despite the running time clocking in at whopping two hours and forty-six minutes. Perhaps they should have shortened the film by cutting out Ava Gardner?

The huge budget is all up there on the screen, technically impressive, with giant sets and huge airplane action scenes. A film worth watching once, but I don’t think it holds up to many viewings unless you are particularly interested in the era it depicts. I would have liked to know a bit more about why Howard Hughes wanted to lock himself away at times, and other times wanted to date the Hollywood stars, the film doesn’t really address why Hughes behaviour was so polarized? As another reviewer points out, Scorsese clearly is on Howard Hughes’ side in the movie, particularly in the court case battles. Scorsese’s mission as a director appears to be to celebrate the guy.

Any thoughts on The Aviator (2004) ? This review today brings to a close my recent Scorsese blogathon, hope you enjoyed reading! Are you interested in other director blogathons of this nature on my site in future?

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Film review: The Last Temptation Of Christ (1988)


There are several Martin Scorsese gangster films I don’t care for due to bad language and violence, but this is one of his director efforts I like.

I think “The Last Temptation Of Christ” (TLTOC) is a very moving and powerful film. An intimate character study. I won’t bore you with a summary. The controversy surrounding the subject matter may have helped the box office. TLTOC has in my opinion more depth than the to me overhyped “Passion of the Christ”(2004) (POTC). In POTC it seemed like the violence overshadows the substance.

Jesus Christ’s (JC) inspiring story is one we seem never to get tired of, heck we endure it every Christmas, and so many films have been made over the subject.

The problem with making a JC film is that you can never satisfy everyone. The 100 % true story will never be know or told, as we can’t go back in time.

Not sure I like the idea that executives are making money from selling JC’s story, though. But if you said that about everything, you would never see any films about real people.


The bible is apparently the most successful bestseller ever, and Jesus and his disciple’s are in that sense arguably the best communicators the world has ever seen. Jesus was famous for using allegories, and this timeless way of illustrating your message is obviously still a widely utilized tool today in different media, film or the written word.

The story is based on a book by Nikos Kazantzakis, which I haven’t read. He also wrote “Zorba the Greek”, which was turned into a film in the 1960s(I didn’t like it).

Scorsese on the actors studio:
“his (Nikos Kazantzakis’) take on it was interesting in that he (Christ) learns that he is Jesus, that he is divine, he learns by the end of the picture, and he has to suffer, as we all do in life, to many different degrees, and go through all the things we do. Kids say, if God is God and he dies on the cross, he’s God, he knows he’s going to live, so why is he suffering, he doesn’t have anything to suffer, he doesn’t understand us. Well that’s not the case, this one suffers from the very beginning and fights against it”

TLTOC is one of those films I feel like I can watch every few years. Even though it at times feels a little odd to see Tarantino actor Harvey Keitel, and David Bowie as Pontius Pilate! Perhaps better with mostly unknowns like in POTC.


TLTOC was rated #6 of the 25 most controversial movies of all time, but to me it’s refreshing to see JC as a real person, who shows his weaknesses. Interesting to ponder if JC was happy to be elected by God as God’s son. TLTOC implies that JC was not aware of the impact his story would have on people.

The film more or less claims that people wanted to believe JC came back from the dead, regardless if he did or not, as it gives them hope. Interesting comparison in this media gossip era when lies are told and a celebrity can’t control anymore what is said about them. Here JC can’t control what people are saying he is, but creating their own truth. JC as a concept is bigger than JC as a man.

In the 80s, the film was accused of blasphemy and causing offence to the church. But you could also look at it in another way. That it’s “resurrecting” interest in JC for our new visual generation, who seem not to read as much as past generations. Although the film may be too heavy, or not true enough to the bible for some.

Film critic Roger Ebert quoted in his review: “Those offended by the film object to the very notion that Jesus could have, or even imagine having, sexual intercourse. But of course Christianity teaches that the union of man and wife is one of the fundamental reasons God created human beings, and to imagine that the son of God, as a man, could not encompass such thoughts within his intelligence is itself a kind of insult.”

