Taxi Driver - Film (Movie) Plot and Review





USA, 1976


Director: Martin Scorsese

Production: Bill/Phillips Production, an Italo-Judeo Production; Metrocolor, 35mm; running time: 113 minutes. Released 1976 by Columbia Pictures. Filmed 1975 in New York City.

Taxi Driver
Taxi Driver

Producers: Michael Phillips and Julia Phillips with Phillip M. Goldfarb; screenplay: Paul Schrader; photography: Michael Chapman; editors: Tom Rolf and Melvin Shapiro; editing supervisor: Marcia Lucas; sound: Roger Pietschman and Tex Rudloff; art director: Charles Rosen; music: Bernard Herrmann; costume designer: Ruth Morley; visual consultant: David Nichols; creative consultant: Sandra Weintraub.


Cast: Robert De Niro ( Travis Bickle ); Cybill Shepherd ( Betsy ); Jodie Foster ( Iris ); Harvey Keitel ( Sport ); Leonard Harris ( Charles Palantine ); Peter Boyle ( Wizard ); Albert Brooks ( Tom ); Murray Mosten ( Time-keeper ); Richard Higgs ( Secret Service Agent ); Vic Aro ( Melio, deli owner ); Steven Prince ( Gun salesman ); Martin Scorsese ( Taxi passenger ); Dianne Abbot ( Concession girl ).


Awards: New York Film Critics Award, Best Actor (De Niro), 1976; Palme d'Or, Cannes Film Festival, 1976.


Publications


Books:

Silver, Alain, and Elizabeth Ward, editors, Film Noir , New York, 1979.

Ray, Robert B., A Certain Tendency of the Hollywood Cinema 1930–1980 , Princeton, 1985.

Arnold, Frank, and others, Martin Scorsese , Munich, 1986.

Bliss, Michael, Martin Scorsese and Michael Cimino , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1986.

Cameron-Wilson, James, The Cinema of Robert De Niro , London, 1986.

Cietat, Michel, Martin Scorsese , Paris, 1986.

Domecq, Jean-Philippe, Martin Scorsese: Un Rêve Italo-Américain , Renens, Switzerland, 1986.

McKay, Keith, Robert De Niro: The Hero Behind the Masks , New York, 1986.

Weiss, Ulli, Das Neue Hollywood: Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese , Munich, 1986.

Wood, Robin, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan , New York, 1986.

Weiss, Marian, Martin Scorsese: a Guide to References and Resources , Boston, 1987.

Lourdeaux, Lee, Italian and Irish Filmmakers in America: Ford, Capra, Coppola, and Scorsese , Philadelphia, 1990.

Schrader, Paul, Schrader on Schrader , edited by Kevin Jackson, New York, 1992.

Connelly, Marie Katheryn, Martin Scorsese: An Analysis of His Feature Films, With a Filmography of His Entire Directorial Career , Jefferson, 1993.

Bliss, Michael, The Word Made Flesh: Catholicism and Conflict in the Films of Martin Scorsese , Lanham, 1995, 1998.

Friedman, Lawrence S., The Cinema of Martin Scorsese , New York, 1997.

Kelly, Mary P., Martin Scorsese: A Journey , New York, 1997.

Pezzotta, Alberto, Martin Scorsese: Taxi Driver , Torino, 1997.

Dougan, Andy, Martin Scorsese - Close Up: The Making of His Movies , New York, 1998.

Brunette, Peter, editor, Martin Scorsese: Interviews , Jackson, 1999.


Articles:

Filmfacts (Los Angeles), no. 1, 1976.

Rice, J. C., "Transcendental Pornography and Taxi Driver ," in Journal of Popular Film (Bowling Green, Ohio), no. 2, 1976.

Golchan, F., "Paul Schrader," in Cinematographe (Paris), June 1976.

Rubinstein, L., in Cineaste (New York), Fall 1976.

Eder, K., "Rebel Heroes der 70er Jahre: Kontaklos und gewalttaetig: zu zwei Filmen von Martin Scorsese," in Medium (Frankfurt), July 1976.

Racheva, M., and K. Eder, " Taxi Driver : Gespraecch mit Drehbuchator Paul Schrader," in Medium (Frankfurt), July 1976.

Renaud, T., in Cinéma (Paris), July 1976.

Chavardes, B., in Téléciné (Paris), July-August 1976.

Renaud, T., in Cinéma (Paris), July 1976.

Kane, P., in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), July-August 1976.

Amata, C., "Scorsese on Taxi Driver ," in Focus on Film (London), Summer-Autumn 1976.

Cowie, Peter, in Focus on Film (London), Summer-Autumn 1976.

Coleman, John, in New Statesman (London), 20 August 1976.

Beard, D., "Mindless Audience Reaction," in Cinema Canada (Montreal), October 1976.

Desrues, H., in Revue du Cinéma (Paris), October 1976.

