In entirely unrelated news (despite the importance to the plot of a Presidential campaign), Taxi Driver appeared on one of our movie channels last night as I was preparing for bed and cast its’ voodoo spell, as ever, leading to a much later bedtime than planned.

The print was pristine – I presume what aired derives from a version prepared for DVD release – and utterly hypnotic. The film is so much better than Mean Streets. One wonders if Scorsese knew what he was creating back then withthis film and Raging Bull. Growing up I recall lumping Taxi Driver in with Serpico, The French Connection, and Dog Day Afternoon under the sobriquet of “headache films” becasue of the common tendency toward presenting a gritty, dystopian world via grainy, low-light or available-light cinematography.

On thing that jarred, however, was the film’s happy ending! I’d completely forgotten that DeNiro’s idiot cabbie actually survives his epic gunbattle. It has to be a mistake. I mean, sure it’s not a big wedding or an inheritance or anything like that, but, really, the “bloody finger to the head” schtick sorta tells you everything you need to know, I gotta say.

Seems like others have worried this bone in the past, inconclusively. The best argument, I suppose, is that Scorsese is saying that the line between a hero and a madman is very fine indeed.

3 thoughts on “Are you talkin' to me?

  1. I saw “taxi driver” not long ago, first time in a while, and had completely forgotten the ending. the only way I could keep it from making my head ring like a gong was the notion that the happy ending — the warm letter from the kid’s parents, the come-on from jodie foster, his super-cool rejection of the advance — is bickle’s dying fantasy of how the world SHOULD be… sort of an “occurrence at owl creek bridge” thing where all this flashes through his brain in the few moments before he dies. doesn’t make any sense otherwise.

  2. Bill!

    I have to admit that your interpretation occurred to me as I was watching it; and it sounds very much like our heads were in the same space. I’d completely suppressed the ending, and when it came on, I thought “WTF? Did they shoot this for the cut rate cable channels so I’d have to re-up with HBO, those fuckers?”

    It’s a decent interpretation – I think I end up not being sure about it though because of Bickle’s obviously impoverished imagination. Could he really envision not just the letter from Ma and Pa but also Ms. Shepard’s restrained re-approach? Who knows.

    The other things that were new in reviewing the film were

    a) Bickle doesn’t don a military jacket just when he starts going bats – the worn windbreaker he wears at the outset of the film is ALSO a Marine jacket.

    b) It’s REAL innerestin’ to see this film after both Scorsese’s Gangs of New York last Xmas and having read both the book Marty was inspired by and a work of historical exegesis on the ‘hood proppah:

    the shootout in the dim tenement hallway was like SEEING a part of the original GONY book on screen; the elevated pan over the dead bodies is such an inspired update of Weegee, I can’t even tell ya.

    Of course, it’s a bit unsettling to realize I first saw this film when I was all of twelve and that NONE of those references were available to me. I just thought that “Are you talking to me” bit, plus the excellently rad mowhawk, were the shit. Thank god I already hated guns.

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