Scorsese: “Jesus lived in the world, he wasn’t in a temple, he wasn’t in a church, he was in the world, on the streets. (…) It raises a lot of questions. We just wanted to make him one of us, in a sense. (…) And the idea that if it’s a man, then he has to be afraid of dying.” Ebert: “And he has to be capable of lust.” Scorsese: And he has to be capable of everything. And what I thought was so great – so great – about Kazantzaki’s book was that the last temptation is not for riches or whatever; it’s just to live a life of a common man, to have a family, to die in bed and that sort of thing. It’s almost a love that he has for mankind, you see. The love he has for us. That’s the idea. And in order to die he has to know what we go through. If he doesn’t know what we go through, what good is God, you see”
“and then I was asked why I wanted to make this film, I replied, ‘so I can get to know Jesus better.’ In a way all my life I wanted to do that: first I was going to be a priest, but it didn’t work out. The idea of loving and forgiving one’s enemies seemed so obvious and Ghandi had shown that it could be put into practice”
“I know from a priest friend that the Kazantzaki’s book is used in seminaries, not as a substitute for the Gospel, but as a parable that is fresh and alive, which they can discuss and argue about. And this is what I hoped the film would do. I believe that Jesus is fully divine, but the teaching at the catholic schools placed such an emphasis on the divine side that if Jesus walked into a room, you’d know He was God because He glowed in the dark, instead of being just another person. But if He was like that, we always thought, then when the temptations came to Him, surely it was easy to resist them because He was God. He could reject the temptation of power in the desert; He could reject especially the temptation of sex; and He could undergo the suffering on the cross, because He knew what was going to happen, what death is all about.
Over the years I’ve drifted away from the Church, I’m no longer a practising Catholic, and I’ve questioned these things. Kazantzakis took the two natures of Jesus, and Paul Moore, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, explained to me that this was Christologically correct: the debate goes back to the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when they discussed how much of Jesus was divine, and how much was human, I found this an interesting idea, that the human nature of Jesus was fighting Him all the way to the line, because it can’t conceive of Him being God. I thought this would be great drama and force people to take Jesus seriously – at least to re-evaluate his teachings”
“All the religious movies I saw and loved as a kid, such as The Robe and Quo Vadis, were more spectacle and epic film-making than religion. (…) But I wanted the Jesus in my film to be more accessible, more immediate, and to engage the audience”

Scorsese on Scorsese: “I think everybody who worked on the film, and everybody who’s read the book over the years, feel’s it’s the first time you can really believe in this relationship – that Judas did not want to betray him, but had to go through with being God’s instrument for the sacrifice of Jesus. I also wondered, if Jesus is so forgiving and preaches love, why is Judas condemned to Hell by Him for committing suicide? While we’re not saying our version is the whole truth, it makes you question and maybe understand the concept of loving a little better”


Scorsese on Scorsese: Fundamentalists were armed with two early versions of the script by Paul Schrader – obtained, Scorsese suspects, from actors who had access to copies for auditions in 1983. The screenplay was of course some way removed from the final version (…) objected to the portrayal of Jesus as a weak and indecisive man, and in particular to the scene in the ‘last temptation’ dream sequence, in which Jesus makes love to Mary while being watched by an angel”
The evangelist Bill Bright offered to reimburse the cost of the film if the studio would hand it over for destruction.
Scorsese appeared on national television to say he would not make any changes to the film, and stressed it was a work of fiction, not a verse of the Gospels. A discussion programme about the film declared that it ‘will destroy Christianity’. In response to this Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA (the US movie ratings board), wondered how a single film could wreck someone’s faith.