Thompson, R., "Screenwriter: Taxi Driver 's Paul Schrader," in Fernseh-und-kino-Technik (Berlin), October 1976.

Giuricin, G., in Cinema Nuovo (Turin), November-December 1976.

Hosman, H., "Een eindeloos verhaal zonder punten en komma's: de films van Martin Scorsese," in Skoop (Amsterdam), February-March 1977.

Rule, P., "The Italian Connection in the American Film: Coppola, Cimino, Scorsese," in America (New York), 17 November 1979.

Mitchell, Robert, in Magill's Survey of Cinema 4 , Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1980.

Wood, Robin, "The Incoherent Text: Narrative Texts in the 70s," in Movie (London), Winter-Spring 1980–81.

Sharrett, C., "The American Apocalypse: Scorsese's Taxi Driver ," in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth, New York), Summer 1984.

Bruce, Bryan, "Martin Scorsese: Five Films," in Movie (London), Winter 1986.

Lane, J., "Martin Scorsese and the Documentary Impulse," in Framework (London), no. 1, 1991.

Vickers, N. J., "Lyric in the Video Decade," in Discourse (Bloomington, Indiana), Fall 1993.

Norman, Barry, in Radio Times (London), vol. 266, no. 3736, 26 August 1995.

Quart, L., "A Slice of Delirium: Scorsese's Taxi Driver Revisited," in Film Criticism (Meadville), vol. 19, no. 3, 1995.

Maslin, Janet, in The New York Times , vol. 145, C12, 16 February 1996.

Taubin, Amy, "A Checkered Past," in Village Voice (New York), vol. 41, 20 February 1996.

Scorsese, Martin, "De Nero & Moi," in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), no. 500, March 1996.

Everschor, Franz, "20 Jahre nach Travis Bickle," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), vol. 49, no. 7, 26 March 1996.

Mortimer, B., "Portraits of the Postmodern Person in Taxi Driver , Raging Bull , and The King of Comedy ," in Journal of Film and Video (Atlanta), vol. 49, no. 1/2, 1997.

Patterson, Patricia, and Manny Farber, "The Power and the Gory," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 34, no. 3, May-June 1998.

Wilmington, Michael, "The Wild Heart," in Film Comment (New York), vol. 34, no. 3, May-June 1998.

Taubin, Amy, "God's Lonely Man," in Sight & Sound (London), vol. 9, no. 4, April 1999.


* * *


It was during the 1970s—the period of Vietnam and Watergate— that American society appeared in imminent danger of collapse, the crisis in ideological confidence being (quite logically) complemented by the growth of the major radical movements of contemporary culture: feminism, black militancy, gay activism. The confusions and hysteria of the social climate (the historical moment when the dominant ideology of bourgeois patriarchal capitalism and reinforcement under Carter and Reagan) were reflected in the products of Hollywood: one might say that the most interesting and distinguished films of the period were also the most incoherent, centered in the experience of contradiction, disillusionment and desperation. Their failure to develop beyond confusion and contradiction must be attributed to the continuing prohibition (within the American cultural establishment) on imagining any alternative form of cultural organization to patriarchal capitalism.

Taxi Driver is an outstanding product of this cultural situation. Its rich and fascinating incoherence has a number of sources. The collaboration of Scorsese and Schrader involved its own immediate problems. Scorsese's ideological/political position is very difficult to define (perhaps an example of the ability of art to transcend such definitions): he has consistently refused to commit himself to any definable radical position, yet, in their systematic analysis of the untenability of all our social institutions, his films clearly earn the term "radical." Schrader, on the other hand, seems plainly (and quite unashamedly) neo-Fascist: his films (as writer and director) amount to a systematic repudiation of all minority groups and any possible social alternative, in order to re-assert a quasi-mystical sense of male supremacy, heterosexual superiority, and a total spurious "transcendence" (which amounts to little more than one person's right to slaughter other people, on the basis of some supposed achievement of spiritual transfiguration, with no foundation in material reality). One must see the curious paralysis of the film's closing sequence— clearly, on some level, ironic, but with the irony quite unfocused—as the result of this collaboration of partial incompatibles, a view confirmed by Scorsese's King of Comedy (made without Schrader), with its closely parallel but precisely focused ending.

A more profitable tension arises from the film's fascinating fusion of genres: film noir, the western, the horror film. Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro)—who has swiftly become established as a significant figure in American cultural mythology—is on one level the western hero transplanted into the modern urban wilderness: he derives particularly from Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) of The Searchers , and Scorsese and Schrader have made it clear that Ford's film was a conscious influence. But he is also the psychopath/monster of the contemporary horror film: it is perhaps the chief distinction of Taxi Driver to suggest the relationship between these two apparent opposed archetypes and its significance in relation to American ideology. In fact, the film's interest is inseparable from its sense of confusion, its failure to define a coherent attitude towards its protagonist. That confusion must be seen, not merely as the result of a clash of artistic personalities, but as the reflection of a national ideological dilemma.

—Robin Wood

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