In New York, extra security was needed, protesters assembled outside, the area was closed to traffic, and members of the audience had their bags searched after threats were issued to slash or spray-paint screens. Similar scenes of protest, accompanied by sell-out houses, occurred in other major cities in the US. On 26 August a screen was slashed and a print of the film stolen.
With the film finally released, Scorsese spoke out more in its defence, explaining how the Schrader script had been substantially altered. He emphasized again how the ‘last temptation’ is not for Christ to have sex, but to get married, make love to his wife and have children like an ordinary man’.”

A minister wrote a letter to the New York daily news saying he loved the film, was going to use it as a study guide in discussion groups, and that he felt most of the people talking about the film had not seen it. “they have a great fear of anything that threatens their idea of Jesus, because deep down they feel very frightened they might revert to their original behaviour. So I would say to them, if they really feel they might be offended, stay away, but please allow others to see the film.

You could argue a weakness of the film is you wouldn’t want a 12-year-old watching the The Last Temptation of Christ and thinking it was an accurate life of Jesus.

If you just want the basic Jesus story, you may be better off with something else. In this film you learn about the burden and stress Jesus Christ might have endured. The films questions, did Jesus really want to be Jesus?

Readers, any thoughts on the film?

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Sources:
Scorsese on Scorsese (2003)
Scorsese by Ebert (2008)
The Actors Studio, Scorsese interview

(revised review)

Film review: After Hours (1985)


A drama/comedy that takes place in a single night in New York. It’s a very unpredictable story, the beginning doesn’t prepare you for what will happen later. The characters slowly reveal themselves. Originally titled Lies, then A Night in SoHo, the story follows the misfortunes of Paul, a young computer operator, who accepts an invitation from an attractive women he’s met in a diner.

The atmosphere is very unique to me in this film, it’s along with the excellent music almost a character in its own right. The making of calls it “nightmarish” or “surrealistic”. I thought the acting by Rosanna Arquette was poor, though.

There is a high level of suspense in After Hours, which is technically a comedy but plays like a version of the classic Hitchcock plot formula about the innocent man wrongly accused. Film critic Roger Ebert: “The plague of bad luck seems generated by some unexplained divine wrath.”

It was shot entirely at night, sometimes with on-the-spot-improvisation of camera movements. In the making of they explain Tim Burton was going to direct, but because Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ fell apart in early 80s, Scorsese became interested and directed After Hours, and Burton withdrew from the project.

Scorsese has suggested that Paul’s implacable run of bad luck reflected his own frustration during the Last Temptation of Christ experience, where his Jesus film couldn’t get made in the early 80s. Agents promised him a “go”, everything was in place, and then time after time an unexpected development would threaten everything. In After Hours, each new person Paul meets promises that they will take care of him, make him happy, lend him money, give him a place to stay, let him use the phone, trust him with their keys, drive him home – and every offer of mercy turns into an unanticipated danger. The film could be read as an emotional autobiography of that period in Scorsese’s life.

One of Scorsese’s lesser known films. In my opinion this film doesn’t get enough credit. People always seem to talk about his other work. It’s not your typical Scorsese movie at all, very little violence or swearing, closer to The King of Comedy than his gangster movies. I’m glad De Niro didn’t appear, refreshing to see a relative unknown in the lead in Griffin Dunne.


Not a film everyone has heard of. It’s now in my top 5 Scorsese movies along with Taxi Driver (1976), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and The King of Comedy (1982). Never been a fan of Scorsese’s gangster stuff or any gangster movies for that matter. You may notice I haven’t added gangster flicks or westerns on my A-Z of film recommendations on the blog, because I don’t usually like them. An exception to the rule is The Sting (1973), which I enjoyed.

After Hours brought Scorsese the Best Director prize at Cannes, although its commercial success was modest.

Probably not a film I’ll be seeing many times, as the surprises are more effective first time around, but enjoyable to watch once or twice, I’d say. I’m not sure you can call it an independent film, but it certainly feels like an indie.

Have you seen it, what did you think of After Hours?

89% on RT and 7.6/10 on IMDB

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Sources:
Scorsese on Scorsese (2003)
Scorsese by Ebert (2008)
Making of

(Revised review)

Film review: The King of Comedy (1983)


Martin Scorsese’s satirical comedy/drama, about Rupert Pupkin (Robert de Niro), a nerdish man in his 30s with dreams of being a television star.

You feel uncomfortable watching Rupert Pupkin, he is not able to see himself from the outside and witness his own bizarre behaviour. You kind of admire his strong-willed and single-minded desire to reach his goal. Even though what he is doing is clearly inappropriate and wrong, I felt like I was rooting for the underdog at times, perhaps because I felt sorry for the poor guy, who is still living at home with his mother.
Its not like he wants to hurt anyone, its more that he wants others to co-operate and fit into his twisted world-view.


In a way, Rupert Pupkin is similar to Travis Bickle from Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, a lonely man in a big city, who desperately wants a change, yet is not able to get what he wants. Rupert does not have the patience to start from the bottom in the stand-up comedian business, perhaps because he is afraid of rejection. Rupert wants immediate change, which is both naïve and impossible. The only friend Rupert has is a fellow celebrity stalker, she is perhaps even more deranged than Rupert is.


Jerry Lewis plays tv-host Jerry Langford, the comedian they chase and admire. Jerry Lewis’ role is blurred, a mix of reality and fiction, Jerry Lewis was a popular entertainer at the time, and in the film portrays, compared to Rupert, a very normal human being.

Some have argued the message of the film is a satire or condemnation of how we overrate and glorify celebrity. On the one hand in terms of making them larger than life and wanting to get close to them, despite the celebrities frequent unwillingness, and on the other hand the selfish desire of ordinary people to strive towards celebrity status despite not having talent or admirable qualities, being famous just for the sake of being famous. Sophia Coppola also explored the celebrity lifestyle in Somewhere (2010)


Roger Ebert: “What we have here is an agonizing portrait of lonely, angry people with their emotions all tightly bottled up. This is a movie that seems ready to explode – but somehow it never does” (…) “a movie about rejection, with a hero who never admits that he has been rejected and so there is neither comic nor tragic release – just the postponement of pain. (…) They must have been difficult performances to deliver, because nobody listens in this film; everybody’s just waiting for the other person to stop talking so they can start. (…) Rupert Pupkin doesn’t feel cut off from life – he feels cut off from talk shows. His life consists of waiting. (…) The whole movie is about the inability of the characters to get any kind of a positive response to their bids for recognition. (…) “He cannot be rejected, because he cannot hear rejection, with his mind always racing ahead to fantasies of acceptance. (…) Masha, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be Langford, but to have him (…) Scorsese says that both Rupert Pupkin and Jerry Langford remind him of himself. Pupkin is young Marty Scorsese, camped out in agents’ offices, scrounging loans to finish his student film, hustling jobs as an editor in between directing assignments. Langford is Martin Scorsese at forty, famous, honoured, admired, besieged by young would-be filmmakers asking him for a break. (…) One of the reasons the studio was afraid of the movie was that the subject matter is extremely touchy. Since it is well known that Scorsese’s Taxi Driver was seen by John Hinckley before he shot Reagan, The King of Comedy seemed in some circles almost like an invitation to trouble for someone like Johnny Carson.
But are the final shots intended to be real, or another of Rupert’s daydreams? Do they have an occult relationship with the puzzling ending of Taxi Driver, where Travis Bickle also becomes a folk hero?”


Scorsese originally turned down the script:
“It seemed like a one-joke movie at the time, he said, “But then I began to see that it wasn’t about kidnapping, it was about rejection. (…) The amount of rejection in this film is horrifying. There are scenes I almost can’t look at. There’s a scene where de Niro is told ‘I hate you!’ and he nods and responds, ‘Oh, I see, right, you don’t want to see me again!’ I made the movie during a very painful period in my life. I was going through the Poor Me routine. And I’m still very lonely. Another relationship has broken up.”
“People in America were confused by The King of Comedy and saw Bob as some kind of mannequin. But I felt it was De Niro’s best performance ever. The King of Comedy was right on the edge for us; we couldn’t go any further at the time”
Scorsese: “It’s a violation, the way the paparazzi takes pictures of you, the bulbs and shots of the camera are like bullets.
“It was a clear decision for there to be no difference between fantasy and reality, the fantasy is real”

As The Inquisitor writes in his review. Pupkin’s “the ultimate narcissist, totally unconcerned with the thoughts or feelings of others outside of their reference to his own self image. He appears to spend most of his time fantasizing about his imagined celebrity.”

The King of Comedy ended up costing $20 million and was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983. Although a commercial failure it attracted five BAFTA nominations and considerable critical speculation. Scorsese said in interviews that the characters of Rupert and Jerry were close to him: the ambitious outsider who will stop at nothing to achieve his goal, and the successful celebrity who despite the admiration is essentially lonely and vulnerable (his own marriage to Isabella Rossellini had ended).


Scorsese later commented that although The King of Comedy was very funny, it was not a comedy.
De Niro has said that the film: “…maybe wasn’t so well-received because it gave off an aura of something that people didn’t want to look at or know.”

Very funny, I recommend it. See it for the great performance by Robert De Niro. Probably one of Scorsese’s most underrated films. The movie questions, how far will you go to be famous? An issue that perhaps is even more relevant today.

Readers of my review, any thoughts on The King of Comedy?

Next week, look out for a revised review of Scorsese’s After Hours (1985)

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Sources:
Scorsese on Scorsese (2003)
Scorsese by Ebert (2008)

Film review: Taxi Driver (1976)


My review is intended for viewers who have already watched the film. Spoilers ahead.

In the 70s, movies moved out into the streets. Among others Taxi Driver and Mean Streets, both directed by Martin Scorsese.

Taxi Driver was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. The film was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best films of all time.

In Taxi Driver, we are encouraged to feel empathy with a questionable character. We get under Travis’ skin with the personal voice-overs. I get the feeling Travis wouldn’t lose his mind, if he had a support system who cared. Travis is unable to establish normal relationships.
Some claim the movie can be watched as a slow-motion documentary of the mind. About a cold and distant person slowly going mad, affected by the city environment. The hallucinatory atmosphere is like a character in itself, a portrait of the dark side of New York. We get to experience the dark side by watching the film.


An extraordinary star-making performance for the ages by Robert De Niro, which is impossible to wipe from your memory. Robert De Niro drove round in a taxi in New York to prepare for the role. He improvised the famous “are you talking to me” scene, in the script it just said: Travis talks to himself. Entire books have been written trying to dissect Taxi Driver, such is the impact. Its sort of a sister film to Mean Streets, which embarrassingly I have only seen in patches.


In 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, they write how Travis sees things in the dark alleys of New York that most people will never see. He feels invisible, and maybe even numb and impotent. The rough streets are all he knows and he seems frustrated that he no longer knows of a better life. After trying to become a part of society by dating Betsy, his alienation and frustration grows with her rejection of him, his next goal is to destroy society by assasinating a politician. Travis is a confused individual in a world he is on the fringes of, later on he does a U-turn and now wants to rescue a young prostitute from the rotten, criminal underworld.

They say you are more lonely in a crowd, and this is very much the case for Travis, especially when driving around in his cab and observing people. He wants his life to be significant, yet his attempts to fit in and matter are inappropriate. He is the anti-hero, who has taken the law into his own hands, and what makes him dangerous is that he is capable of anything, someone we sympathize with, even though he is doing wrong. Not an easy film to watch, Travis is a despicable character, who becomes a hero.


Unfortunately, Taxi Driver formed part of the delusional fantasy of John Hinckley, Jr, which triggered his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981, an act for which he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The question is, is the film glorifying violence, and thus a vehicle for madmen to imitate? I hope not, and if this is the case, they have misunderstood Scorsese’s intention.

A story about our culture. A study of masculine self-destruction. I would think a long-term goal of the film is to help reduce urban violence by showing an example of how and why it happens. So the general public become more aware of marginalized and vulnerable members of society, so family/friends or the authorities can step in and support them.

Travis is a walking contradiction, eating pills and trying to keep fit at the same time. He loathes the scum who make love in his cab, yet he frequents dirty movies. Travis works out, then eats junk food. He is drawn to the very things he claims to hate about New York. He supports the politician Betsy is working for, but then Travis turns against him later on.

Some viewers no doubt will identify with Travis’ urban alienation, longing to belong to something, longing for a meaningful life. Other may find Travis creepy and insane.


The film can spark a debate about how we discuss violence in films. Travis is complicated, a mentally unstable Vietnam War veteran, we don’t know how the war has affected him, the film explores his demeanor.

His spiral into madness might be his unrealistic desire to clean up the streets, a one man army, but with no clear enemy. After all, it’s all seen through the eyes of Travis, so we don’t know what to believe. As his voiceover states: “One day a rain storm will come and wash away all the scum off the streets.” Unfortunately, Travis is becoming the very thing he sought to get rid of.

As Dave at dvdinfatuation writes in his review: Scorsese structures Taxi Driver in such a way that we’re in Travis’ company for nearly the entire film, keeping us so in tune with his lead character that, like Travis, we become oblivious to the rest of the world. We are one with his warped reality, and serve as the lone witnesses to his journey into the abyss.

There’s definitely comparisons to be made between Drive (2011) and Taxi Driver (1976). I prefer Taxi Driver, in both films we don’t know why the lonely guy wants to help others, it’s a mystery.
Also, Taxi Driver is comparable to Fight Club (1999), an at times violent character study with a subjective viewpoint about an insomniac dealing with alienation issues, who through voice-overs thinks about what is wrong with the world, and wants to make it a better place.

Travis attempts to rescue women who in fact may not want to be rescued. Apparently, Martin Scorsese loves the comparable western The Searchers (1956), where the John Wayne character also attempts to “save” a girl.


In writing the script, Paul Schrader was inspired by the diaries of Arthur Bremer (who shot presidential candidate George Wallace in 1972) and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. However, the writer also used himself as an inspiration. Schrader, who hadn’t spoken to anyone for several weeks when he wrote the script, slept in a car, as his marriage had recently broken up. According to Schrader, the story is about self-induced loneliness. The taxi cab is a metaphor for isolation and loneliness, a metal box on wheels.
Other sources of inspiration for Schrader were existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea and Robert Bresson’s script for Pickpocket. Schrader doesn’t think you will get rid of the madmen in society by censoring art.

Screenwriter Paul Schrader: “People said it must be terrible, knowing I had to top it. I said, no, it’s just the opposite. You’re free from feeling that you’re never going to accomplish anything. (…) I wrote it that way after thinking about the way they handled In Cold Blood. They tell you all about Perry Smith’s background, how he developed his problems, and immediately it becomes less interesting.”

Film critic Roger Ebert discusses Scorsese: “His protagonists are often awkward outsiders who try too hard or are not sure what to say (…) Scorsese is uninterested in conventional heroes (…) The arrival of Taxi driver in 1976 is hard to describe. It was, and is, such a passionate, challenging, raw, and powerful film that it created a space of its own. (…)De Niro, who comes from nowhere – we get hardly any background – and drives a cab in New York and eventually we realize he’s seething inside, he’s got all this violence bottled up (…) Perhaps it is why so many people connect with it even though Travis Bickle would seem to be the most alienating of movie heroes. We have all felt as alone as Travis. Most of us are better at dealing with it.”

Scorsese: “The whole movie is based, visually, on one shot where the guy is being turned down on the telephone by the girl, and the camera actually pans away from him. It’s too painful to see that rejection. (…) I mean, I find that one of the key things, for example, in Taxi Driver was that you have to see practically everything from Travis’s point of view. Otherwise, you wouldn’t go with him when he killed those people. You wouldn’t know why. Not that you do know why, but you’d have to understand the feeling”
“Much of Taxi Driver arose from my feeling that movies are really a kind of dream-state, or like taking dope. And the shock of walking out of the theatre into broad daylight can be terrifying. I watch movies all the time and I am also very bad at waking up. The film was like that for me – that sense of being almost awake(…) The whole film is very much based on the impressions I have as a result of growing up in New York and living in the city”
“In Taxi Driver Travis Bickle lives it out, he goes right to the edge and explodes. When I read Paul’s script, I realized that was exactly the way I felt, that we all have those feelings, so this was a way of embracing and admitting them, while saying I wasn’t happy about them. When you live in a city, there’s a constant sense that the buildings are getting old, things are breaking down, the bridges and the subway need repairing. At the same time society is in a state of decay; the police force are not doing their job in allowing prostitution on the streets, and who knows if they’re feeding off it and making money out of it. So that sense of frustration goes in swings.”
Travis really has the best of intentions; he believes he’s doing right, just like St Paul. He wants to clean up life, clean up the mind, clean up the soul. He is very spiritual, but in a sense Charles Manson was spiritual, which doesn’t mean that it’s good. It’s the power of the spirit on the wrong road.”


In the TV-documentary Scorsese on Scorsese, the director discusses Taxi driver: “What is a hero. That is my question in most of my pictures. What is a man? What is a hero? Is it might makes right? Or is it someone who can sit down and make everyone reason things out? The second ones harder. If you hit someone long enough they are going to stop. It works for a while, then it all comes back. (…). In Taxi driver we tapped into not being one of a group, loneliness. (…) Being an outsider in this world, not being able to connect with anyone, expresses itself in the film and in the character through violence. (…) This guy (Travis) crosses the line, why? The beauty of Schrader’s script, and the nature of why he (Travis) is this way. You don’t know. (…) In the end scene, Travis looks in the rearview mirror of his cab, as if he catches a glimpse of something happening, wanted to give the impression that it (the violence) is going to happen again”

The distorted view of New York in Taxi Driver at the beginning is seen through the front window of the cab, where New York’s skyline seems to melt like a surrealistic dream picture by Salvador Dali. (01.32)


Author Jan Oxholm Jensen writes: The way in which New York City appears in Taxi Driver reflects Scorsese’s personal fascination with the big city and not a detailed representation of reality. Oxholm believes the aesthetic qualities in terms of visuals and music confront the viewer to reflect on the importance of the surroundings. The use of camera is a question of creating a certain point of view of New York, which Oxholm argues is nihilistic in Taxi Driver, as opposed to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979), which is a nostalgic or romantic point of view.

Bars and grates are visible in Taxi Driver’s prison like environment, in Travis’ apartment, which increases the feeling of claustrophobia and being enclosed from the rest of the world. Likewise the box-shaped taxi is a prison on wheels, and entraps Travis in the same lifestyle. The panels on the side window of the cab accentuate him being locked inside. (12.15)


Travis lives in his own little world, the background and foreground are out of focus, when he goes to the movies. His hand is covering and imprisoning his face (56.24)


Travis won’t take it anymore. He takes the law into his own hands. In the final moments, its as if God is looking down and making a judgment on the events that have taken place.
Roger Ebert on the 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?”

The ending certainly is ambiguous. To be honest, I didn’t like the classical music score, other than that I couldn’t find anything to complain about. Its one of my favourite films and Scorsese’s best in my opinion.

I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about Taxi Driver, let me know in the comments! Is it Scorsese’s best?

IMDB

Rottentomatoes

Sources:
Scorsese on Scorsese (2003)
Scorsese by Ebert (2008)